Occasionally, all of us could use a little help staying on the ball while we juggle meetings, handle employee or colleague demands, and navigate the morass of administrative details that pop up to disturb life’s current. Who better to ask about such productivity concerns than someone who owns a business? Here are expert recommendations from Rebecca Reeve, the founder of Rsquared Communication, a boutique tech PR agency based in San Francisco.
PipelineDeals came strongly recommended to me by startup guru Dan Martell after I conducted an extensive search for a tool to help me manage my business’ capacity. As the manager of a boutique agency, I have to keep projects and workloads running smoothly. I also use PipelineDeals as a lightweight customer relationship management (CRM) system to track how I gain, and keep, business. Although I use Google Docs to organize and host most other content for my business, it wasn't a good choice for evaluating customer relationships and project information because I had too many variables to put in a spreadsheet on one screen. PipelineDeals does a much better job of keeping me up-to-date with daily email reminders and visual representations of business won, lost, and in progress. Pipeline Deals costs $10 a month.
Part of working with new clients involves creating a series of Google news and blog alerts that help me keep tabs on coverage of my clients’ products, as well as conversations happening in the media and within the industry about the products. I also set up a series of alerts on industry terms and my clients’ competitors as part of a media audit. This combination of alerts helps to keep me current on my clients and their market segment.
I use FreshBooks online invoicing and payments to track all my client work. In addition to turning out great-looking invoices in no time, you can make and receive payments via PayPal through FreshBooks, and the site offers better rates for accepting money online than any other I've seen--you pay only $0.50 per transaction if your client is based in North America (it's 3.9 percent for international clients). This site can save you hundreds of dollars a month if you're paying the standard 2.9 percent, or even the merchant rate of 2.5 percent. Using FreshBooks costs $20 per month for up to 25 clients.
Your Trusted Assistant
I employ virtual assistants Jennifer and David Lanham of Your Trusted Assistant for 5 to 10 hours of administrative work a month. They're a tech-savvy couple who moved from Los Angeles--where they were studio executive assistants--to the Midwest to be closer to family and run their own business.
Choosing to work with YTA was one of the best business decisions I've ever made--they help me with nonbillable tasks and let me focus on the work I enjoy doing. YTA helps me with things such as booking travel for conferences, keeping PipelineDeals and general CRM updated, collating hours for contractors, scheduling calendar events, and general research (including some help on organizing my upcoming wedding). The cost varies depending on the number of hours you commit to per month.
Uber has been the biggest timesaver I've come across in the past three to six months. It's a mobile app (though you can manage your account on a desktop) that hails town cars via GPS. Living in San Francisco without a car, I take taxis on a near daily basis. However, taxis in San Francisco seldom show up--and if they do, they might take 20 or 30 minutes to do so. If I have a meeting I need to attend and I'm about to be late, I'm willing to pay just about any price to arrive on time.
Uber's cars usually cost 75 to 200 percent of the cost of a cab for the same distance, but I'm happy to pay the premium knowing that they actually show up, usually within 5 minutes. It's a huge relief to know that I can use a reliable service that means I don't have to stand on a corner for 15 minutes, stressing out and hoping that I can flag someone down before I'm late for my next meeting. Added bonuses: The cars are luxurious, they usually have water and gum, your driver knows where he's going because they all have GPS, and you're guaranteed a smooth, quiet, nonmanic ride across town.