When your business grows beyond solopreneur status into working even with a small team, certain things become new and big priorities. Efficient communication. Efficient delegation and scheduling. Streamlined workflow. Organization. Even when you’re working with a team as small as three people, as we are, the works can get jammed quickly and significantly when you don’t give that stuff some serious thought.
For us, that meant finding tools that streamlined efficiency in those key areas, but were still easy enough to use that adopting them didn’t become more trouble than it was worth. Here are a few of the tools that help us keep The Skillery’s plates spinning:
Raise your hand if keeping up with your email inbox feels like digging a hole in the sand. Any hands left in pockets? It’s a conundrum for small and large businesses alike: how to make sure everyone’s on the same page without stuffing inboxes, scheduling too many meetings or leaving things to fall through the cracks. We decided to move our daily back-and-forths over to Slack, an app designed for quick and easy team communication.
It works sort of like texting or instant messaging — you pick your recipients, share what you need, and those conversations stay in one place, easily searchable and findable. And aside of monkeying with some of its unique features (like setting up channels and private groups), the learning curve is pretty much nil.
The benefits are many. The regular, “Did you do that thing?”/“Yup” happens quickly and without clogging your inbox. It’s easy to have a group discussion that can switch from whole team to one-on-one and back again, so no one’s getting bombarded with points that aren’t relevant to their work. And you can integrate it with lots of other services — for us, that means having Slack alert us to customer support emails that need attention, new classes launched, registration and the like.
Extra bonus: It’s free.
When your team is small, you just can’t do everything you want or need to get done by hand. To keep your day-to-day manageable, you need to look at your total workflow, and see if there are tools you can use to automate certain needs and take them off everyone’s plate. For us, that means using Cobot, software that helps us manage our coworking space.
This particular software is specific to what we do — it automates things like charging dues and keeping track of member days used and the like. But the bigger picture of what it does is applicable to any business: It saves us time and lets us focus our limited resources on needs we can’t automate. If you feel like you’re deluged by the little (but still very important) stuff, there’s likely an app or some software that can become your digital assistant. Looking for something? Give us a shout — we try and stay abreast of cool workflow tools, so we might have a suggestion.
If you’re Internet-friendly enough to be reading this blog post, you’ve likely spent some time with Google Calendar, on your phone, on your tablet or on your laptop. Lots of us use it to keep up with personal appointments and the like. But it’s an immensely useful team tool, too.
We created a shared Google Calendar for our space, and it’s essentially the digital blueprint for what’s happening and who’s helming day after day. At a glance, everyone on our team can see when classes are being held, when meeting spaces are reserved, when we’re due to be in the space to help members and visitors and the like. And since it’s so easy to use across so many gadgets, it makes it simple for us all to be on the same page about who’s doing what and when.
If you need an easy way to delegate and keep everyone abreast of that delegation, it's worth experimenting with.
Pen and paper
Here’s where we’d love to hear your ideas. Collectively, our team has tried pretty much every note-taking app for iPad, iPhone and desktop imaginable, and nothing’s stuck. It still feels like old-fashioned pen and paper is the fastest and easiest way to communicate an idea. In a group, we’d switch that to old-fashioned whiteboards (of which we have many, in our space).
How about you? Have you found the Holy Grail of digital note-taking tools? Curious to see if our experience lines up with yours.