In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser discusses some of the tools we use here at Bryghtpath each and every day to manage our business and work with our clients.
Tools we discuss include:
- Salesforce Sales Cloud Professional
- Google Workspace
Related Episodes & Blog Posts
- Blog Post: The Importance of Having a Crisis Communications Strategy
- Blog Post: What is a Business Impact Analysis (BIA)?
- Episode #109: Business Continuity as a Service (BCaaS)
- Episode #111 – The Value of a Trusted Advisor
- Episode #114: Mental Health in our Profession
Hello, and welcome to The Managing Uncertainty Podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, Principal and Chief Executive here at Bryghtpath. And in this week’s episode, I want to talk about a question that we get asked all the time. And that is what are some of the tools that you use there at Bryghtpath to manage your business, to manage collaboration, to work with your clients? And so I want to walk through a couple tools in our suite of tools that we use that really help us do the work that we’re here to do. And then I also want to talk about a couple outside services that we would recommend for consultants or small businesses to have in your back pocket as well.
So let’s start with project management. As a consultant, as somebody who does client engagements on an ongoing basis, one of the tools that we use is our project management tool. And we have been on for most of the past year, a platform called monday.com. You may have seen ads for this on YouTube or Facebook. It’s a newer platform, but one that’s quite interesting that we’ve enjoyed using because of the flexibility that Monday provides. The way that we use Monday within the organization is that we have two types of workspaces, which you can think of as a collection of project boards and reports. Our main workspace is a base of sorts for Bryghtpath, where we have our internal efforts that are going on. These could be projects, it could be maintenance here in the office. It could be administrative and financial things that I need to manage as the CEO. So we have separate kind of project boards for those. And then we have workspaces for each of our clients.
So for each organization that we’re currently working with, we have a workspace. So let’s say we’re working with Acme Inc. There’s an Acme Inc workspace. And within that workspace will be different boards. I think of boards as a specific project or engagement, and you can link boards to each other so that details kind of flow into a broader project or program view. You can also have items and sub-tasks that go with those. And you can see the progress of those items, both in terms of due dates, and resource allocations and completion in a lot of different ways. Workspaces can also have reports where you create kind of a graphical view of what’s going on. There’s line charts, there’s kind of thermometers, there’s pie charts, I mean there’s a lot of different ways to display this.
One of the things I really like about Monday is that we’re able to … One of our team members here, or one of our clients who has access to their project boards, they can view the data, they can view a project in any way that they would like to look at. I like to look at more of a progress view, which gives me the breakdown of all the tasks and kind of where things stand. But we have clients who like to look at things in terms of a timeline, or want to look at things on a calendar, or want to look at things on a Gantt chart. All of those are possibilities with Monday, you just change the view of the data. You don’t have to reconfigure anything or have us do anything differently. So monday.com is our project management tool. We’re really happy with what it does for us.
The second tool that we use extensively is a tool called Notion. You can find Notion that notion.so, and Notion is essentially a writing, planning and note-taking tool. We use Notion for a number of reasons. You really could think of this as like an internal Wikipedia for your organization, but one that is incredibly powerful. You can do notes and documentation, you can use it as a Wiki for your team or your organization, you can use it for a number of different things. We use this primarily to take notes during meetings and doing research, or when we’re working with clients. We also use this for all of our internal documentation, our standard operating procedures, our corporate policies and procedures, our own business continuity and disaster recovery planning. All of that goes into Notion.
Notion also has the idea of a workspace. So we have a Bryghtpath workspace where the team has access, and then we have other workspaces and some of our team even has their own workspace. My assistant, for example, has what she calls Anisha’s workspace. And she keeps all of our notes of meetings, all of the kind of SOPs for the things that she does and manages for our organization and for me personally are tracked. She keeps track of that in there, and it allows her to go back and look at that documentation. Notion has an iPhone app, an iPad app, an Android application, a web interface, and a desktop app. I use Notion every single day. It is that and Monday together are kind of my base camp of what’s going on in the business. And that’s where I’m doing the bulk of my work when I’m not working on a document, a presentation, a PowerPoint.
The third tool that we use is Slack. Slack is a persistent chat tool, which started as an independent organization. It’s now owned by … It’s now part of Salesforce, just recently. Slack, we use Slack extensively at Bryghtpath for our internal communication amongst the team. It has completely, for the most part, killed all internal email. We use this, we have a few channels where we’re communicating with each other, we have a channel where we’re sharing news information, we have multiple channels we refer to as streams. The streams are where we’re bringing in other updates and data from applications, from our website, from kind of lead generation, activities that are going on. We even have a weather stream where every morning it posts the weather in all the cities where we have clients. So that when we’re talking to clients, we have an idea of what’s the weather like in Dallas today? What’s the weather like in Boston today? What’s the weather look like in Gurgaon, India. These are all things that we find valuable to have.
We also have channels set up to interact with clients within Slack. And this is our primary means of communicating with our clients. This is where we share documents, is where we talk throughout the course of the week and it’s been very valuable for that because it has cut down on email. We find Slack to be easier, and as a persistent chat tool, there’s a searchable record of what conversations have gone on. There are other tools like this. You can do this with Microsoft Teams. Those are probably the two that kind of lead this type of workspace, but we’ve been on Slack since the beginning. And we’re quite happy with that overall.
For those of you that work in crisis management and business continuity, Slack has also been great for us as a channel to coordinate activities during an exercise or during a crisis. We use … Like we just facilitated an exercise last week with one of our clients across three different countries and six office locations and an outside vendor along with us, kind of facilitating the exercise. And we coordinated the activities through Slack of what was going on. The teams involved in the exercise were on Microsoft Teams. That’s what our client uses. But our internal team here at Bryghtpath along with a couple of our client representatives, we were all in Slack, communicating there, moving the exercise forward, reacting to what the teams were doing.
The third tool that we use is Salesforce. We use Salesforce’s Sales Cloud Professional, primarily for lead and opportunity tracking for our sales process. We really like Salesforce because although it is a little complex to get started with, it is a highly customizable tool that allows us to track what’s happening with sales leads, converting those to opportunities, and then tracking ourselves through the proposal and sales process. It’s let us have a realistic view of what our revenue projections can be as an organization. And it integrates with a significant number of tools that provide us with metrics. So Salesforce has a number of options, a number of products within their suite. We are currently only using the Sales Cloud capability, but Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud are all also interesting options for small businesses to look at in terms of digital promotion and about kind of ticketing and managing cases with your clients. And again, Salesforce also now owns Slack.
When it comes to email and calendaring, we use Google Workspace. That’s what powers our email and calendar system at bryghtpath.com. We use the full suite of Google’s Workspace options. This used to be Google Suite. Now it’s a Google Workspace. I think it was called G Suite for a While and Google Apps for business, it’s had a number of different names, but the current name is Google Workspace. I mean, you can’t beat the functionality. I think it’s $8 a month per user to have email and calendaring work great, we have rooms and such set up at our office in terms of booking that space and Gmail, it just does what it does. I mean it’s highly deliverable and highly reliant and we’re very happy with that.
In terms of email clients for myself, I use Superhuman. You can find that at superhuman.com. Superhuman is an AI-focused email client that interacts with Google Workspace. From a design standpoint, it’s very subtle and minimal. I find it to be a gorgeous interface. It’s incredibly fast. Part of the Superhuman experience is a customized onboarding you do with a coach who talks with you about how you use email today and how they want you to use email in the app. In just a 20 minute conversation, I learned all of the important keyboard shortcuts and kind of mailbox splitting activities that I wanted to do to be able to do using their best practices and it has served me quite well. It will interact with any Google Workspace account. It does come with a fee. I think it’s $20 a month or $30 a month. I have found it worth it. There’s an email client for iPad, for iPhone, and for the desktop as well as a web interface. So it’s quite an interesting piece of kit as the Brits like to say.
Another tool that we use regularly is called Drip. Drip is an email marketing and email automation tool. You can find it at drip.com. The thing I like about drip is it’s not just a mailing list tool where I can email out our company newsletter, which is what we use it for, but it’s an automation system. So it allows us to track as folks interact with our website, what pages they’re looking at, we can build up lead scores in the background, we can create automated to reach out to those individuals, it lets us segment our list in some different way. For the price, which is relatively minimal, I think it’s an amazing tool with a lot of capabilities. Drip recently has been focused more on the e-commerce market, but I’ve stayed with them because I really like the capabilities that they have.
A competitor that you could look at instead is called ConvertKit, and has a lot of similar marketing automation and email list management capabilities.
Another tool we use for document workflow and integrates into our sales process is PandaDoc. You can find that at pandadoc.com, PandaDoc is similar to DocuSign or some of these other document workflow tools that are out there. We like PandaDoc, We use PandaDoc for sales proposals, non-disclosure agreements, legal agreements. It integrates 100% into Salesforce. We manage it, we manage our documentation within PandaDoc, but we manage the sending and signing of documents and proposals within Salesforce using PandaDoc’s plugin for Salesforce, PandaDoc’s app for Salesforce, I think is the right term. But PandaDoc’s great. From a proposal standpoint, it’s really simplified our proposal billing process and its integration with Salesforce is just top-notch.
Another tool we use is WordPress. WordPress is the content management system that powers our website. We are hosting our website on Amazon Web Services, which has helped us save thousands of dollars in hosting costs over the course of a year. Just in terms of having a cheaper service through Amazon Web Source, that’s actually faster and more robust than what we had before. But we use WordPress to power our websites. Again, WordPress is totally free. We maintain that in-house using WordPress’s capabilities.
For virtual collaboration, we have been with Zoom for the past year. Prior to that we were using WebEx, but Zoom we really think has kind of surpassed WebEx’s capabilities. Zoom has been a great change for us. It is easier to use and integrates better with Google Calendar than WebEx did and it’s been rock solid for us. We were in Zoom meetings for a good portion of the day, as I imagine most of you are in this kind of tail end of the pandemic we hope. But we expect that that will continue and Zoom has been a great addition to our suite of tools.
And then lastly, in terms of software, we’re using a newer tool called Avoma, that’s avoma.com. Avoma is basically a way to record your meetings in Zoom or Teams or WebEx, RingCentral, and other platforms. In most cases, it records, of course, you’re telling folks you’re doing this, but it’s an AI-based note taker that logs into your calls and meetings, whether you set up the meeting or not. It records the meeting, both the video presentation or any screen-sharing that goes on along with all of the audio. And then within a short time after the call, it completely transcribes the call, stores that, and then links it up if appropriate with Salesforce. You can go in and create clips to share with others. It will take notes for you as you teach it how to take notes. It provides intelligence about those meetings, topic trends, talk patterns, key phrases that are used. It’s been an incredibly helpful tool for us here at Bryghtpath.
With client calls, where our clients have given us permission to record them, it allows us to go back and look at the notes and look at the conversation. For sales calls, it’s helped me become a better salesperson because I can go back and watch the conversation and get the reaction and talk through what’s going on, kind of review what’s going on rather. But I’ve also found that I think the most valuable thing it has done for me, and I’ve heard this from our team as well, is just the ability to be present in a meeting and not having to head down, typing, or writing notes as we’re going along. I trust the system to do that for me, and then I’m able to go back and look at that transcription and use that to generate actions or other notes that I may need to take. So avoma.com, definitely not a cheap solution, but it has been a very valuable part, a very valuable addition to our suite of tools here in the second quarter of 2021.
That’s it in terms of technology tools. There are many others that we use, but this is a handful of ones that we think are most important. Lastly, I would want to touch on if you’re a small business owner or you’re a consultant, or you’re thinking about doing either, there are two advisors that you need to have in your back pocket. The first is, go find a good accountant. You want a CPA, or well, CPA’s probably best, but you need an accountant who can help you make sure your organization, your chart of accounts are set up properly. That helps you avoid a lot of trouble down the road with tax implications, it helps you avoid issues with understanding your business’s metrics. And I think of our accounting firm that we use here in the Twin Cities, as part of our team. They’re here to advise me on how to achieve my business’s financial goals. And they’ve given us advice that has helped us move forward in a number of areas and become more profitable.
The second thing that you need to have in your back pocket, and you need to use regularly is an attorney. You need to have an attorney draft your paper, draft your contracts, your non-disclosure agreement, your statement of work format, whatever you want to call that. You need to make sure that you use an attorney that is in the state in which you and your business are based. And you want to make sure they have experience in business law. I cannot emphasize enough, you need to have a contract to do work, or you need to have some kind of written statement, and you want that to be initially drafted by an attorney in a way that you can then use that.
You also need an attorney for when you are getting a contract from a prospective client that wants to do business with you, and they want to use their contract, which happens a lot. You need to review that and have your attorney review that and watch out for landmines that are just not okay to have in place. For example, one of our first engagements, one of our first large engagements we did back in 2015, the client that we were going to work with sent over an 80 something page master services agreement, which covered a number of different contingencies.
But one of their clauses in there is that they would essentially own a perpetual license for all of our intellectual property, not just the intellectual property that we were generating for them, creating for them as a part of this engagement. I wouldn’t have caught that but our attorney certainly did. And that was the company’s default position. But when challenged, they were like, we’ll just take that clause out. We want a perpetual license on the content that you’re creating for us. Great. That makes perfect sense. But you need an attorney to help you with those situations and review those contracts and look for the things that you’re not an expert in.
In addition, you need an attorney when things go south, and this will happen sooner or later, no matter how ethically you manage your business. You will have a client that refuses to pay, refuses to accept the work. There’s a lot of different things that can happen. And this is where you need an attorney to navigate those waters with you. And it takes the personalities and the personal feelings out of the issue. Our attorneys that we use, we use a small law firm, our attorneys are passionate advocates for us, but it’s not personal for them. And they can negotiate with counsel on the other side and figure out a collaborative solution in most cases that resolves the issue. So that’s a little bit about technology tools we use as a small business and two outside services that I recommend that you engage with and hire. That’s it for this edition of The Managing Uncertainty Podcast. We’ll be back next week with another new episode. Be well.