Categories
Team Building & Management

Ready to Expand Your Team? Stop Hiring!

One of my biggest pet peeves, when it comes to building a virtual team of contractors, is small business owners adopting hiring practices from the corporate world.

If you want experts, leaders & team members with entrepreneurial mindsets, then you need to think of and treat potential team members as they are: fellow business owners who will be partnering WITH you in your business.

If you’re building your team of contractors (not employees), and you’re asking them to fill in a detailed application, send a resume or CV and then wait for an interview, don’t be surprised if you hire a team of followers!

Think about it from this perspective: when you need an electrician, for example, aperson or team that has expertise in a field you need for something you need done, (let’s say, wiring in a new lighting fixture…)  how do you find them?

I’d hazard a guess that you start with a google search.  Or maybe ask your friends, “Who do you recommend for this kind of work?”

You would NOT post an ad such as:

“Looking for an electrician to wire in a new lighting fixture..  Paying $x.  To apply for this position, please send your results for these 10 personality tests, email your CV/Resume, and fill in this 5 page form.  Only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.”

contactor ad
No self-respecting professional would give this ad a second look.  They’re busy with current clients that are happy with their work, and spending this kind of time and resources is going to be a low priority unless they are brand new or desperate for business.

Why would you treat virtual professionals in your business any differently? They too, are experts in their fields, and the good ones will expect to be treated as equals; not as employees who must prove themselves.  

The language you use when you’re expanding your team sets the tone.  It is a signal to a potential partner about your mindset around team building.

You will chase away the leaders if you expect them to follow a process designed for followers.

Build a team of Go-Getters, not Followers!

Follow this 4-Step Process to find and select a superstar team member:

For your eyes only. Don’t get caught up in making this pretty or shareable at this point. Just get this down and out of your head.

  • Get clear on the roles in your business now and for the future.
    Bonus points: define an Org Chart!
  • Why do you need this new role?  Where do you want it to go?
  • What is your budget for your team, and for this role?
  • What are the measures of success?
  • If you’re a fan of assessments, I like using Strengths Finder and the Kolbe A to help define the skillset needed for the role.  Keep in mind, assessments are fantastic tools and I recommend as a guide –  not as the absolute rule.

For every role identified in #1, write a role description.  Give it a title, even a generic one.  Then draft a one-page description outlining:

  • Define the role – the what, where, how
  • Skill Requirements  
  • Tech or Systems needed and the level of familiarity or expertise required for each
  • Approximate weekly/monthly time required for the role
  • Timezone or availability considerations.  It’s a global world!  How important is it for you that the contractor is able to attend team meetings, or respond during your business hours?
  • Decide how you’d like to collect responses.  Do you want candidates to submit an email, a form?  How should they contact you?  Is there a deadline?
    • It’s perfectly acceptable to ask potential team members to answer questions in their response to you to help gauge initial fit.  Avoid creating a multi-step process or cramming the interview-type questions and processes into this step or you will chase away the entrepreneurial-minded experts that you want to hire.
    • You may consider outlining ideal assessment profiles here, but I recommend waiting until Step #4, as a follow-up after meeting qualified prospects.
  • Reach out to your friends, colleagues, network and ASK FOR REFERRALS.  Send them the role description and instruction on how to contact you (from above).
  • Consider submitting RFPs.  If you’re not sure where to submit, ask your friends or on social media, or google search.
    • Your RFP can be created by copying/pasting your role description
    • Avoid services that require you pay to register.
  • Send an email to your list, add a page to your website/blog.  You might be surprised by how much your audience will want to help you!
  • Review the responses, ideally daily, as they arrive and rank each response.  I recommend a spreadsheet with columns for:
    • date received
    • name, business name
    • referred or cold contact
    • website/social media (you may need to research these)
    • skills match 
  • Weed out any with spelling errors or those responses that are absolutely not a match.
  • For the top 10, send an email asking a question you haven’t previously asked.  Then rank their response in terms of time to respond and quality of response
  • Invite the top 3-5 to meet via video call.  This can be 15-30 mins.
    • Be prepared to answer questions about your business.  This is an opportunity for the candidates and you to assess fit and the potential opportunity. 
    • Be careful about approaching this as an “interview”.  You’re meeting with a fellow business owner with interest to partner together.  This is a conversation!
  • After each call, write down your impressions.  This is where your gut feeling comes into play.  But also – does their communication style match yours, is this someone you want to work with?
  • Expect a follow-up after the call.    You also have an opportunity to reach out and ask questions again – do they have samples/case studies or testimonials they can share with you?
    • Record their follow-up actions – speed, quality
    • If someone is interested in joining your team, it will be common at this point to receive a formal proposal, based on your discussion.
  • If you’re ready to make a selection, you’re ready to Onboard!  If not, you can invite to another call, or correspond via email.  Don’t get lost too deep in this and delay on making a decision.
    • If you don’t feel good at this point about either accepting or making an offer, take a step back.
      • Do you need to broaden the search?  Do you need to revisit the role description?  Identify the barrier and then amend your plan of action.

Finding, selecting and onboarding the right team member is essential for scaling your business sustainably.  The investment of time and resources in the selection and onboarding phases can pay huge dividends down the road.

If you’re serious about building a team of go-getters, then you need to change your language and mindset from hiring to partnering.  You’re building a team of business owners!  Treat them as you would also like to be treated when prospecting with your own leads and clients, and I guarantee you will attract better talent.

Documenting your processes, and following a standard workflow will make this process easier to manage and measure.  Not sure where to start? Let’s Chat!

Your turn: what advice do you have for finding, selecting and onboarding rockstars to your team?

Share below!

Categories
Business Operations

How to Troubleshoot Email Deliverability Issues

A common problem all email marketers face is email deliverability.  There’s nothing more frustrating to find out that the reason your leads and prospects are not responding to your email is because they don’t see them in their inbox.  Ugh.

There are some best practices you can employ to help improve your chances of hitting the inbox. The options will vary, depending on the email service provider you’re using, and some ESPs have a better track record than others when it comes to deliverability.

While they don’t like to talk about it, all email service providers tend to have trouble with certain email domains.  I have found yahoo, hotmail and sbglobal email addresses to be particularly troublesome in many of my clients’ businesses.

What you can do to increase email deliverability:
  1. Do not buy your email list.  Full stop.  don’t. do. it.
  2. Employ health cleanliness best practices.  This  includes scrubbing your list to:  (this can be done manually, or automated through your ESP or as a 3rd party tool)
    • Remove duplicate addresses.
    • Remove addresses with typos.
    • Fix addresses with typos.
    • Update invalid addresses.
    • Remove invalid addresses.
    • Delete emails from hard or soft bounces.
    • Remove old/inactive customers
  3. Implement re-engagement campaigns and remove prospects that do not re-engage.
  4. Encourage your leads to whitelist your domain.  Here’s a handy tool to create your own branded instructions: https://www.emaildeliveryjedi.com/email-whitelist.php
  5. Set up your SPF and DKIM records with your email service provider. (Check with your specific email service provider for instructions.)
  6. Don’t use a free email to send marketing emails (like Gmail). You will get higher deliverability from emails with your business domain (ie: yourname@yourdomain.com).  I recommend GSuite for email hosting.
  7. Enable confirmed opt-ins for your list.  Depending on your ESP, this may also be referred to as double opt-in.

If you’re certain there’s an issue, try this free tool: https://deliverabilitydashboard.com from Adrian Savage.  He’s an expert in email deliverability and a trusted resource in the Infusionsoft and Memberium communities.

Not sure where to start or how to deploy and manage a list hygiene strategy for your online business?  I can help!

Categories
Systems & Tools

How to Choose An Email Marketing & CRM Platform

In order to conduct email marketing, you need an email marketing platform used to collect and nurture legitimate leads (following GDPR and CANSPAM regulations).  You then conduct email campaigns to the leads on your list.

Depending on your budget and needs, there are a number of platforms that vary in sophistication and features from the most basic to “all in one” solutions that include lead generation, marketing automation, nurturing and sales all together in one platform.

At the minimum, you’ll want to ensure your platform of choice allows:

  • double opt-in or confirmed optins – Have you ever opted into to a list and then gotten an email, “please confirm your email”?  That’s exactly what confirmed opt-in is.

    This best practice is recommended as part of email list hygiene to ensure that the lead absolutely intended on signing up for your list.  You’ll find that your list open rate is higher,and your complaints are lower if you employ confirmed opt-ins.

  • list segmentation – Each platform will have a slightly different mechanism for segmentation.  You’ll see this listed as sub-lists, tags, etc.  

    Segmentation allows you to send relevant information to your email list based on each contact’s interests or other information collected by your system (which form they used to sign up, what did they download), location, purchase history, etc.  

  • form builder, email builders and optionally, landing page builder – Most modern platforms allow for drag and drop asset creation and mobile friendly formats.  Some are better than others, and you may need to plan on hiring someone with technical ability for custom forms and emails to match your branding, depending on your platform of choice.

  • integrations and accessibility – For the most flexibility, you’ll want to choose a platform that integrates with other similar or complementary systems and platforms to extend functionality or add features that other systems handle better for your business.

    ie: Zapier, WooCommerce, Analytics 

Here are my favorite marketing automation systems below.  

keapInfusionsoft is a small business software that up until recently, was also the company name.  Now, the company name is Keap and it has two product lines: Infusionsoft by Keap and Keap (Pro and Grow).  The differentiator between the different products is related to the complexity of your business needs.
 
In 2016, I became an Infusionsoft Certified Consultant, and I’m admittedly biased towards the original flagship product (Infusionsoft) which offers a powerful “all in one” marketing automation/CRM/eCommerce solution.  But all of that comes at a significant price tag, and it’s not simple to set up, manage and maintain.  So if you’re not quite at the 6-figure level, then you’ll want to look at the simpler and more cost effective Keap options.
 

Features of note: Powerful segmentation via tags and automations in Campaign Builder.  Email Marketing, CRM and eCommerce all in one solution for powerful marketing automation.  Advanced marketing and sales automation for every step through the customer lifecycle.

Infusionsoft integrates with Membership Management software like Memberium and Accessally for powerful program and member management.

 

ActiveCampaignActive Campaign was designed to be easy to learn, set up and use without a huge learning curve.  It’s a fantastic solution for non-techie folks who want to automate their online marketing.

Features of note: Segmentation is simple, easy to use and incredibly in-depth. You can see all of the automations in your business in a single view.  Site-tracking allows for follow-up and triggered messages to leads based on actions they take on your website.

I also love that they have real-time support.

Active Campaign also integrates with my favorite Membership Management System: Memberium.

The only thing missing is eCommerce.  Instead, you’ll want to integrate WooCommerce (or Shopify) with Active Campaign in order to create order forms, sell products, and sync with your CRM inside Active Campaign.

 

ConvertKitConvertKit is an amazing option for those on a budget or don’t have a large online presence already.  It’s also super simple and intuitive to use.

Features of note: Customizable landing pages and web forms.  This is great if you don’t already have a service like Leadpages, or don’t have a website.  This feature alone (landing pages) is what makes ConvertKit a standout in my books.

Also, don’t overlook this feature: Tag-based segmentation to organize and understand your subscribers for powerful email marketing automation.  

For those on paid plans, visual automations for marketing campaigns similar to what you’d see in Active Campaign are available, making this a solid marketing automation platform.  

Their pricing structure is hard to beat (for smaller lists) as well, with a robust free plan, making it a great option if all you’re looking for is email marketing and not an all-in-one solution. 

If your list is already over 5000, I recommend looking at Active Campaign or other alternatives instead.

 

For tools that provide email marketing automation at a lower budget and less complexity, take a look at these listed below.

Your turn: What’s your favorite email marketing or automation platform?

Categories
Systems & Tools

Project Management Systems & Tools for Your Online Business

When it comes to project management systems, I’m sure I have tried them all! And, not surprisingly, almost all systems have their good points.

It is essential to have a PM Tool or System in place that works for your team, if you want to get out (or stay out) of Firefighting mode and to set your business up to scale successfully. 

As an Online Business Manager (OBM), I use project management systems as the center point of the virtual office for my clients’ businesses.

Take a look at my favorite tools below. 

TeamworkTeamwork is my Go-To project management tool, and has been on the top of my list for more than 5 years.  I have successfully set up and managed teams of 1 -10 using this platform and believe it has the “best of all worlds” features.

Features of note: task list templates, recurring tasks, tasks and subtasks, and a robust built-in time tracking for task, projects and teams.

I also love that Teamwork has an entire suite of complementary products, which allows me to pick and choose the extensions that work best for my clients’ business needs.

Teamwork Desk is a fantastic support ticketing system.  It’s reliable, easy to use and very well-priced.

Other available products: Teamwork Chat, Spaces and CRM.

 
ClickUPClickup is a relatively new tool for me.  I started seeing more about it and paying attention just before the release of Clickup 2.0 in 2019.  This new to me tool seems to have it all, and more.
 
In fact, it’s so feature-rich that I’m still learning all the ways to use Clickup for online business management. Clickup’s motto is “one app to replace them all”. So, while it’s easy to use, I am finding that using Clickup to its full potential will be a constant learning process.

The developers seem to be very responsive, with new updates and features being rolled out consistently.  Their communication is very clear as well for a SAAS.  In fact, they have a features request board with a real-time estimate of future updates.

Features of note: multiple views, including lists, boards, and gantt.  Something Teamwork tacked on to their existing product with poor results.  A game changer feature I love: automatic remapping of subtask due dates when the parent task is changed.  

I also love the modern, clean feel of the app interface, and the usability of the mobile app.

I have a feeling this platform will replace Teamwork as my #1 in the near future!

While not my personal preference, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the other platforms for project management.  There are features in each that I love, but they just don’t make the cut for me to replace my top two picks above.
  • Basecamp
  • Airtable
  • Asana
  • Trello

Every business is different and is going to have different needs. It’s okay to take some time in choosing and testing out different systems until you find the one that works best for you. And quite honestly, nothing will be absolutely perfect – meaning –  you’re not likely to find one thing that has every feature that you want

Bottom line: Do
n’t let the fear of choosing the wrong Project Management tool hold you back from using anything at all.

Do you have a favorite project management system or tool?  Share below!

Categories
Business Operations Systems & Tools

The Essential Cornerstone of Your Virtual Office…

At any given point, there are a number of activities that are occurring in your online business. And the bigger your business gets, the busier the day to day operations.

A snapshot of activity in one of my clients’ coaching businesses might show the following concurrent and overlapping activities:

  • coaching and training programs are being delivered or accessed,
  • product launches are being planned or are in progress,
  • marketing campaigns and activities are being planned or executed online and in print,
  • live and virtual events are being planned or are happening
  • content is being planned, curated, and delivered (articles, speaking events, marketing pieces

… the list goes on

Without a properly set up project management system in place, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually going on in any given project or activity. Balls get dropped. Clients get frustrated. Revenue is lost.

You Need a Project Management System

As an Online Business Manager (OBM), I use a project management system to manage all the projects, milestones and tasks associated with the activities in the business on a daily basis. It is the center point of the virtual office for my clients’ businesses.

The PM System gives me a bird’s-eye view of what team members are working on and where they’re at on tasks. I use the system to plan ahead and make sure everyone (including the business owner) has what they need coming up tomorrow, this week and beyond. I check it at the start of each day, and it stays open in my browser all day long. It’s that essential.

For any project management system to work, you need to follow two very important rules:
  • The system must be managed and updated regularly. I recommend daily.
  • Everyone on your team must use the system, including you, the business owner!

To be clear: that doesn’t mean that you (the biz owner) should be the one in there setting up projects, managing milestones or following up on tasks. Your team lead, or in many cases, your Online Business Manager, should be doing this for you. But you need to know where to go (how to log in) so that you can see what’s going on at any given time.

You’ll need to be able to have a high-level sense of the activities that are going on so that you can make educated decisions in your business planning on an ongoing basis.

What Tool or System Should I Use?

There are a number of different systems and combinations that I’ve seen clients use for managing their business and virtual office.

There are options that are free or have free plans (which are great to try out a new tool), but for robust features that support your business as you scale, you’ll need to plan on paying for a project management system.  Budget will vary, but plan on $15-50/mo.

Here are a couple of my favorite project management systems:
(learn more about each here)

  • Teamwork
  • Clickup

While not my personal preference, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the other platforms for project management.  There are features in each that I love, but they just don’t make the cut for me to replace my top two picks above for business-wide project management.

  • Basecamp
  • Airtable
  • Asana
  • Trello

Every business is different and is going to have different needs. It’s okay to take some time in choosing and testing out different systems until you find the one that works best for you. And quite honestly, nothing will be absolutely perfect – meaning –  you’re not likely to find one thing that has every feature that you want.

Bottom line: Don’t let the fear of choosing the wrong Project Management tool hold you back from using anything at all.

Ready to implement a project management system into your business but not sure where to start?  I can help!  Learn more about my systems set-up packages here.

Categories
Announcements

Solo Solutions is now The Systems Witch!

I have often joked that time passes in the online business world in dog years.  The changes we see in the span of one year is more akin to seven years in the brick-and-mortar world!

It makes this online business industry both challenging and exciting.  Nothing, stays the same for long and online entrepreneurs are constantly growing and adapting to meet their ever evolving clients needs.

Since 2012, shortly after I obtained my Certification as an Online Business Manager with Tina Forsyth in 2011, I have operated as a Solo Solutions.  As my business has evolved, and my clientele has changed, the name no longer fit.

There were other factors – my website needed an overhaul and I lost most of my old blog posts due to a virus that shut down every website I owned in 2019.  It’s a case, I am embarrassed to admit, of the plumber’s wife – I was so busy doing client work and focusing on projects outside my business, that I neglected what as happening inside my business.  For better or worse, the recent COVID crisis provided a window of opportunity for me to finally complete this transition project.

It’s take a few month, but I’m finally ready to announce the change!

Crystal Coleman is now The Systems Witch!  

Follow me on:

I have often joked that time passes in the online business world in dog years.  The changes we see in the span of one year is more akin to seven years in the brick-and-mortar world!

It makes this online business industry both challenging and exciting.  Nothing, stays the same for long and online entrepreneurs are constantly growing and adapting to meet their ever evolving clients needs.

Since 2012, shortly after I obtained my Certification as an Online Business Manager with Tina Forsyth in 2011, I have operated as a Solo Solutions.  As my business has evolved, and my clientele has changed, the name no longer fit.

There were other factors – my website needed an overhaul and I lost most of my old blog posts due to a virus that shut down every website I owned in 2019.  It’s a case, I am embarrassed to admit, of the plumber’s wife – I was so busy doing client work and focusing on projects outside my business, that I neglected what as happening inside my business.  For better or worse, the recent COVID crisis provided a window of opportunity for me to finally complete this transition project.

It’s take a few month, but I’m finally ready to announce the change!

Crystal Coleman is now The Systems Witch!  

Follow me on:

Categories
Business Operations Team Building & Management

What Is a Certified Online Business Manager?

A question I hear often is “what exactly IS a Certified Online Business Manager?”  It’s one of my favorite questions to answer!

First, a quick history lesson: The book that started it all:  “Becoming an Online Business Manager” was written by Tina Forsyth in 2008.

Soon after, Tina launched the International Association of Online Business Managers and created a training & certification program to meet the growing need and interest from service providers and business owners alike.

The official definition of an Online Business Manager (OBM) is:

A virtually based support professional who manages online based businesses, including the day-to-day management of projects, operations, metrics and team.

The role of an OBM is to make sure the right THINGS, get done at the right TIME, in the right WAY and by the right PEOPLE.

An Online Business Manager is responsible for:

  • Project Management – laying out plans and managing projects through to completion, including launches, managing programs, creation of new revenue streams, updating websites, etc.
  • Operations Management – automating systems and creating processes for all day-to-day activities in the business to streamline and simplify how things are run
  • Metrics Management – tracking stats for key business activities to see what is working and what is not working so that decisions can be made for ongoing growth
  • People Management – outsourcing, managing, and leading the efforts of the team to meet business goals

The investment I made in Tina’s program (in 2011), hands down, was the best decision I’ve ever made for my business.

Over the past 12 years, our industry has naturally changed and evolved. Tina and her team are no longer leading the training, and instead, she has selected amazing trainers who run their own programs.

The Certification remains under control by Tina and her team at the International Association of Online Business Managers.

So what sets Certified OBMs apart?

Certified Online Business Manager

A Certified Online Business Manager…

This certification represents a commitment I made to continually invest in myself and my business so that I can better serve my clients’ needs.

As a Certified Online Business Manager, I am part of the community at International Association of Online Business Managers.  Ongoing training and professional development, support, and community for and by my colleagues is an invaluable asset.

Virtual Assistants are NOT Online Business Managers

As our industry has grown, particularly in the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more virtual assistants and other online service providers using the term OBM or Online Business Manager in their marketing.  While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, let’s be clear – only Certified Online Business Managers have been through the program.

Great virtual assistants are my favorite service providers.  I depend on them for the teams that I manage and are integral to the work I do as an OBM.  But a great VA is NOT an OBM.

Not sure what the difference is?
Download the Comparison Chart  (free download, no optin required from Tina Forsyth’s site)

Click here to learn more about how I can help you reach your business goals as a Certified Online Business Manager!  Or comment below with your questions and comments!