Everyone wants to make their life easier, right?
We use email to communicate because it’s faster and easier than sending a letter using snail mail. We use social media because seeing baby pictures is nice, even if those ‘friends’ are not close anymore. Technology is driven by convenience and operational improvements. This is especially the case with some of the business management software that’s currently available. Ideally, these software tools make us happier, more productive, and better connected.
When you’re running a business, higher productivity leads to increased profits, right? Streamlining processes saves time and energy, right? Anyone who’s ever searched for the right tool to make operational improvements has discovered that making work easier is not immediately easy.
Narrowing down the choices of platform or app can be a puzzle, causing overwhelm. And that’s only the first step! Then there’s the time it takes to figure out how the technology works, training your staff to use it correctly, and hoping there will be little need to call customer service. Piecing together the key elements of implementing business management software in your organization can be confusing and downright frustrating.
I’ve recently begun learning to use Zoho, a new business management software for me. It’s used for streamlining your business operations. I have to say… the learning curve was tough for me.
I have worked in small business operations for about 9 years, and streamlining processes is right up my alley. Checking boxes off a list and turning 10 steps into 5 is highly satisfying – like a string of dominos being knocked over just right and falling perfectly in line. However, when learning just one application of the platform (Zoho CRM), I kept running into walls, even with how-to videos and guidance.
The problem was not Zoho as much as it was my approach to tackling it. Now that I’m more familiar with the platform and have worked through some of the frustrations that come with learning any new software, I’m ready to share. This post includes some of the lessons I learned from the experience, and maybe it can help make things a little easier for both of us in the future.
People learn in many different ways. As a former athletic coach, it’s something you always take into account when teaching. I failed to keep this in mind while self-teaching myself Zoho CRM, which was a rookie mistake. Some people learn visually, some learn audibly and some (like me) learn experientially. Though I was watching how-to videos and having screen sharing conversations for training, I continued to struggle. This was because I was trying to copy someone else, rather than experiment and do it myself.
Sitting down in person with someone whom I could show my mistakes made a HUGE difference! With real-time critiques, I learned much faster and with less frustration. This is also because I was able to walk that person through my thought process and adjust as needed.
Look back on the things that you’ve been most successful with learning in the past and think about how you got through that, then model it.
It’s so easy to say, “I need something to make my business work better and be more automated” or “I need something to track my client activities.” Ok, but what does that mean?
Be specific about your needs when choosing business management software. Do you need a Google Chrome extension that prepares email templates for you to speed up the communication process? Do you need a database management software that allows also you to schedule appointments? Does the software need to manage attendance to events? Are there options specific to your industry or field?
Think through the problem you’re looking to solve and be precise about what will make life easier. Then, you can find something that your business needs, instead of sitting on Google wondering what you’re supposed to type into the search bar.
Sometimes, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and look at things from a different perspective. Oftentimes, your chosen business management software will have a process in place that you wouldn’t have thought about tackling in the same way. The goal is all the same, but I wouldn’t always get there exactly the same way that the programmers have designed the platform. That’s totally fine! This forces you to step outside of your organizational box and get to know new ways of thinking and learning. Be prepared for this. If you aren’t, it can make for a more frustrating learning experience.
It’s really ok to fail sometimes, especially when learning something new. Nobody enjoys failure, but it is a requirement of learning. Many small business owners know the in’s and out’s of their business so well that it seems like they shouldn’t have to ask for help. It's important to ask for help.
Weigh your time options: You could spend an entire day sitting in front of your computer trying to figure it out or you could ask a professional for 30 minutes of their time to explain it.
Find someone who is seasoned in your new software platform and ask for advice guidance through whatever medium you find easiest to understand. They’ll probably have valuable tips, tricks, or workarounds that you may never have thought of doing. We’ve all experienced the feeling of being too stuck in our own head to see all the range of options. When someone else steps in and makes a tiny change, suddenly everything clicks. We can move past our pride, and be okay with asking for help.
Sometimes it feels like you may never understand all the intricacies of the software you’re using. You want to use every feature to make sure you’re getting every last penny out of the technology that you’re paying for. And I agree!
Patience is key. As you practice more and learn, then you can add another layer of functionality, a new workflow, and another integration. It’s totally okay to start with one project and let everyone settle in and get comfortable before moving on to the next layer. As you get more proficient, learn the next layer of functionality. Chances are, as your staff uses these platforms, they’ll also figure some things out on their own. After all, everyone wants their job to be a little easier!
Nowadays, there are so many different business management software platforms and they all promise different things. Likely, if they only promise a couple of benefits, the software will be easy to learn and use. The more functionality that’s packed in, the more intricate the learning process will be. It will be worth it to spend the time upfront to properly learn it. Time is just like money in business, you’ve got to spend some to make some.