Planning for Change in Your Business: Why CRM is a Catalyst for Change

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To run a successful business - whether it be service based online or selling products out of a brick and mortar - you need to have a series of systems in place. You need to deliver your products or services to your clients in some physical form, but you also need to manage your clients - keep track of them, take care of their projects or productions, manage your finances and so forth. All of these things are the “operation of your business.”

Think of your operations in your business altogether as a vehicle, let’s say a car. When you are first starting out, you get a practical car; something serviceable, but not too expensive. It can get you from point A to point B. When you bootstrap, it might even be held together with duct tape and a prayer. With all of these cobbled together programs, you have something that will help you deliver what you say you will to your clients. They will get awesome pictures - but they will come via your gmail account and possibly at midnight the day you promise them.

As you grow, your car gets a little fancier. You move up to the next class of car, get a bigger car as your needs change, maybe throw a few people in the car to be more efficient! You are even feeling fancy so you start using contracts and (gasp) find ways to get your money faster from clients. You get the hang of marketing and get a pretty cool website to show off what you do. No more marathon chats with any possible potential client; you can just send them to your website to find out what you do!

After a while, you are so good at getting people to say yes that you need to get better proposals in place, send contracts quicker, and even start accepting payments online. (Who cares about processing fees? Not me!) I have leather seats in my car now and that fancy sound system that you aren’t quite sure is much different, but you feel a little cooler rolling down the street in your mini-flotilla of a business.  

Just like owning a car, growing business needs dictate how we upgrade! 

Just like owning a car, growing business needs dictate how we upgrade! 

Now, you realize fancier cars (businesses) tend to need more maintenance. You have to stop and make big business decisions on how to make your car run better and more efficiently, because the energy it takes to get down the street in your fancy command center takes all your time.

It is time to take out the big guns and start getting some real support structure in your business, because you need to be more efficient; because you can’t work up to the motorcade without some serious infrastructure.

Why is all of this important to understand? When you start getting the big time systems in your business, you have to start re-thinking how you run your business. While it sounds cool to have a tricked-out Chevy Suburban full of Uber passengers, you realize that you are wasting a lot of money on the fuel of running your business. It gets expensive to cobble together a business out of a ton of different programs, va’s and interns. You have to become more efficient with your time. You need to start making your programs work harder for you. You need to figure out what needs personal touch each time (client interaction) and what can be systemized (sending proposals, contracts and invoices and marketing).

Instead of just adding on a bunch of low cost bandaids that kind of keep you running as you grow, take a step back. Really break down what your business does, how you want to deliver to your clients, what do you need to just systemize and forget, and what is a true need vs “well this is how I always do it.”

While you are drawing a picture of what your business looks like, you will start to see that you need a CRM system. Client Relationship Management systems deliver marketing and systemization of working with your clients, while really good ones let you control how you connect with your clients - what they get when, how they obtain information from you, and deliver consistent communication for each client.

Too often, people think that they can just take all of their spreadsheets, documents and google forms and just stuff them in their shiny new CRM and everything will work. You can see examples of these on the road. They are the trucks with the too big wheels - or too small. One wrong turn and they tip.

A CRM is vital to maintain healthy business growth. 

A CRM is vital to maintain healthy business growth. 

Don’t do that to your growing business.

If you are thinking of adding on a new CRM to your vehicle, think about all the other things that a client relationship management program will affect - it won’t just change the lead capture on your website - it might just change how you lay out your website. Your efficiency will mean that you can take on more clients, so you have to figure out how to deliver more efficiently what you promise your clients. You might even change the way you run your business.

To better think about CRM - how it really affects your business - think of it as the engine of your business. The engine drives the car, but it also controls all the other aspects of your car. You can’t have air conditioning without a working engine. If the engine is big enough you have to re-shape your hood to allow for more air intake and space. If it is too loud, it ruins the experience of everyone around the car. The list goes on.

Essentially the engine is not always the first thing people think about when purchasing a car (for the most part!) but if it is the right engine for your vehicle, it is the lifeblood of your business. CRM is the same.

Treat it as such.

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Jen Rudd, PMP is the face of Grow With Jen, a consultancy firm that specializes in planning, implementation and management of systems for small business. She loves to create synergies between systems such as websites, crms, project management and file management programs to create an engine and structure for creative businesses. She is excited for the upcoming launch of Creatives’ Toolkit - a resource and community for creative business owners to learn about the tools they need to grow. When she isn’t fangirling over Dubsado, she spends time with her three children, husband, two beagles and tuxedo cat in the boondocks of Metro West Boston.