I have been doing internet marketing for 15 years and have learned so much about owning and running a business. Lot of failures and successes. It has only been recently that I’ve truly grown from me doing the designing, building and managing websites to having a team. Two years ago I started using programmers because, truth be told, they were way better at it than I am not to mention faster.
Looking for and hiring a project manager was an eye opening experience. I love reading business and marketing books and thought I was ready for a team environment. But, as I added people, I saw that I need to make some big improvements to my systems and procedures. I have gone from me and one programmer to 2 programmers, 1 designer, a project manager, and bookkeeper in 6 months. A success story, right! Yes, but there were some growing pains.. still are.
As many share my situation, I thought with the new year starting, I would share 4 bigger lessons that I learned and have helped me these past months.
1. Document, document, document. Document everything you do and say. From procedures to communications to small, innocuous notes on clients and projects. Write it down in a central place where everyone can see it. With a team, it has become so apparent that what I thought was a lot of documentation wasn’t a lot. What I think I don’t need to document, I need to document, write it down, and maybe update the procedures.
2. You can’t communicate enough with clients. 1-2 emails a week with reminders and status. I created a whole on-boarding set of emails (about 10 and still generating more for different services) and now need to create another set for delivery, FAQs, and post delivery emails. It helps with #1 too.
3. Create and keep to milestones. My new project manager noticed my lack of creating firm milestones within Teamwork, our project management tool. It was all in my head so she made me aware of the fact that she wasn’t sure where we were with each project. Tasks and lists with due dates were not enough. The milestones help remind the team to follow-up with clients and not leave it to waiting for email responses.
4. Be consistent. I’ve learned this year to be more consistent with invoicing, communication using email templates and which customers we can work with.
Consistent communication using email templates save so much time. I have used them typically with prospects and tech support but I’ve taken on more projects simultaneously. The entire life-cycle of a client requires regular emails. As mentioned in #2, I now have a series of emails that are sent throughout the life-cycle of a client’s project from beginning to middle to the end and after as well.
Consistent invoicing is so important. Not only for me but for my clients. I have to admit, I was usually the stumbling block here. I would wait too long to send some types of invoices.
Consistent target market and choosing who we work with. I learned to be consist in the type of clients we take on. As much as I want to help everyone, I just can’t and there are times where we are just not the right fit. It’s my fault for saying yes to too many people so I have learned to be more consistent with this choice as well.
So what are next steps?
I want to keep learning new, better systems so I can scale without too many headaches. There are many consultants and coaches out there that talk about growing but they tend to focus on your mindset, delegating and hiring folks, or increase prices and value but none have yet to give me clear steps or the how’s. For example, the best system or process, email templates, reporting procedures, etc. So I will continue to look and learn.
I would love to hear what you all do to manage your project and clients. How are you scaling? How are you managing your teams? Any best practices that you can share?