Small business owners are some of the hardest workers. You struggle to make ends meet, and to keep track of everything going on in your company. Many small start-ups are running on a shoestring, and absolutely reliant on retaining their precious clients and customers to keep money coming in the door.
Not only that, but small business owners know how to wear many hats (and look great in them!). One minute you might be making sales calls, the next minute you might be doing data entry, un-jamming the copier, processing a customer invoice, or ordering office supplies. You do it all.
Small business owners face so many responsibilities … and then there are the expenses! Anyone who’s embarked on the first few years of a startup or managed a small office can tell you — everything on the budget is scrutinized from paperclips to software. A few hundred dollars can mean the difference between making payroll and paying the office rent (or heck, even paying your OWN rent).
It’s no wonder then, small business owners feel stressed out and stretched thin sometimes. It’s a huge responsibility, and although there’s a great deal of joy in running a small business and being your own boss (hooray!) there’s also a great deal of anxiety. If a deadline is missed or a client leaves, it can shut you down.
Free Yourself from Spreadsheet Madness
Many small business owners come up with elaborate spreadsheet systems to keep track of it all. After all, you have to find a way to keep tabs on every customer contact, their orders and documents associated with those orders, deadlines, project goals and milestones.
Then there are the calendars: as a small business owner you’re going to need five or six different calendars (at least). A production calendar, a calendar to track sales and customer appointments, your own calendar of course, a community calendar to coincide and time your events with significant happenings … the list goes on.
You’ll probably want to set up a spreadsheet to track when you emailed clients last and when you last updated their contact information, which will need to be updated in your email system. You’ll also want a spreadsheet of your email systems, social media updates, analytics, software programs, and invoicing, accounting and sales software. Oh … and, of course, you’ll want to make a spreadsheet of your spreadsheets.
STOP THE MADNESS!
You Need a Project Management Program
There’s this common misconception project management software is only for big companies. Really, though it is absolutely critical for small businesses. Big companies can afford to lose a customer here and there, but small businesses can’t. Big companies have several people managing and working on a task, and they might all keep track of just a portion of the project. For small business owners, you have to keep track of it ALL.
That is why as a small business owner, it’s critical to have great project management software. It’s about freeing you up to do the things you need to do. Spending hours trying to tab through massive Excel files to find the answer to a simple question can be maddening and can cost you time and money. In business the trend toward smart project management tools, continues, and it’s only getting stronger.
The Cost Factor
The amazing thing about project management software is it’s not nearly as expensive as you might think. Depending on the number of users, you can access many programs for free and most for under a hundred bucks a month.
Another concern is the time it can take to “move data” and set up the software. Find a project management program that will integrate with the systems you already have in place and work with your calendars and customer contact programs like Gmail and Google Calendar, MailChimp and Evernote. Once you commit to using a project management program, it can be up and running in literally a day.
Think of project management software as a file cabinet, calendar and big whiteboard all rolled into one. Imagine you’re sitting in your office, twenty years ago, surrounded by a business card and Rolodex file for every client. You have paper copies of every document you have sent. You have accounting books, and files upon files. You have a big board to keep track of every project in your pipeline and several different calendars to track due dates for each project.
Do you feel overwhelmed yet?
Great project management software offers access and organization to all of these pieces of data right in the palm of your hand, or on the screen of your desktop. It’s a virtual project manager, who reminds you of due dates and deadlines, and gives you a gentle nudge when you need to contact someone.
As a small business owner, the question shouldn’t be whether you can afford time and energy to use a project management program — but how on earth could you afford not to?
About the Author
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for Chamber of Commerce. Chamber specializes in helping SMB’s grow their business on the Web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources and provides advice through her column on the Chamber blog.
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