Note from Sarah: This article was originally sent via my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers receive essay style pieces like this before anyone else. Click here to subscribe!
Like as is the norm at the end of the year, I start talking to a lot of people about their plans for the next year. Folks will book strategy calls or inquire about a project this time of year at a much higher rate than normal (so if I owe you an email, please bear with me), and while it’s a lot of brain work, it’s also incredibly interesting, as I start to see common threads through all of these conversations.
This year’s theme, with nothing else coming close, is simplification. Whether they’re a solo consultant, nonprofit exec, first time business owner, you name it, they’re thinking about how to simplify. I have a lot of theories about why this is coming through so strongly (which basically all come back to the reality that our world can feel extremely chaotic, which is also why Marie Kondo is so popular), but wow, it’s interesting. Which got me thinking about easy(ish) ways we can simplify our business lives.
Write canned emails. Folks, I have probably 200 (maybe more) canned emails in a Google Drive file. The more commonly used ones are stored in Gmail’s canned emails system and Dubsado (my CRM). This also helps ensure you’re telling people the same thing, which prevents confusion and misunderstandings.
Speaking of CRMs…. Use one. I’m saying if you have more than three customers/clients you should keep all your documentation in it and use the features so they’re doing the work of a virtual assistant while you decompress on a nice, long walk. I use Dubsado, but there are many options out there. I recommend signing up for free trials of a few, and if they offer demo calls, take them up on that opportunity! When you sign up for one, many will create your forms and documents for you, which is also awesome!
Online scheduler. This is probably the millionth time I’ve told y’all to start using one. But seriously, do it. It’ll save so many back and forths, you have no idea. Here’s a post of mine that details several options. (The most sounds mildly cranky, reading in months after I wrote it—oops!)
Document your processes. While I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my business life, this is a habit that I carried over from my work in public sector PR and it serves me well over and over again. I use Mindmeister to visualize how my workflow, well, works, but a pen and paper is always my starting point, and I think there’s a lot of power writing it down. This helps with simplification as you’ll literally see the busy work you’re doing that’s not serving you, where you can bring in help, how you’re duplicating efforts, and so forth. (You should do this every year as a “check up” too!)
Create an amazing FAQ on your website. This is high on my to-do list. I’m killing my current FAQ in my site refresh (I’m almost done) and the new FAQ is going to be thematic and informative. If you have a team, talk to your front line folks (think receptionists and salespeople) about what questions they get and answer them. (Pro tip: This can also become great blog content.) Add anchor links and you can refer people to the exact section of your website that answers their questions. So much awesome!
Consider productizing a service. Okay, this isn’t “easy,” but when done well, it can be transformational. I would argue that there aren’t many businesses or organizations out there that can’t do this. What is is, is creating a streamlined, systemized “product” that solves a common problem your audience has. (That’s what our Design in a Day™ program is.) It will not only change the work you do as part of that service, you’ll start seeing better ways to do your more complex, high-touch work as well. As I said to someone early this week, I can evangelize about productized services for hours and hours without stopping.