You cannot save time, but you can spend time differently.
Time is the only thing that matters. Especially if you are a Startup Founder with tons of thoughts in your mind and activities on your to-do list. And what can save you is automating whatever you can so that you can focus on what matters most and maximum activities in your Startup are managed in Robot Mode by tools. Using the right tools at the right places is going to save you time and energy both
Here are some of the tools which I have been using and I recommend them strongly because they have brought about the “Working Smart, rather than Working Hard” culture that Startups need so much because of the agility that is expected of them
Asana – This tool has been a part of my daily work life (sometimes even personal life :-)) since the past 6 years. It is the first thing that I see in the morning to see what I need to do today and the last thing I see before I retire for the day to plan what I need to do tomorrow.
Asana is a Task Organiser. You can create tasks, sub-tasks. Organise them in projects if you are have an OCD for organising things in hierarchies like me. Not only can you assign due dates and due times but also start dates and times so that you are in control of your tasks from start to end. Task dependencies will allow a team to co-ordinate more effectively. The team can comment on tasks. There are reports to analyse performance on the basis of task completion
The beauty is that each task is a complete entity in itself. When it started, when it ended, who commented what on it..its all there in one place. And then you can create an entire pipeline of work by passing the task to various members in the team by just changing the assignee.
Evernote is the holy grail of documentation.
Gone are the days when people used to sit with notebooks and pens in meetings. Where are all those notebooks you created 2 years back anyway? I have been using Evernote since ages and even today my Business Plan for a Startup from 5 years back is there on the Evernote cloud.
The most amazing thing about this for a person like me is this – I get all kinds of brainwaves on my daily commute. How convenient it feels when all I have to do is pull out my mobile from my pocket and type away furiously even though I am in the middle of 10 people standing in a crowded Mumbai local train!
Came across another such useful tool recently. I am a big fan of organising my thoughts in a hierarchical tree fashion using bullets. Sometimes the trees go so deep that it becomes hard to trace where I started from. That is when Workflowy came to my rescue. It allows you to collapse and expand tree like structures which makes it easy and fast for you to organise your thoughts effectively. Also very useful if you are a coach and need to present your training taking each topic at a time and going deep into it.
A very famous quote – Those who fail to plan, actually plan to fail.
Creating a Business Plan, is a chore which most Startup Founders detest. Finally it is endless documentation. I agree it is boring, but it is the starting point of your journey. The most brilliant ideas fail if they are not documented properly.
Live Plan has made it simple for Startup Founders to create a Business Plan as a Fill in the Blanks activity. There is a template which asks you the right questions. Go on filling in the answers and finally export it to create a shiny new Business Plan which can blow the minds off investors or any other stakeholders that you want to impress and convey your vision to the T.
If you have to create a basic company website or for that matter even a basic ecommerce website, a simple WordPress website bought at any of the popular hosting companies like Namecheap, Bluehost can be created in no time. You can either outsource it to website developers on Upwork or Fiverr or if you are the Do-It-Yourself kind so that you can save money there then you can do that too. Learning WordPress is as easy as learning Microsoft Word, so you can definitely try at the least.
And then again, if you want to have a really classy website then Envato is a place where you can find the best designs. All you need to do is pick a design which looks good to you (take feedback from others also), hire a WordPress developer or do it yourself and create the website which looks out of the world.
Marketing Materials Creation
Not that I have anything against Graphic Designers, but I always found it difficult to get what I wanted form them. It could also probably be because I didn’t express myself well. Canva came to my rescue. As a Solopreneur who designed all marketing materials – be it social media promotions, course related graphics, I was able to create everything myself, by just picking up a graphic of my choice and modifying the text easily.
Also recommended it to all Startups I worked with and got really good reviews on the convenience and ease of creating the basic graphics stuff yourself.
Marketing Automation is the key to setup your Startup in Robot mode. I had only heard about Marketing Automation and its powers till 2018. In 2019 when I took up a course on Marketing Automation during my sabbatical, and then researched on a tool to make it happen, that was when I realised the power of this magical concept.
As a tool, I use Zoho Marketing Hub which is a part of the entire set of tools called Zoho One. The magic that you see happening when all your emails go out in set schedule and journey one by one automatically makes you gawk with admiration. The personalised nurturing that happens due to this without any manual intervention is a great cost and time saver.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Handling and following up with the Sales Team can be a task in itself. But if it is done in an organised manner using a system, the Startup Founder can get a holistic picture of his/her team’s performance even virtually without meeting them. I have been using Zoho CRM. All actions of a customer, be it how many times he visited your website, to whether he has paid or not for your product / service can be seen here. Using Zoho Books along with this can give you a complete picture of the accounting related to that customer – all in one single place
Customer Service Help Desk
Efficient Customer Service is very critical for the customer satisfaction. Create the best product in the market, spend loads on advertising, but nothing works better than a referral from a satisfied customer. Having systems in place to ensure that is a favour you are doing on yourself. Zoho Desk will allow you to implement a complete ticketing system which you can give to your customer service team within half a day. Reporting on the same will give you a good idea if your customers are taken care of in the way that you expect them to be taken care of.
A Startup without a chatbot to be the front face of its existence is not looked upto with awe. Zoho SalesIQ will allow you to setup a chatbot for your website within 30 minutes. You can train it to ask the right questions and give the right answers. Not only that as an administrator you can have an app on your mobile where you come to know when anyone visits your site and chat with them on-the-go. A real help in converting a lead to a paying customer.
Social Media Management
Social Media plays a very big role in Organic (Zero Cost) marketing. If you reach out to the right set of people and have them like your business page or be a part of your group, social media can give you the kind of reach no other marketing technique can. The problem however is the number of social channels that you have to post your content on. Not only that, each channel provides its own analytics reports . Zoho Social really helps there. Create your content, connect all channels at one place, and with just one click your content is posted across all connected channels. Also, viewing all analytics at one place is a boon since it helps you to analyse things from a holistic perspective.
I am a fan of Zoho products, albeit, I say this with caution. The tool is useful but not completely stable as of now. There are bugs which bother you sometimes. But then you got to have the patience to report them to Support and get them resolved. After all it is a lot that they provide for a very reasonable cost, so you got to adjust somewhere too if you are short on cash. They are working hard to improve the quality, so I am keeping the faith and praying that the journey will become smooth one fine day.
Hope I could provide value in terms of setting up your Startup in Robot mode by sharing with you the tools that I use and I recommend. If you can add value to this and list more tools that you have been using in the comments section, my readers and I would be greatly obliged!
A Step-By-Step Course to help you with your Startup
Check out the course Startup Idea to Profit in 180 Days
This course is a knowledge base of that core experience I have gained in my journey. After having spent more than 20 years as an Employee, Entrepreneur and Consultant in the Digital Startup industry I saw the journey and the challenges faced during it. Be it product design, marketing, selling, funding each aspect of the journey needed to be taken up carefully – planned and executed with patience rather than rushing into it blindfolded. I have expressed all these concepts on the basis of an example so that the understanding is not just theoretical in nature. You will be able to learn the following :
- Defining / Documenting your Vision
- Team Vision
- Arranging Funds
- Crafting Your Product/Service system
- Marketing Your Product/Service
- Selling Your Product/Service
- Customer Service
The workshops will ensure that by the end of the course, you create the artefacts for their own business idea. You will have everything ready which will boost your confidence in your business idea in a defined and structured way
As a bonus, I will spend 30 mins with you to discuss the artefacts you have created so that we can clarify your doubts and tweak the artefacts if needed.