From Concept To Success, And How To Manage Everything In Between

From Concept To Success, And How To Manage Everything In Between

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Typically, the clearer the vision you have defined in your mind, and the goal identified, appraised and well communicated with those around you who will help you achieve your goal is literally half the battle. Because what you focus your attention on, is where your brain, the super computer of the body, will find ways to take you to that destination.

Learn more about how to go from conceptualisation to success...

From Concept To Success, And How To Manage Everything In Between


Well, I always like to think that starting with a clear vision of where you want to end up is a great place to start. Not knowing clearly where you want to be, and what the end result will mean for you, is akin to getting into a car with a blindfold on, setting off, and either not knowing when you’ve arrived, since you don’t know where you’re going … or worse, you crash, fall off the track, and possibly cause a few casualties along the way.

So, quite simply, knowing your end result is your biggest asset. Having that end result very clearly defined in your mind - what it is, what it means to you if you achieve it, and how it will impact your business one you’ve completed your vision.

Typically, the clearer the vision you have defined in your mind, and the goal identified, appraised and well communicated with those around you who will help you achieve your goal is literally half the battle. Because what you focus your attention on, is where your brain, the super computer of the body, will find ways to take you to that destination.

In the last article we looked at the structure of success, and how having clearly defined processes are the framework to carry your vision through from conceptualization to end result.

In this article, I’m going to share some of the tools we have found, collectively in our organisation, that have amplified and streamlined that entire process. And believe me when I say, we attribute some of our success to these invaluable tools. We might have achieved success without them, but definitely, they’ve been an invaluable assistance along the way of that road to success.

The Tools To Get The Job Done

Trello

Trello has been such a useful tool, I’d now consider it indispensable. I know lots of people love Asana, or Monday, or alternative, but for us, we fell in love with Trello. Initially for its power and simplicity and over time, because of it’s robust add-on applications and programmable scripting features.

We use Trello in business to manage pretty much every aspect of what we do, across dozens of different boards. From client project management, to accounting, to internal team SPRINTS, calendar planning and so much more.

Having Trello accessible from every device, 24/7, we’re in touch as a team across the globe at all times, with the ability to access time stamped historical notes, version control, files, content, strategies … literally anything relating to the business, who is doing what and when, from anywhere and at any time. 

We’ve found that Trello integrates with so many other pieces of software and technology, that once we had our feet wet in the Trello ecosystem, there was no turning back. Even looking at alternatives and discussing them, such as Asana, we personally haven't come across anything of a challenge we couldn’t script, automate and implement in Trello exactly how we wanted it.

I truly believe that if we hadn’t got our agency off the ground using Trello, SPRINTS and SCRUM processes (see the last article on the processes of success) - our launch and growth trajectory would have been grossly hampered. One thing to mention about Trello, is out of the box it is very bare bones, and some of the templates for boards are great for learning tools, but you’re probably going to want to set up your boards and processes in a way that work specifically for your SOP framework for each activity within your organization. And that’s part of the beauty of Trello, it can be set up how you need it to work, rather than forcing your business to change how it works to fit Trello.

Basecamp

Basecamp is a tool I’ve personally enjoyed and used for many years. It has a much more simplistic interface than Trello, and I consider the functionality slightly different. For me, Basecamp acts more like a giant diary and rolling to do list. Or maybe best described as a modern day personal life organiser.

From time to time, I’ve invited clients to collaborate with me on projects within Basecamp, and I even have a full collaboration with our accounting firm, managing 7 unique businesses and that communication is all handled within Basecamp.

Basecamp helps me plan my day, my tasks, my companies, my activities and my communications. I could probably use Trello to do this, and make Basecamp redundant, however, I’ve grown so accustomed to using it for a specific purpose for so many years, it’s like an essential part of my existence. Of course, life could go on without it, but it would probably be far more chaotic, with a lot more yellow sticky notes, and random pieces of paper full of penned notes.

In speaking to people, I’ve also found that the Basecamp interface is far more user friendly for those who are less tech savvy than people who are drawn to Trello or Asana.

Basecamp helps you wrangle people with different roles, responsibilities, and objectives toward a common goal: Finishing a project together.

Basecamp gets projects done. Plus, it integrates with and alongside Trello as needed for cross platform collaboration.

Chaos, Organized

Miro

Miro is a fantastic online collaborative whiteboard platform that enables distributed teams to work effectively together from brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning and managing agile workflows. And guess what, it also integrates with Trello.

We happened to stumble upon Miro entirely by accident. I was looking for a tool that would help me map a few things out that were in my head, and I wasn’t able to do a good brain dump onto paper with a pen. I also wanted to collaborate with my business partner and share ideas that we could both instantly visualise and comment on, adapt, and make changes on the fly.

Coming across Miro was like finding £50 in your pocket that you’d forgotten about, and has come out in the wash, to give you a pleasant surprise out of the blue. We started a free trial, and then realised the true power of this software in how we can communicate between our entire team, as well as our clients. 

In no time at all, we were taking complicated concepts, that would have been endless walls of text in a PDF or presentation document, and we were hashing them out in Miro as visual concepts. We even draft all of our internal SOPs out as visual maps in Miro.

Clients have loved it, and they’ve told us so. They love the instant understanding of concepts that are displayed on the screen, where they can interact, engage and collaborate with us. They also love the fact that we update the Miro planners daily, so at the click of a button they can see progress on projects and what is next in the pipeline.

We feed all of our Miro work into our Trello boards, so we have instant cross-application communication and visibility.

Miro may, or may not be essential to your business, however, like us, you might find it has much more power and value than an initial cursory inspection.

Slack

As for many people, the new world order has fragmented offices and shattered shared working spaces, while a large portion of the population has been learning to work remotely from home. Simultaneously, while existing barriers and paradigms of historic working knowns have been abolished, so too has global communication skyrocketed. More than half of our team is not located in the United Kingdom, and my business partner Adam, often finds himself travelling and working all over the world. The majority of our clients are also not located in the United Kingdom.

Slack just seems to slide into that territory, and it slides in really well. It’s simple stuff, but really, a fantastic way to organise multiple communication channels and streams of real-timer chatter. With Slack, we can communicate in an instant with ongoing conversations between our team and our clients. We can control the flow and visibility of conversations, and categorise streams into topics or groups that suit us.

Slack integrates with pretty much all of our tools, especially Trello, and Google products. So we find it the most versatile cross platform communication tool for rapid conversations, over limited apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.

Google Hangouts (Meet) / Zoom

We use video communication and conferencing tools each and every single day. Both between us internally in the team, and externally with clients. The days of phone calls are starting to become a thing of the past, as real-time video communication quality goes from strength to strength.

Spurred on by the Coronavirus restrictions - limiting people’s ability to meet up face to face, we’ve found Zoom and Google Meets to be terrific tools to maintain those close human relationships, and add an extra layer of personal touch in our communications. Every day we touch base via video link with the team to discuss where we’re upto, what is happening next and if we have any bottlenecks, and we religiously kick off the beginning of every week with an extended team call to plan out our Sprints.

Video calls have an extra layer of dimension to planning and collaboration, as well as problem solving, that you just don’t always get in written communication form. Heck, to be honest, half of the businesses that have survived the COVID-19 restrictions probably wouldn’t have been able to cope 15 years ago without video communication technology being at the level it is today.

Harvest

Harvest was like Miro, we found another hidden gem. So, what is Harvest, and how do we use it? Well fundamentally Harvest is a time tracking and expense tracking tool. We use it to intensely surveil our team of employees and deduct their wages when they should be working, but we can clearly see that they are not … just kidding!

We actually needed a time tracking tool that integrated with Trello for a very important and essential part of our business, and it became so much more than that. After running our agency for a while, we started to have internal discussions about our pricing. Afterall, we’d literally made it up originally, and plucked the price points out of thin air. We didn’t even do any competitor analysis of the going market rates - we simply thought about what our time was worth, and we stuck a price tag on it. 

Our intuitions weren’t too bad, as we were gaining clients and making money. But we always had a niggle that we didn’t know for sure, what our costs to produce deliverables actually were, so we couldn’t really accurately create a price point for our services. We were just flying blind and hoping for the best really. On the flip side of the coin, we also wanted to know where our breaking points were, and how quickly we could reach or exceed capacity with the team we had in place.

Using Harvest is really intuitive and simple to use. We use it to track the time invested in literally every single activity and task in the business, and all members of the team do this. The reporting is multi-dimensional - so we can quickly see how much time something is taking, and build categories of time invested per task, per client, per type of task, per challenge, per collaboration across which team members and all kinds of really cool stuff - especially if you’re into numbers and data.

So we took all this data, and we took all of our expenses and costs into consideration and we were able to accurately determine what it costs us to do pretty much anything and everything. From there we knew where we would be profitable or making a loss, and where our limits are, to ensure we never breach capacity.

This information is like gold to any business, especially new start-ups, who, like us, were winging it for a bit. But, not only that, we found that by implementing time tracking, the overall response was increased productivity. Since when you start the timer running, you typically stay more focused on the one task at hand, ignore interruptions and distractions and get the job completed so you can click the off timer on the stop clock. Then you can move onto the next task in a very organised fashion. We found that across the entire business, just by introducing Harvest, we were increasing our productivity. You also get to see visually a clear picture of how you are investing your time, and on reflection, if you are investing your time wisely.

Calendly

Some people love being interrupted and talking on the phone. Me, personally, I hate it. In fact, I hate the intrusion so much that I very rarely ever answer phone calls unless it’s a family member and potentially an emergency. So much so, people think I’m borderline anti-social, or, a recluse. Truth is, I’ve found unscheduled calls to be the biggest distraction and drain on my personal biggest commodity of value - my time. Every time we transact with someone else on their terms, at an unspecified time, they’re reducing your value and basically stealing your productivity.

I’ve typically followed the Tim Ferriss approach, whereby if you want to get in touch with me, you can email and I’ll follow up in due course, or, raise a ticket on Trello and assign it to me, so it can be handled in an organised manner efficiently, or, if you really desperately need to schedule a call or a video conference - then there’s a way to do it in a systematic and fair manner. For me, that has been Calendly, and I know my business partner makes use of this extensively to book inbound and outbound conversations with prospects and clients.

Calendly has helped field away all the tyre kickers, time wasters, and bored people out of my life entirely, and zeroed in on the people who really do value your time and need to speak with you, where email, Loom or some other form of communication isn’t suitable. In most cases it actually is, but sometimes, we have to keep up the human personal touch through visual face to face meetings. 

Any tool that can help you retain your time, enhance your output and productivity and reduce distractions is a valuable asset, and I count Calendly as one of those to keep in your toolkit and stay organised in your daily work plan.

Loom

Given my inherent disapproval of unscheduled phone calls or video calls intruding into your day and pulling you away from your attention and tasks, I have to give Loom 5 stars of excellence. Loom is a video recording tool that lets you record video messages, and video screencasts, as well as adding notes and transcripts. When I’m wanting to communicate with someone, especially about something interactive that we cannot achieve through written format or Miro as a visual map, then I’ll just record a Loom video.

What could have ended up being a 30 - 60 minute phone call, or Zoom meeting, I can get across in 5 minutes in a direct Loom that the recipient can re-watch and digest and internalise at a time that suits them. And then they can respond if necessary, hopefully also by Loom or some other method that cuts out those disastrous time-killing unscheduled phone calls.

Given Loom is really lightweight software and also has a browser extension app, I’ve found it to be the quickest and most robust, feature rich tool, compared to doing a QuickTime movie screen recording or equivalent. So top marks go to Loom.

Veed

Create videos with a single click. Add subtitles, transcribe audio and more … and we use it for what it’s best at. We literally create videos, add subtitles, transcribe audio and more … all at the click of a button. It’s so simple and powerful at the same time. Veed comes into play mostly in our content creation and content strategy for visual media and it’s been the best tool we’ve found to do the job at a great price.

Xero

Where would we be without our solid accounting firm supporting us every step of the way, alongside one of the most powerful accounting tools I’ve come across in decades. Xero is just simply brilliant. It was the tool that killed outdated, clunky, Sage offline software and kickstarted the online cloud based accounting revolution, and I’ve been in love with it since it began.

All of our bookkeeping, accounting, invoicing and record keeping is all handled in the cloud via XERO - meaning we can access it from any device, from anywhere and at any time. PAYE, VAT submissions, tax filings, expenses, financial reports, near real time bank feeds - literally anything you need can be just a click or two away.

I honestly cannot imagine how business used to happen without this sort of financial app, with so much paper invoices, receipts and expense reports floating around offline. For us, we keep everything in the backend of our business as robust, organised and digital as the front end, and I couldn’t imagine any other way to proceed. XERO is an essential and massive part of our business, and if you’re not using it, or one of its competitors in this day and age, I think you’ll be surprised at how revolutionary it is when you switch.

Summary

So, to circle back to the last article - we talked about having clearly defined processes and operating procedures to ensure your business stability, success and sustainability, while freeing up your time to work on your business and not get sucked down working in your business.

In this article we looked at some of the critical tools as examples, to hopefully show you how to make your processes and procedures work at high capacity in a streamlined & measurable fashion. This isn’t an exhaustive list or by any means a one-size fits all approach for every business, however, I hope it highlights to you that whatever you have conceptualised and visualised in your mind - you can probably find tools created by clever innovators to take your thoughts and put them into solid action through apps and software that’ll push you and your business along the road to success.

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