Managing two coworking spaces I need to be 100% on top of customer service at all times, no exceptions. Mind you, this is not only limited to customer service, but also includes building management, billing, sales and marketing, as well as, keeping an eye on my remote team, all while moving back and forth between offices. There are a lot of moving parts, which as you can imagine, can get exhausting at times.
The biggest saviors to my sanity and productivity for this job has been basic cloud service programs that are tried and true: TabCloud, Google Drive and Boomerang.
I can expound on the copious amounts of times that all three of these have provided the mental effort that I was too exhausted to conjure up on my own, however, I will spare you on those tedious narratives and specifically speak to how TabCloud has saved my sanity. I can almost recall the day I discovered it– what I was wearing and where I was — it was a revolutionary time in my life. It is difficult not to wax poetic about a resource that has been transformational to the way I operate. TabCloud has enabled me to separate the many facets of my business life in a clean and concise manner. I log into no less than eight programs (I like to call them “friends”) to start my day; billing software, Trello, calendars and reservation software. I have 17 sites that I use on a daily basis. They forever keep me company.
TabCloud enables me to pivot from backend information to front facing apps without a moment of lag. If a member has a question about billing, printing, etc. I’m able to go through the program step-by-step with them, while switching to my admin view to be sure all information is syncing correctly. It has also helped me change my mindset when going from “accounting” to the more fun ”marketing” component. I’m truly am able to be more effective in each task with the help of TabCloud.
The remote access is the biggest salvation. I’m able to go to any of our offices, login to the work computer with all my daily “friends”, and within a flash they are up and ready to work – even when I’m not! Now those are quality friends. I no longer even need to be at work to do work (hooray????).
Technology is wonderful, but it isn’t useful if it’s not easily accessible. Being able to organize my sites and have them all available at the click of a single button is tremendously helpful. I remember my mother saying “if only there were two of me I could get everything done.” It is through these cloud-based services that I’ve been able to duplicate my brain space to bear less of the burden.
Yes, you do. Lists and todos are for grocery stores and dentist appointments – real processes require real, logical steps. If you aren’t already putting together workflows and ordered lists, then you (A) don’t know what these are or (B) think that winging it is just a better way of doing things. For those of you that believe in the Gospel of Wingin’ it, I say this: sometimes, you’re right. Sometimes, it really is just better to wing it and play it by ear – improvise. But sometimes is not always, and even Miles Davis needed sheet music from time to time to get him started.
For those of you that have no idea what a workflow is or have some vague notions of diagrams, charts, graphs, cats, cogs, and gears with arrows sticking out them – fear not. You probably already know how to diagram a workflow. In fact, you probably did this in grade school when you were learning how to brainstorm or every time you played Candyland. You certainly don’t need an MBA and you definitely don’t need an expensive program. All you need is the ability to draw and a list of ordered steps. A workflow is nothing more than each of those steps, laid out in one place, with arrows connecting them in order. The value of a workflow over an ordered list of steps is that you can visualize the process more easily, and you can add some basic logic to your steps, i.e. if my mailman delivers my Netflix DVD today, then I go to step 3, otherwise, I go to step 4. (You’ll see what I mean when we get to an example below.)
Step One: Figure out steps two, three, four…
Some people like to just jump into the drawing part of the process – putting squares and arrows down on paper. I think it’s best to just start with an ordered set of steps. The process I will workflow as an example is “A low-key Friday night.” My steps are laid out below:
A Low-Key Friday Night:
Commute home from work
Pick up some groceries
Arrive at home
Get the mail
Cook some dinner
Open a bottle of wine (or beer)
Wash the dishes
Watch a movie
Read a book
Go to sleep
This seems like a pretty discreet and simple set of steps, but as you’ll see once we put these steps into a workflow, there is a world of logic between each item.
Step 2: Put it in a “Drawering.”
Now that we’ve got the steps down on paper (errrrrr… on screen), we need to start drawing. Each one of these items can be represented by an individual box, or circle, or whatever graphical representation you would like to use. There are all sorts of diagramming standards, but we don’t really care about any of them. Right now, we just want to get started with workflows.
The tool I like to use for drawing out workflows is Google’s Draw. I’m no Google fanboy, but they definitely make some useful products. Most importantly, the app is free and it’s easy to use. You can drag and drop all sorts of shapes and easily add text within the shapes by double clicking. You can access Draw using Google Drive clicking the “Create New” button. Get access to Google Drive, you’ll need a Gmail account (or any Google account). If you don’t already have one, you may sign up here: www.google.com/drive.
As you can see above, I used Google draw to just create boxes that represent each of the steps in my new workflow. So far, this doesn’t look like much, but in the next step, I will add the actual logic to the workflow. Note that the first box is a different color than the other boxes – I consider that the entry point or starting point into my workflow (i.e. the first step).
Step 3: That’s pretty illogical.
At this point, we need to stat adding some logic to our workflow diagram. So far, all we’ve got are actual steps, but in between some of these steps are decisions that determine which step we will take next. For instance, if there is a Netflix movie in the mail, then a movie will be watched, otherwise, it looks like a quiet night with a book. (Obviously, we could also watch TV, but except for NBA playoffs, Friday nights are generally pretty crappy.)
As you can see from the example above, the workflow of the evening is beginning to make a lot more sense. The logic I added accounts for the availability of a movie to watch as well as whether or not I purchased all of the necessary ingredients to make a nice dinner. The one thing it doesn’t account for is that wine is usually paired with a movie or a book, but we can always chalk that bit up to “wingin’ it.”
What’s the point again?
Obviously, my example is somewhat nonsensical. If you need a workflow to step through a Friday evening, then you don’t really understand the point of a Friday evening. However, by using the same process above, you could easily create workflows for some of your more intensive business processes. Say for instance you have a sales department. It would be good to know how leads are generated,and how they are processed once they come in contact with your team. You could map out each individual person’s workflow or the entire process from beginning to end. Heck, you could even make a workflow about how to make workflows (feel free to use this guide as a base) – a kind of meta-workflow… trippy.
The whole point of documenting processes is so that you can more easily understand what is going on. With the “Low-key Friday night example” above, it’s obvious what’s going on – I’m going to turn off my phone, eat something delicious, and get blotto. However, in a complex organization, it’s somewhat difficult to know how things work. By documenting workflows, you can better understand how an organization works, how you can improve the process, and what sort of technology you can use make everything run more smoothly.