This past week I started work with a new client. His goal is to automate his corporate coaching business and prepare himself to scale. With any automation comes the need for software. What’s the best software for every process in your business? Making these choices can be daunting. If you’re not careful, you will find yourself traveling down a never-ending rabbit hole.
About halfway down a particular rabbit hole, I was exploring, I found myself quickly scurrying to the top, only to discover there is another rabbit hole over there to go down. Managing software rabbit holes is not my first rodeo (not to switch animals on you). If I can shorten the learning curve for you by sharing these lessons, then maybe you won’t get lost and overwhelmed by choosing software.
Lesson #1: Do a big picture analysis first.
It is imperative to know which systems in your business need automation and modern management. You might be limping along with archaic workflows, but are these processes going to serve you when you’re bigger and busier? Maybe it’s time to upgrade your free software into a paid version to get more bells and whistles. Make a software list (based on your business activities) and divide it into three columns: “Currently using”, “Must-Have right now,” and “Would be nice to have later.” To help you with this process, you can download my free “Complete Guide to Scaling Your Coaching Practice”.
Lesson #2: Start with one new software project at a time.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to research too many different types of software at one time. Pick your most important need and stay focused on that software project until you are complete. It can get tricky because there are software solutions that handle multiple business activities. However, I have found that the all-in-one solutions are rarely perfect.
Lesson #3: Be willing to invest time, energy, and money.
I wish I could tell you it’s a piece of cake to choose the “right” software for your business. It’s not. It takes time to research and test. It requires mental energy to evaluate and decide. And oftentimes, you will invest money to make a good choice. There are so many choices out there today, and new ones are popping up all the time. Choose wisely.
Lesson #4: Ask your community.
If you want to save some time and energy, reach out to your community for feedback. In my case, I am an active member of two knowledgeable communities of virtual assistants and online business managers. I will often post a question in the Facebook groups to help shorten my research time. People are willing to help and share what they’ve learned, so leverage the people you know, and the groups you belong to.
Lesson #5: Don’t wait for the “perfect” software solution.
There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to software. Read the reviews. There are pros and cons to every piece of software out there. What’s most important is that the software is perfect for you and the way you work. If you require simplicity, find software that has a simple user interface. If you prefer something more robust with lots of bells and whistles, that’s out there too. The software you choose needs to fit your style or you won’t use it.
Lesson #6: It’s okay to abandon ship and start over. But do it early.
A lot of software companies give you a trial period. Take advantage of this and dive in with some test data. It’s one thing to watch introductory videos and read about all the features available. It’s a completely different “rabbit” to actually start using the software in real time. Last week, I started testing a software for my client that we thought was a good solution. After spending about an hour setting up and getting a feel for how it works, we learned it wasn’t ideal. Instead of getting frustrated and trying to make it work, I got out of the rabbit hole and moved to plan B.
Lesson #7: The tech support team is crucial.
In my business, I am required to learn and use a lot of new software. There are three tech support areas I look at when choosing a software solution.
- How robust is the “do-it-yourself” section on their website? Is it easy to search and navigate? Do they have video tutorials? Is their troubleshooting area well organized?
- What access do you have to a “live” tech support person? Is it only through email (pain in the butt) or can you talk to someone on the phone?
- What is their response time? Do you have to wait on the phone for a long time or wait hours for them to email you back?
There is no doubt you will need a stellar tech support team during the setup process, and to help you troubleshoot issues along the way. Time is wasted when you choose a software company with poor tech support.
Lesson #8: Once you choose, discipline yourself to use it.
Learning new software takes time and patience. It often requires you to instill new work habits. Don’t give up. Discipline yourself to keep using the software until you master it. To cut your learning curve, hire someone to help you set it up and train you on how to use it. Before you know it, you will wonder how you ever survived without your new software.
Although there were exciting adventures for Alice in Wonderland at the bottom of the rabbit hole, busy business owners don’t have time for all that nonsense!
Lori Young is the founder and chief OBM of Amazing OBM. To help you stop wasting time in rabbit holes, download her free “Guide to Scaling Your Coaching Practice.”
Down the Software Rabbit Hole
September 15, 2018