We’ve called this problem “double overwhelm” - when you’re overwhelmed by all the ‘things’ you need to do to make your business work - marketing, sales, getting paid, the actual work itself - coupled with the overwhelm of what software to choose to ‘help’.
The Jenga app stack
It’s easy to end up with an extensive app collection, a Jenga-like ‘stack’ of apps. The Jenga analogy is an uncomfortably realistic one too. Which app can you take out or add without the whole thing falling over?
It’s not that you set out to have quite so many apps but… now you just do. And the problem is that not all of them are talking to each other, perhaps you’re having to ‘re-key’ information from one to another. Or the way they integrate with Xero is only one direction (in-, but not back out) so they’re not keeping you entirely up to date with what’s happening in your business. Some only you have access to, some the whole team do, but there’s a lot to keep track of. So we’re recommending you take a breather. Stop. Rethink.
Step away from the apps
I appreciate it may seem odd that I’m saying this as co-founder of an add-on app, but my advice would be, for now, to take a step back until you’ve worked out what you really need.
Apps should be there to help you work better. If an app is saving you or your team more time than it takes to manage it, or adding value - allowing you to sell services you wouldn’t be able to without it - then it’s probably a keeper. But if it isn’t, or adds complexity, then it should go.
Systems are the processes, the ‘how to’s’. Systems are not the software you have. If you’ve not sat down for a while (or ever) with a pile of post-its or a whiteboard (or both) and worked out the ‘systems’ in your business then now’s as good a time as any. You’ll naturally know your bottlenecks as a business, and you also know where you’d like to ‘run faster’. Start there.
Draw a map
Map out how you want things to work in your business, and then when you’re really clear on the simplest flow of actions and outcomes, review your software and apps. If there are ‘extra steps’ you don’t need, it might be time to choose different software or ask a better question of it - how can we make this simpler?
How many steps are in your marketing process? Do you play email tennis setting up calls and appointments? What about how you send out proposals or get paid? These are key processes to map and spot extra steps you might not need, or overlaps between apps.
If you’re having to work the way an app works and not the way YOU want to work then you may well be using the wrong app. With all the choice you have, it’s unlikely you’ll have to stick with what you’re using now if it’s overcomplicating how you want to work.
Systems first, software second
“Systems first, software second” should always be how you think about your own apps and those you recommend too.
Trying to ‘crowbar’ in a way of working because ‘that’s how the software does it’ is never the best place to start. Work out why and what you want to get done THEN look for add-on apps and software to solve those problems.
But new apps are exciting!
We know new apps are exciting. We’ve built one ourselves (and we’re very excited!) but we never have conversations about how great our software is. Instead we always have conversations about “where are your bottlenecks?” or “where are you wasting time? Where are you ‘manually’ doing something you’re pretty sure can be automated? Do you spend your evenings doing ‘catch up’ when you’d rather not be working?” Those are all systems questions. And we always have those before we even think about app talk. Because depending on the answers, our app - or any app - may not solve the problem(s).
Just like shopping in the sales - it’s not a bargain if you didn’t need it in the first place. Which is also our attitude to apps. And not just because my co-founder is a Yorkshireman and would never consider a frivolous purchase, ever!
A good place to start
Work out what’s most important to you in your business and get the best app doing that for you. Ideally if you can fix multiple bottlenecks with one app, then that’s even better.
If you’re not sure, or want a simple place to start - here are the Top 3 ‘problems’ we see all the time in small service businesses:
- Losing leads - striking that balance of ‘keeping them interested’ without hassling for a meeting but still getting the meeting!
- Getting quotes & proposals done easily - ideally straight after a meeting when everything’s fresh
- Getting paid quickly - actual cash in the bank not just invoices out
Get these 3 covered, or another bottleneck that’s big for you, and take it from there.