Every small business needs these five tools, wherever you are in your business journey.

The Conversation

If your company is just getting started, what’s really important is the conversation between you and your team. Get this – you can run a business with just person to person conversations. Real face-to-face relationships outside of email… imagine that!

But of course we have the technology now, so if you’re just at the place of getting the conversation going, the tool you need to check out is Slack.

Slack allows you to get those conversations out of email and into a place that’s searchable and much easier to get things done with your employees or your team.

The Work

Next, once you’ve moved past just person to person conversations and you’ve got way more to manage than what can be covered effectively in a chat, you need a project management system.

We use Teamwork as a place to manage the work, but Basecamp and Asana are other great systems. The value of these tools and why we love Teamwork is that you can track progress on active jobs and all tasks at hand in one place, create checklists to run team meetings around, assign due dates, and much more.

The Relationships

Beyond the work, you need to manage the relationships. If you have enough work coming down the line with lots of projects for different clients, you probably have a pipeline of upselling targets, clients to nurture, or prospective sales that you want to close. To keep people engaged, you need a CRM.

We’ve used HubSpot in the past but right now are loving Streak CRM for Gmail. There are plenty of great CRM options out there so it’s a matter of trying a few out to see which workflow and interface you like best.

The Money

Next, it’s time to manage the money. For all the conversations you’re having that are turning into projects that are turning into repeat clients, you need some way to manage your profitability and make sure that your job costs are in line with what you’re billing for and that your business model works.

We do this with a tool called Harvest which helps us manage invoicing, job costing, profit tracking, and time tracking. You might do that through QuickBooks or another financial tool.

The Processes

Once you get those four systems and foundational tools established in your business and start to scale beyond a core few people, you need to provide some instruction on how to use the tools and do the work your business does.

How do you use your project management system? What is the best way to do a follow up inside of your CRM? How do you send an invoice from your financial system? Those how-tos are more than just a checklist of steps. There is actual content that needs to be communicated to your people if you expect them to do that job.

Trainual allows you to document all of the processes, not just for your systems and how they work, but for your whole business. It becomes the operations manual for your business.

Create step by step processes, assign them to people based on their roles and responsibilities, track their progress to make sure they’ve gone through the content they need to know and have an interactive searchable wiki to reference at any time.

Wherever you are in your business journey, you need five tools to manage the conversation, the work, your relationships, the money, and something to manage how your business works.

With these systems implemented, and a properly documented business operating manual, at some point, you won’t have to put in the 20 hour days and you will have a business built to scale or sell.

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