In a fast-growing company, it’s almost inevitable that you sometimes get too busy to keep tabs on your team. Not knowing what team members are doing or how much time they’re spending on various tasks can result in a ?slow leak? that might just sink your business. The key to fixing?rather than merely patching?these leaks lies in improved oversight and communication with all team members.
Leverage Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Relationships are the basis of every business. Managing them is arguably your team?s most important function, a job that’s made infinitely easier with CRM software.
To get the best return on your investment, your CRM solution should offer project management related features. An easy to use, cloud-based CRM like Insightly lets you associate a task list with each project, assign tasks to individual team members and set benchmarks by which they are to be accomplished, along with due dates. Reviewing the status of projects will keep you up-to-date on your team?s progress, and you can review tasks by deliverable or by the name of the team member to which they’ve been assigned (?Martha S.). To get the most out of this management tool, team members should link customers to each of the projects associated with them, as well as any related emails or other communications.
Insightly lets you and your team collect, record and share details on each customer and gives your entire team a complete picture of prospects, projects, and customers?without breaking your budget. The application is free for up to three users, $29/month for up to six, $49/month for up to 15 and $99/month for up to 40 users.
Use Skype for Meetings. If your team is virtual, you may find that telephone communications and emails are not enough to keep everyone on task. Skype is a great tool for informal training or for regular check-in meetings. When you use a videoconferencing tool like Skype, remember that your dispersed audience’s attention can wander without your being aware, so be sure to ask for questions and comments frequently during the meeting. If you are doing a presentation, enable the chat option so you can field questions or slow down to review a given topic in greater depth.
A free Skype account will permit only three people to conference at once, but an upgrade to a Premium account ($4.99/month on a 12-month subscription or $9.99 pay-as-you-go) lets you have 10 people together on a call (Skype advises that you’ll get the best quality if you have five callers or fewer). If your team includes members in other countries, you can videoconference with them at the same low rate.
Do you already use Google Apps for Business? Google Hangout is included free for up to 15 participants and you can schedule and launch a meeting right from your email or calendar. It also lets you screenshare and connect to documents that are on Google Drive.
Track Everyone’s Time. Do you need to assign time spent on various projects to specific accounts? It’s simple with an online timesheet tracking system like TSheets. It’s easy to sync your timesheets with QuickBooks and FreshBooks (and other popular accounting software), and data export is a snap. TSheet’s cloud-based system has all the benefits of cloud software, like remote access, data backup and secure offsite storage. And if your workers are out in the field, they can use the mobile app to clock in and out and update their timesheets by job code. TSheets picks up a worker’s location from their phones GPS systemareal help if your workers sometimes forget to post an update. Reports (payroll, PTO balances, hours by project, hours by employee and a dozen others) help you keep your costs in sight and under control, and there’s an add-on for invoicing directly from TSheets. After a free 14-day trial, the cost for businesses up to 100 users is $20/month plus $5/month per user.
Using manual systems to run your business can only take you so far. As the number of customers increases and the number of contacts with those customers multiplies, inefficiency can creep in unless you take action. Adopting collaborative solutions may cause a minor loss in momentum until you get everybody working on the new system, but none of these applications has much of a learning curve. By streamlining communication, improving oversight and centralizing your information, you’ll improve your business relationships and keep your profits from slowly leaking away.