As a business owner, you could be pulled in a million different directions and could try to handle everything yourself. But to be successful and grow, business owners must learn to relinquish control and delegate as well as try new ways of working. Sure, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what if it could work so much better?
Today for you I am providing a list of five tools that have helped me to stay on track, be effective and productive, and continue to grow my business. I hope you find it beneficial for your business as well.
Productivity: Evernote, Slack, and Asana
When you have a distributed team, it’s critical to stay organized and have clear communication. At Dotto Tech, our team is all over—from Canada and England to New Hampshire and Texas. To keep on task, we use three tools all day, every day.
At the heart of our productivity system is Evernote. (In fact, I offer a course on how to use this fantastic tool, and I have written and talked about it quite a bit.) To me, Evernote is the catchall for anything I need to remember. Think of Evernote as a digital notebook where you can store all of your little bits of digital information. And with Evernote Webclipper, a browser extension, you can capture information you see on a screen to store in Evernote.
But having everything stored is useless if you can’t find what you need when you need it. Great news: Evernote has a very powerful search engine to locate information very quickly. For example, if you capture a whiteboard during a meeting, it will parse out the text of the whiteboard so that you can later search it. And because it’s a cloud-based service, you can search from your phone, your computer—wherever you happen to be.
Next, let’s talk about effective communication. For that, our team is on Slack. Of course, getting everyone on board to communicate in a new way was a challenge, especially when team members have their own preferred method of communicating, like Facebook Messenger, email, texting. But we’re all on Slack now, and we love it.
Slack has increased our productivity dramatically because it focuses all of our conversations into one place. Every project has its own channel. No more scrolling through multidimensional, multithreaded emails that keep going back and forth—what a waste of time! Slack cuts through all of it, and makes us more effective at communication.
And then, to keep us all organized with our tasks and projects, we use Asana. Think of a corkboard with tasks and project details on index cards that you move around as things are accomplished or change. Asana is that board, which is critical for remote teams. Finish a task? Check it off the list to reinforce that it’s done, and everyone is aware and on the same page, regardless of physical location.
Screen and Video Recording:
ScreenFlow and Camtasia
For screen recording and video production, the two main tools available are ScreenFlow and Camtasia. ScreenFlow is a Mac-only product; Camtasia is both Mac and Windows. ScreenFlow has been around longer than Camtasia, but both are awesome tools, and here’s why you need one of them.
Video is important, and people now rely on it. We can communicate so much more with our faces, even subtly, like the tilt of a head, the raise of an eyebrow. It’s a very engaging product.
So, when you’re creating a video, you obviously need to have some sort of recording device, which is typically going to be your camera. You record the video and audio combined on that camera, and then upload the video to your computer. To edit the video, you use some sort of video editing tool, like iMovie, Final Cut, or Adobe Premiere. Then, you use YouTube or another tool to publish it.
ScreenFlow and Camtasia combine a lot of those processes. These video production tools allow you to use your webcam and microphone to capture your video in real-time. But that’s just you sitting at your desk—boring much? These tools help jazz up your videos by adding a second layer: Your computer screen is recorded as well. You can imagine how incredibly helpful this feature is for creating how-to videos.
In addition, both tools have great editing capabilities that allow you to edit the computer screen, zoom in on things, highlight portions, change the size of the curser, and draw elements on the screen. Good stuff!
Social Media Management: Agorapulse
What can I say about Agorapulse that I haven’t said before? Let me start by explaining that Agorapulse is a fantastic social media dashboard that enables its users to schedule posts, engage with those posts, and then report on those posts. Sure, similar tools are available, but none of them have the strength in managing conversations that Agorapulse does.
With so many platforms, social media communication comes in from all over the place, and things tend to get lost or overlooked. Not good for followers or even potential customers who don’t get a response. But with Agorapulse, I get all communication in one inbox regardless of platform, and I have been able to increase my engagement with my community.
Don’t get me wrong—when I started my YouTube channel, I knew that communicating with my community and having conversations with them was critical to grow the channel. And I did it very well … on YouTube. But I did a very poor job of it on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. Agorapulse has given me the ability to manage those conversations and respect those communities.
Although I use the YouTube conversation management tool that’s baked into YouTube’s Creator Studio, I use Agorapulse for everything else, including my YouTube publishing sequence. After I create a video, I also create a blog post and embed the video into the post. As soon as the blog post is published, I use the Agorapulse extension for Chrome to share the post to all of my social platforms. And when I’m in there, I schedule a few more posts, check my conversations, reply, and more. Again, I love Agorapulse and can’t say enough about it.
Online Course Creation & Management: Thinkific
Thinkific is a learning management system that allows users to create courses, very quickly and very effectively, and then manage those courses from inception to design to sales. The tool includes everything you need to create an online course, including marketing, landing page creation, and even ecommerce to collect payments for your courses.
In addition, Thinkific has replaced membership sites in many ways, and it’s done so quite elegantly. Let’s face it: Membership sites are a nightmare on WordPress. When we created a membership site for Dotto Tech to support our community, we spent more time supporting them technically in the membership than actually supporting them on the content that we were delivering to them. Thinkific’s membership management just works better.
Technically speaking, the Thinkific model is very competent. It integrates well with other tools, including CRM. That way, when someone signs up for your course, all of their information will get pushed to your CRM system.
One of the best parts? Thinkific offers most of their features for free. So if you’re just starting out with your first course, it won’t cost you anything. Create your course, build a landing page, create widgets for your own site, and sell the course—all for free. The way Thinkific charges users is by taking a percentage of the sale for the course. So it doesn’t cost you anything; you just make a little less profit. As far as I’m concerned, Thinkific is a winner winner, chicken dinner.
Accounting: Wave Financial
As you might have heard, I abhor accounting. And when it comes to accounting, I’m very good at procrastinating because I don’t like it, and as a result of not liking it, I also don’t understand it, so consequently, it’s a lot of work, and I typically screw it up. My accountant finally said to me, in a rather aggressive manner (for an accountant), “If you don’t get a proper invoicing system together, we’re going to fire you.” Ouch.
I had tried everything for invoicing—Word, Excel, even my trusted Evernote. Nothing worked. But then I found gold: Wave. It is so easy to use, easy to understand, easy to set up accounts, easy to send invoices. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it’s actually kind of fun. Wave has made accounting easy and fun for me.
Wave enables customers to pay via credit card, bypassing PayPal, for a small fee. Customers can store their credit or debit cards as well, to quickly pay their invoices. Wave also offers additional services, like receipt scanning and payroll. It truly has revolutionized the organizational side of my business.
One more thing before I let you go, and it has to do with free vs. paid versions of all the tools I’ve mentioned here. I absolutely recommend trying tools before you buy them and taking advantage of those free trials. However, I firmly believe in supporting the creators of the tools that I love. When it comes to Evernote, for example, my whole digital brain is there, and I can’t live without it. I don’t want Evernote to sell their technology to another company or, worse, fold and go away because they don’t have enough money. I want to pay my piece of the pie so that the company is healthy and growing. I don’t even care if they add that much more functionality; I just want them to be healthy, and I’m willing to support them in that. ’Nuff said. You’re free to go … try those tools.
PS: Pun fully intended.