This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.
The famed Pareto Principle, named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto for his studies of wealthy landowners, can be summed up as, 20% of your efforts produces 80% of your results. And this principle has been used in corollary after permutation after derivation in a multiplicity of industries, studies and other principles. While the principle (also called the 80-20 rule and the law of the vital few) doesn’t work out as an exact ratio in all these areas, for the business owner trying to be more productive, it’s a great Litmus test. And, keeping track of that all-important 20% is more consistently done using paper or digital tools like task list managers and project management software in Small Business.
As I said in last month’s blog post (but it’s always a good reminder), every month, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosts the Business Development Roundtable, where Small Business owners and their representatives come to discuss topical business issues. We learn, network, share and grow together as business in the Alexandria, Virginia, community. January’s Roundtable was a continuation from the success of our November Roundtable on using productivity tools (that you already have) for greater time and email management. We discussed in January issues relating to task and project management in Small Business, that we didn’t have enough time in the November Roundtable to examine. We had a great group who discussed ways for managing by customer, project and task.
One of our Roundtable participants shared that he used Insightly, a CRM (customer relationship management) solution, to manage his sales. I mentioned one of their competitors, Contactually (which is Washington, D.C.-based), also. These tools are really useful when your business is heavily focused on many and frequent touchpoints with your points of contacts (potential, current and past clients). This can be used in conjunction with task and project management software too. In 2014, as part of the Virginia SBDC’s Beyond Google: Marketing & Managing on the Web Webinar series, I presented on the topic, “How to Choose a CRM for Small Business,” if you’d like to learn more about that.
A major struggle with several participants was juggling the paper and digital infrastructure. Some believed it was necessary for them to transition from paper to digital, but it’s been difficult for them to make the leap. Stepping back and noticing what your operational duties, systems and workflows are, this can really help you start to see where paper tools or software that you already have can be utilized, or where new tools may facilitate more productive management of your customers and projects.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 and NeatReceipts Mobile scanners were brought up as ways to help ease the paper to digital transition. These tools extract the data from your paper and puts that into your proper tools, along with an image of the item that you scanned (whether a receipt, contract or letter).
Reggie Holmes of Enthuse Creative (one of our Alexandria Small Business bloggers) uses Basecamp in his brand strategy firm. Another Roundtable participant is using Trello for managing her projects and tasks. Evernote came up as a tool. Executive Director Bill Reagan has been using Evernote to scan his business cards. He also uses a paper day planner and spoke about what works for him. Evernote was also lauded for its quick ability to share/synchronize notes with your other computers and mobile devices, as well as others in your personal and business life.
On the task side, many participants were wedded to their paper planners and calendars for writing down and tracking tasks for the day, week. It was pointed out that having the tool, whether physical or digital, accessible and on you during your work hours is a critical success factor in building the habit to collect tasks and projects but also in doing them when you have a moment here or there to review your outstanding items to accomplish.
Having a backup systems if you have a digital system is important. If you lose power or your system has a problem, you should still be able to run some or most of your business operations in those circumstances. Cloud services (like Dropbox, Evernote and Trello, all mentioned earlier) have their own backups of your data, but it makes sense for you to have your own locally or somewhere else in the cloud; there are several services coming out to help you do that such as Revert.io.
Microsoft Project was also mentioned as a project management tool of many larger companies, but that can be used in smaller companies and organizations as well. As luck would have it, I also recently did a Webinar on Productivity Tools for Small Business and covered many project management tools in there. As soon as the archived version is available, I’ll add it to the comments below as a link!
The conversation closed with discussion of Web browsers and how you can set it up to load your online calendar, task manager, project dashboard, email and more all at once. The tabs can be scheduled to open whenever you open your Web browser, or have it open it every day at the start of your workday. As well, don’t forget to tile or cascade windows on your operating system (it’s a pretty easy right-click function on Windows computers, and you can resize and tile windows manually on Mac quickly once you get the hang of it); this can save you oodles of time from toggling back and forth when looking at one window and trying to data-enter into another. Remember, that 20% of your efforts should be spent most wisely to achieve 80% of your business success!
This month (February 17th at noon at the Alexandria SBDC) we’ll be discussing “Multimedia Marketing” at the Business Development Roundtable, so that will be a great discussion if you have ever wanted to do video, photo, audio (e.g., podcasting), or other kinds of media publishing for your business. Bring your lunch or a beverage if you want!