Everyone wants to make their life easier, right?
We have email because it’s easier than snail mail. We have social media because seeing baby pictures is nice, even if those ‘friends’ are not close. Technology is driven by the idea of convenience. This is especially the case with some of the business management software that’s now available. Ideally, these tools make us more productive, happier, and more 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 attempted to find the right tool for operational improvements has discovered that making work easier is not immediately so easy.
Narrowing down the platform or app to use can be a puzzle, causing overwhelm. And that’s only the first step! Then there’s the time it takes to figure out how it works, training your staff to use it correctly, and hoping there will be very little need to call customer service. Piecing together the key elements of business management software can be confusing and downright frustrating.
My Experience with Zoho
I’ve recently begun learning to use Zoho, a new business management software for me. It’s used for streamlining business operations. I have to say… the learning curve was tough. I’ve worked in small business operations for about 9 years, and streamlining processes is right up my alley. Checking boxes and turning 10 steps into 5 feels 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 a LOT of 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’ll be a little easier for both of us in the future.
Know your learning style
People all learn in different ways. As a former athletic coach, it’s something you always take into account when teaching. I failed to keep this in mind, 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 was still struggling. This was because I was just trying to copy someone else, not do it myself.
Look back on the things that you’ve been most successful with learning in the past and how you got through that, then model it.
Identify what will make life easier
It’s so easy to say, “I need something to make my business more automated” or “I need something to track my clients”. Ok, but what does that mean?
Be specific when choosing a business management software. Do you need a Google Chrome extension that prepares email templates so you can just fill in a couple of blanks? Do you need a database management software that allows you to schedule appointments? Does this software need to manage attendance to events? Are there software options specific to your industry or field?
Think through the problem you’re looking to solve, and be as precise as possible 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.
You’ll have to step out of your comfort zone
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.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s really ok to mess up, especially when learning to use a new software platform. Nobody likes messing up. Many small business owners like to think that they know the in’s and out’s of their business so well that they shouldn’t have to ask for help. You need to, though. Weigh your time options: You could spend an entire day sitting in front of your computer trying to figure it out or ask a professional for 15 minutes of their time to explain it.
Find someone who is seasoned in your new software platform and ask for advice through whatever medium you find easiest to understand. They’ll probably have an easy tip, trick, or work-around that you never would have thought of because you were trying to force a method that just wasn’t going to work. We’ve all gotten too stuck in our own head to see all the options. Then someone else steps in and makes a tiny change, and suddenly, everything clicks. Let’s all move past our pride, and be okay with asking for help.
Just keep on keepin’ on
Sometimes, it feels like you may never understand all the intricacies of the platform you’re using. And you want to use every feature to make sure you’re getting every last penny out of a platform that you’re paying for!
Patience is everything here. As you learn more, add more functionality, more workflows, and more integrations – it will work itself out. It’s totally okay to start with one project, and let everyone settle in and get comfortable. As you get more proficient, learn a new functionality. Chances are, as your staff uses these platforms, they’ll figure some things out on their own as well. (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 tacked on, the more intricate the learning process will be. Ultimately, it will be worth it to spend the time upfront – time is just like money in business, you’ve got to spend some to make some.