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Start in the way you intend to go on – advice for escapees from Big Corp

Deirdre Wilson – Monday, February 10, 2014   


A couple of friends have made the move from Big Corp to their own business – Tiny Biz – and I can see that it is tough for them. In Big Corp you have loads of resources at you fingertips, mostly in the form of other people to ask advice of or to have do things for you. Computer not working – call IT. Need bills paid –send them to Finance. In Tiny Biz you have become a Jack or Jill of all trades. The small businesses I am talking about are those without investor funding where there is one person at the start and growth is gradual.

One of the biggest struggles my friends are having is the need to become conversant with a broader range of software and operating systems than they had in Big Corp. In Tiny Biz you have to be capable in writing, spreadsheets, presentation, bookkeeping, project management, screen capture, website back end, social media in its many forms, data bases, and a bunch of speciality applications. And you need more depth in all of them because you are your own IT department.

time spent on the mess you made with accounts is time not spent on paying work Tweet this

You also have to become much more organised than you were in Big Corp because in Tiny Biz all the time you spend is all the time you have and some of it has to generate an income for you. So spending time sorting out the mess you made with accounts is time you can't spend on productive work.

So here is some advice to my freshly minted Tiny Biz friends, advice borne of costly experience!

1. Software As A Service or SAAS

SAAS is the best bit of tech magic available to you. It gives you access to all sorts of big products at a small monthly cost which will enable you to scale up easily if you need to and work from wherever you can log on. So take advantage of SAAS and start off using tools that are better than you need right now but which will save you time – and time is one thing that no amount of money can buy more of, you get 24 hours everyday and at the end of each day you start afresh, no cumulative time in Tiny Biz. 

Use SAAS for:

Bookkeeping. We use Xero and love it. Get yourself set up and your accountant will love you and cost you less come tax time. You will be able to send invoices direct from your bookkeeping system, feed your bank and credit card transactions straight in and reconcile those accounts easily.

take advantage of SAAS – start off using tools that are better than you need Tweet this

Project management. Keep track of all the projects you are working on in one place. Set milestones, reminders, task lists in the one system. A smart system that allows you to create templates of things you repeat, saving the steps taken will remove the need to remember how you did something and crucially, save you forgetting any steps.

Capturing knowledge as you build it is one of the best investments in saving time that you will make. It also will give you flexibility in the future as the how-to knowledge you are storing is able to be used as guideline for future staff or collaborators. This is one of my favourite soap boxes!! A smart system will also allow you to set up template emails. This is really useful where you need to let someone know that something is required at a certain stage of a project, or send reminders on a predetermined basis. Here you are doing the work once, ahead of time and letting the clever machines do the repeat work – robots live amongst us and are most welcome! We use Solve360 for managing all the steps in a project and make mini templates of groups of tasks. We also have a job management system for tracking time and expenses which is specific to the design industry. 

2. RSS feeds

Keeping up to date seems tougher in Tiny Biz as you are no longer in the loop in the same way. Bzzzt wrong – there is heaps of info out there, too much in fact, but you do need to get it organised. Get your newsletters out of your email and use rss instead to get feeds from blogs. I use two different apps (yes, you should have a tablet so that you can do something productive while waiting for meetings) on my iPad. I use Feedly for subscriptions to blogs that I have found and I use Zite for finding new information by topic.

Capturing knowledge as you build it is one of the best investments in saving time Tweet this

3. Note taking

Get smart about taking notes and keeping them together in a system that allows you to search by the content of the note – then you can find things by keywords if you are rubbish at filing. I use Evernote on both my tablet and desktop computer because they sync which means I can have my notes with me anywhere. Evernote allows for the addition of pics, webpages and other media.

4. Learning resources

My final bit of advice (for the moment) is to have good learning resources at hand because you are going to have to keep learning. You will need to replicate the IT department at Big Corp with bookmarks of the help pages for whatever sort of computer and operating system you choose. As well as help with hardware and operating systems you are going to need an ongoing source of education and training. You know we love Lynda.com so can recommend a subscription to that – try a couple of weeks free here.

7-day free trial

You will also need colleagues to bounce ideas off, so get a bunch of Tiny Biz colleagues to share with – look for busy ones with unmanicured nails and a generous outlook, and share, share, share.

That's my advice, for now. Starting this post was like letting a genie out of a bottle because there is so much you need to be reasonably on top of, but I have tried to reduce it down to suggestions that allow you to start off in a way that will grow with you.

Read more about doing work only once in this post.

Further Reading

More on habits and integrating them into your personal and business processes:
- About getting organised with habits and processes

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

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