It’s our birthday! 17 years since I chose a name for my new virtual assistance business and registered it. Getting online easily was fairly new, and I still had to use a dial-up modem that took out the telephone line, but I was excited by the prospect of supporting business owners anywhere whilst working from my home office. The concept was young in the UK and there were a few raised eyebrows at those intial networking meetings, but slowly and surely people gave it a go and I worked hard to show them it could be done, that it could be time-saving and it could be cost-effective for a business owner – especially if they didn’t have a full-time office location.
Being self-employed is always challenging of course and there have been a few ups and downs along the way. We’ve changed our offerings from admin to data analysis and data-driven marketing to respond to the changing needs of our clients and to make use of the best skill sets of our team. As we go in to our 18th year the news is telling us that the next few months could be tough going for many, and for small businesses in particular. The ability to respond to change quickly is certainly the best way for your business to continue to thrive.
Whilst working apart from one another is second nature to me and and my current clients, I realise that for many others the thought of connecting to their team from a remote location and doing the maximum amount of work online might be a bit daunting. Maybe you’ve been wondering how to get all the seminars and classes you normally deliver in person in to a product you can deliver online, even temporarily.
Fortunately the technology that enables this to be a possibility has come on leaps and bounds in the last 17 years. In case you’ve been wondering I thought it might be useful to share the tech tools we use to run Expedio from day-to-day. Here are our main go-to applications in case you’d like to check them out:
Zoom https://zoom.us/ allows us to have online meetings with our clients and team members. We can see one another (if they want to!) without the finding somewhere to meet and sit – and the brand of coffee is always my favourite.
Calendly https://calendly.com/ allows someone to choose a meeting time from my calendar. Integrates with Zoom so that they’re sent a meeting link for the time they choose. Stops all the going back and forth to find a time that suits everyone and makes the intial contact easy.
GSuite https://gsuite.google.co.uk/ is my operations centre. Everything I use has been chosen to interconnect with this. Email, calendars, document sharing and file storage with the ability to integrate with lots of other applications. As a spreadsheet expert I still use Microsoft Office 365 and the office tools too, but my everyday operations are run using Google.
Salesflare is our automatic customer relationship management tool. It pretty much fills itself in every time emails are exchanged with someone. It tracks every communication and logs the files in attachments so I don’t lose anything. Its interface sits in Gmail so any previous history with a contact is shown when a new email comes in. This tool also helps me track my leads and I’ve got some automated business processes that run when someone is moved from one stage to another.
Dubsado https://www.dubsado.com/ We send our quotations out using this tool. It allows us to get a digital signature on our contracts and collection of any deposit, in one process, in something that looks really nice.
ActiveCampaign https://www.activecampaign.com/ email marketing and automation. How we automate our own website contacts, some other business processes too, set off email campaigns introducing our services to new clients and keep in touch with them regularly. If you don’t need the full functionality yet then Mailchimp can be a good option to start with. We still work with it for a number of our clients.
MemberVault https://membervault.co/ This is an easy-to-use membership site system that allows us to easily sell our products and online courses. It’s tightly integrated with ActiveCampaign so that follow up on purchases is automatic. We help our clients create online programmes too, helping with video creation and using quizzes to get their in-person deliverables into an online format.
Xero https://www.xero.com An accounts package. All our financials and invoicing are carried out here. Invoices can be paid online by connecting with Stripe, PayPal and GoCardless, that also allows us to collect retainers through direct debit. My Accountant can also log in remotely and do what they need to do at certain dates in the year.
WordPress https://wordpress.org/ is the platform running our website and those of most of our clients. From our online showcase we add forms that link to ActiveCampaign and can send visitors to our online shop at Membervault. We use Google analytics to analyse traffic and help us plan what to do next.
Trello https://trello.com/ My task management tool. Over the years I have tried many, many project and task management tools. Trello on its own doesn’t quite work for huge teams but with some additional plugins, such as Planyway, I’ve made it work exactly as my brain does. Planyway is a two-way sync of tasks from Trello to my Google calendar so I can plan the coming week and move tasks around in either place to make sure I get things done. I have a master project board that reflects what’s going on in boards shared with clients, where they can see the tasks we’re working on with them. A close second PM system we use in some circumstances, and with bigger teams is ClickUp.
These are the main tech tools that run Expedio. I probably should mention Zapier too. If you’re using online services that don’t directly talk to one another then there’s usually a way to do so with this clever connection tool. e.g. we use it to send website form responses to be a line in a Google sheet.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions or need any advice on setting up any tools like these or about how best to get your in-person deliverables in to something you can offer online.
You can always make an appointment for me to call you using my calendar, here.
Thank you for your support of Expedio, through good times and bad. I’m looking forward to working alongside you for a good few number of years yet!