By Jamie Domenici
You don’t have to watch the popular show Silicon Valley on HBO to know that starting a business can be chaotic. Between building a product, securing funding, staffing your company and all the other things you have on your plate, it’s hard to keep on top of everything. It’s easy for chaos to take over! Misplaced orders, lost customer requests, unpaid bills — you name it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I can’t promise it will never be crazy, but with just a little pre-planning and the right tools you can avoid a lot of the madness and grow your own “Pied Piper” faster than ever. Here’s how:
Sales. Your first order of business is getting customers, but managing prospects and deals can be more than your small team can handle. A customer relationship management (CRM) system is essential, but even keeping that up to date can be overwhelming. MindSumo, a website that gives cash prizes to students who solve business challenges, manually entered data into a CRM for about eight months, but founders were constantly afraid that key information was missing. As their client base continued to grow and more things started to slip through the cracks, they knew that they needed to move to an automated CRM solution. In doing so, they now can automatically log the details of every customer and prospect interaction . With information from emails, calendar, marketing automation systems, and many other data sources captured, the CRM controls the chaos.
Customer support. It’s guaranteed: If you have customers, they will have questions. Many small businesses start out by managing support in spreadsheets and email. But as they grow, email can’t keep up. When multiple people share an email account, it’s hard to know who is responding to which email. Sometimes customers get multiple answers, and sometimes none at all. In the early days of Dot and Bo, a fast-growing curated furniture and home décor shopping service, the CEO personally answered every customer inquiry. As the business grew, it became obvious that email wouldn’t scale and they transitioned to Desk.com. Now, not only are customer requests automatically routed to the right agents for fast responses, but they can easily see metrics on support team and company performance, and provide the personalized responses their customers love.
Communication. It may be easy to communicate and work together when your entire company fits in someone’s garage or living room, but as a company grows it needs tools to help maintain that same level of communication. Large organizations are notorious for organizational silos, but in many cases the breakdown in communication starts to happen very early on. You can avoid this by finding a solution before things start to break down. Luckily there are so many easy-to-use apps that can help you share information and collaborate that it’s difficult to name them all here.
Mobility. Starting a company is as 24/7 job. But as committed as you are, you’d like to have a life too. That’s why mobile apps are so key. They let you take care of business from your phone, so you can close a sale or help your customers, from anywhere. Whether you are on the road, out to dinner, or just in your own backyard. GetFeedback, a small San Francisco-based company that helps businesses create engaging, mobile-ready online surveys, stood out in a crowded marketplace by using the latest technologies and taking advantage of mobile. The company also has a phenomenal customer support program that enables them to interact with customers via a mobile app, which was key to its rapid growth.
There’s an oft-quoted stat from Bloomberg, that eight out of ten of new businesses fail in the first 18 months. Don’t let it happen to you! With a little pre-planning and these easy solutions, you can avoid the chaos and reach small business nirvana.