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You already know processes and systems are crucial to stabilizing and scaling your small business. Are you finally ready to implement processes and systems in your company? If so, following the advice shared by BTC CEO, Susan Fennema, in this User Group session will help create structure, ensure consistency, and improve accountability across your organization.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Use Teamwork projects for internal management and operations processes to create a “single source of truth.” This eliminates the need to switch between multiple tools.
  2. Set up an Admin Project for management team items like HR, meetings, training, etc. and an Operations Project to document company processes.
  3. Processes bring accountability by clearly outlining expectations. If people don’t follow them, address them directly.
  4. Appoint a “Keeper of the Process” to own reviewing and updating processes. Schedule regular reviews to keep processes current.
  5. Use task checklists instead of prose instructions when possible. Converting processes to task templates improves compliance.
  6. Include triggers in your templates to open additional templates and keep workflows moving smoothly.
  7. Roll out new and updated processes by notifying the relevant team members and following up in Slack.
  8. Integrate Teamwork with Slack for notifications to reduce emails and keep team communication centralized.

Please find the full video transcription below.

Amber Kemmis: I’m so excited to introduce you all to Susan. Susan is the, I want to say CEO but I don’t think it does justice for her actual title which is chaos eradicating officer of Beyond the Chaos. The organization helps small businesses really just be better at running effectively and creating better lives. I know I did not nail your business pitch there, Susan, but what I do know and get excited about every time I interact with you and hear from you is that you are full of Teamwork knowledge and you also have a way of not just helping companies produce more and be more effective for the bottom line but help everybody within that company have a better life within their companies. Other than that, she’s got a lot of other fun stuff that she’ll share about herself, but excited to welcome Susan. Susan, the floor is yours.

Introduction to Susan and Beyond the Chaos

Susan Fennema: Thank you, Amber. I don’t even know how to follow. That is a great introduction. I appreciate it. My presentation here is going to very much be I’m following an outline, you’re not getting slides. I want you to interrupt. I want to have a conversation here. So, I’m going to walk through my points and I’m going to show and tell a little bit, but please jump in anywhere. And Amber, if you do see a chat I don’t see, please just interrupt me. I’ve been a, new branding, partner since 2017.

Susan’s Approach to the Presentation and Experience

I found Teamwork when I was looking for an alternative to Basecamp back then. And I needed more, I needed more and there was Teamwork and it did more. We became partners because of how much we loved Teamwork and we are very clear with our clients now when we work with them that we’re not recommending because we’re partners. We’re recommending because we’re fans and that’s why we’re partners. We do work with so many small business owners, getting them out of the day today of their business ops. And in doing that, is our go-to tool. It is the most recommended one that we put in place. It is rare when that is not the best fit for our clients. Sometimes special situations, but that’s it. as a Single Source of Truth for Small Businesses

So, getting to the meat of what we’re talking about here, what we love is that can be your single source of truth. You don’t have to switch between things. You can use it for almost anything including documenting your processes which I think is an underutilized thing that Teamwork allows for that we overlook how simple it can be to set it up that way. We recommend starting with two internal projects, so an admin project and an operations project. The admin project is going to be your management team, maybe HR. There could also be an onboarding project if you have a training or something where you want your team to interact. So, these are internal projects to benefit your team. Each team member could have their own task list in an onboarding project or training project, for example, if you wanted them to go through training step-by-step. And you can build that out. I mean, I’ve had clients that say, “Oh, well, we want to use Trainual.” Okay, great. Spend the extra $100 minimum a month on that. Or we could just make the same thing for you in a Teamwork task list where they’re going to be working anyway. So, those are the types of things that you can do in those types of processes. I know you did a bunch around the onboarding in another session, so I’m not going to dive in deep to that but just know that task or project templates for interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training and offboarding, their essential processes, that can be set up in Teamwork.

Using for Admin and Operations Projects

We’re going to spend more time on what exactly are we looking at in an admin project or in an ops project where we’re documenting processes. So, in an admin project, we’re locking down only what the management team works on. Say for example, you and your team are following EOS which is the entrepreneurial operating system. There are very specific things that you have to do. You have an L10 meeting every week and you can put that agenda into your admin project so that you and your other managers can follow it if you’re following that. There are also things called Rocks, IDS lists which is Identify, Discuss and Solve. So those are your issues. And there could also be CEO or management task lists that maybe others don’t need to be privy to. Things that you’re doing behind the scenes to grow the company, that kind of thing. Those are what go into your admin project. You could have one project as an operations project and lock all this down with privacy, but it’s just dangerous. What if something gets out there that you didn’t intend? What if you forget? Just having another project is no big deal. So, I would recommend having that project there. You can also keep one-on-one meeting agendas. So, if you are having one-on-one meetings with your team throughout the year, you could keep those in there so that it’s documented that you had it and what you discussed. And by meeting agendas, I’m not talking about a notebook with bullet points, I’m talking about a task list which you’re just following and checking things off the list as you’re going one by one.

The alternative, if you want notes to be more private, you could also have a project per team member where if there’s special training they need to work on or something like that, then you could direct it to them. Other people then don’t have to know. So, those are some ways that you can look at it maybe from an HR standpoint and from a management standpoint. Now, the ops, the operations, ops project is where a lot of the magic can happen. In this, we’re using that project to run our company.

So, what goes in there? Tracking team birthdays, are you giving gifts? When are their birthdays? What are the steps we follow? Where do we go and order things from? All that kind of stuff can be in there.

And you can probably put those lists in and hide it from that one team member that it’s their birthday so it’s a little bit of surprise. Any reminders to do regular internal tasks can go on there. And part of the point of putting this there is it will show up on my work so that all your to-dos are in one place. You don’t have this sticky note with notes for one thing and everything else somewhere else. Christmas cards and gifts, that’s another task list template that can be brought in every year. Any team meeting agenda, but the essential list that’s in there, your process review list. to Document Process and Maintain Them

And here, we’re going to start talking a little bit about the process of processes. I know that sounds redundant. But for processes to work, just like anything else in an operational world or in a business world, it evolves and it grows. You don’t go to marketing and say, “Oh, check, I did my marketing. It’s done. We never come back.” Same thing with operations, it is ongoing. Your processes evolve over time. They are living and breathing and they should grow as your company grows. By all means, even if you want to keep your company small and I just want these five people and this is it, you still better be documenting what you learn. How are you making sure you don’t make the same mistake on something that you only do once a year? These are the types of things that if you document properly and have a process on how, who, how often and when are you reviewing the templates and the processes, that’s going to keep them fresh. You don’t want things. We’ve come into companies where they’ve been like, “Oh yeah, we have processes.” I’m like, “Great, where are they?” “I’m not sure. I think I could get you a link to them.” And then you look at them and they haven’t been touched in two, three years. These are not processes. This was them saying, “Check, I documented my process,” and never coming back to it. No one rolled it out, no one’s using it. So, how would we put this together in Teamwork? And this is where I want to start a little bit of show and tell here.

Live Demonstration of by Beyond the Chaos

So, I’m pulling up our Teamwork. You’re going to see behind the scenes at Beyond the Chaos. We should have the Beyond the Chaos projects here.

Amber: We do. I think this is the first time that someone’s shown us live behind the scenes. So, Susan, thank you for making it a first in TUG history.

Susan: You’re very welcome. We practice what we preach to our clients, so putting it out here is a no big deal to us. You’ll notice that we have several Beyond the Chaos projects. You’ll notice household tasks. This is Susan’s personal project internally. So literally, all of my tasks are in one place, even how I run my household. So, when you’re the company owner, you get a little splurge here and there to do something silly like that. But for the most part, we’re using all these to run our business.

So, we talked about what’s in the admin project, but I’m going to pop down to this operations project in our world. In operations, we have the task lists I spoke to a little. These are the things that we would pull in. This is how we remind everyone to do their time sheets all the time. You’ll see I will call out, Danielle, you’re on the call, go do your time sheet. So, you can actually have some things like that. We have the team birthdays. You see that’s locked down. Christmas, those are the mentions I made on some of the things that you can have recurring here.

And you can do these either as task list that you bring in or as recurring tasks in the same list that just repeat, whichever works best for you. But the Notebooks is where we’re going to get to the bulk of this. Now, what’s really cool in here is that you can categorize them so you can narrow them down. We can come in to the how-tos, and you’ll see we’ve even done a fun thing of it’s how to, and everything starts with a verb. We’re actually coming down and seeing how to manage online meetings and that kind of thing. Some of these are policies. The policies end up under there. These are the rules.

So when you’re looking at a policy for a company, these are the not really negotiable type things. This is your hours. You’ll see entering your time, how you get paid, that kind of thing, working hours and time off. Those types of things are the rules of the company. Those don’t change that much, but they should still be reviewed from time to time. The processes are what make everything go. So, this can be anything in here that is specific to how your company runs. But you’ll see there’s a CEO email process.

I have not made it a secret to anyone that I don’t really look at my email that often. I have an amazing team that checks it for me and the guidelines are in here of what to do when things come in. It’s what time they check it, it goes through what to do, how it’s supposed to be left, what we do with billing emails, what we do with different types of payments that come through, how they can reply to different things. And what that does is it frees up my time to focus on something else.

If you are an owner and do not have someone checking your email, make this happen immediately. Get on this. Some others that are great is what are you going to do regularly in say your sales? How can someone help with that support? Are they networking with or are they following up with networking contacts for you? Are they following up with your salespeople for you or for your salespeople? Sorry, tongue twister there. We have a list.

So, we bill our clients in advance in banks of hours. And every Monday, we run through Teamwork. We look at the budgets. We see who’s going to run out of time. And in Slack, we have a conversation about who do we bill and how much do we bill them. I am not going to open this because it does show different rates for different clients. I’m going to keep that one to myself. But here is a place where we track, this person pays as a credit card, so make sure you turn on the credit card in QuickBooks when you send the link, that kind of thing. It will also say the minimum that they’re allowed to have in their bucket before we renew the hours.

So, all of that helps somebody else support me as the owner in doing that. It’s one of those things that if you’re setting up processes for your company or for your owner, that giving them away to step back from that type of stuff can let them focus on growing the business instead of spending their time figuring out how many hours are left in somebody’s budget when if you document, it’s right there.

The other parts, you’ll see process of processes. This is the one I was talking about that really is how you drive your business. And in here, we talk about, okay, how do you start a process? How do you know if you should? And then you’ll note in here, you have to set a repeating task in this task list which we can go to. It’s right now assigned to me but after the first review, I change it to our awesome ops person.

And so if you go to that task list, you’ll see that these are how often and most of these have been handed off to Danielle at this point which is awesome. But you’ll see that these are how often we review the processes and how we do it. So, you’ll see we have a lot of process docs that happen to start with a C, so that’s why that’s documented that way. And then, all of these are separated. Here are your task templates that we’re reviewing. Here are project templates that we’re reviewing. I still review the policy documents and the sales documents and one day, we’ll get those off my plate too.

But this is how we’re sure that we’re constantly keeping them fresh. Have we changed a software? Have we changed personnel? We recently went from having a VA who did every support to we have a virtual assistant who does admin support and then an assistant who does sales and marketing support. So, dividing those things out, we’re still coming across processes where we’re like, “Oh, we forgot to change the title.” But if we’re reviewing it consistently, those get caught. If they just sit there and then all of a sudden the current virtual assistant or the current sales marketing assistant leaves and somebody else comes in, now they’re lost. We want this to be something that they can go to so they know how to do their job right off the bat.

Amber: Susan, what is the repeat set too? Is it monthly, quarterly?

Susan: It can depend. I would recommend no less than once a year. And if you’re doing it, if you’re just getting started, maybe set that whatever your least busy time is. Ours is August or the end of the year, one or the other. But then, things will naturally, if you keep it that way, it’s going to kind of be overwhelming during those time periods.

So, as new things come up, you can naturally schedule them from a year from when you wrote the process and then it can rotate through. And guess what? Sometimes things are crazy busy and maybe this is not the right time to do it. If you just reschedule it for the next month, that’s fine. Then it can just repeat from there. So, you’ll see we have some here in August, some in December, but then some that are in November, May, June. Some of them depend on when they were established too. And that’s okay to rotate them around.

One thing I would suggest when you’re writing the processes in the Notebooks, don’t ever duplicate content. So, for example, we have a sales process and then we have proposals and first invoice. And at the end of our sales process, it talks about … Oh, it doesn’t. Maybe it does something else. I’m totally talking wrong. But you’ll see, these link to the other processes or task list. I’m not repeating that process or task list here. Anytime you’re doing that where you’re trying to type the same thing in two places, you risk getting it off. I would just link to where the other one comes from if you’re looking for that.

The beauty of doing it in here is it’s searchable. You can search Teamwork for any word or phrase. You also can include links when you’re onboarding somebody. So when somebody says, “Hey, this might be a stupid question,” but you’re like, “Oh, no, it’s not. Here’s a link, go read it here.” You’re not constantly having to tell everybody the same thing, and being able to refer to those URLs is fantastic.

So, how would you roll them out? We talked a little bit about the keeper of the process, right? It has traditionally been me. I am a small business owner. I do try to practice what I preach, so I’m trying to get away from that. Many small business owners are absolutely horrible at operations. Now, I’m of course an operations consultant so that’s why it was okay for it to stay with me for a little while. But most business owners, that’s not what they’re good at. So, it should go to someone in their company who is detail-oriented, who is operationally minded, and who has an overall understanding of how it all works together.

Over time, as the owner, I want to get out of that so I can focus on other things. Hence, Danielle and I know some of you have interacted with Danielle, she’s super savvy. She has come in to help with those. The only ones I think we saw on my plate were still sales and some policies and over time, those will move off of me as well. The keeper can be a person in a specific department. So, if you have a bigger company, maybe it’s the head of marketing or the lead marketing ops person who is responsible for all of the marketing processes. And somebody else in HR or finance are responsible for those.

So, it can be that if you have a company that big where you’re designating out, you want to have kind of an oversight committee because one of the things that gets lost with that is the crossover processes. How does sales interact with finance, who interacts with fulfillment to make sure that whole project runs through for your client? That kind of oversight committee is really important. Other thing, as you’re creating the processes, if you’re putting them on the task lists and assigning to them to the person to review them, if that person were to leave the company, when you pull them out of Teamwork, it’s going to ask you who do you replace it with? And that will give you the heads-up of, “Okay, yeah, I got to cover this too.”

So, that’s another beauty of keeping that list here. When processes change, the other beauty of working in Teamwork, let me just come up here, and we’re going to edit, other beauty as you scroll down and make your edits is this magic box right here, include changes in email notification. How many times has anyone made a small change to a process and just told everybody, “Here’s your updated process and it’s three pages long?” Okay. Well, what did you actually change? Did you change, say, the Slack channel name, or did you change the whole way we approach it? Having the box checked immediately notifies the people that it matters, too, what changed because they’re already probably following the process. So, you’re alerting them to, “This is our minor change here.”

You’ll see here, this is pretty much our sales team at Beyond the Chaos. So, since this is a sales thing, that’s who we’re notifying. We’re not telling the whole company something changed because they don’t need to know. It’s overwhelming if you’re sharing everything with everyone all the time. They can’t weed out what’s important.

So, you can also, and I’m a fan of this too if it’s a major change, I would follow it up with a Slack notification where somebody needs to add an emoji that they actually went in and read the change or notice a change or understood the change. That’s really how you roll them out and also modify them here. It’s the same process. When you roll something new out, you want to notify everyone in the Notebook and then follow it up with Slack. When you make a change, same thing.

So, one of the things that I hear from a lot of my clients, let me just make sure, I think that’s all the show and tell. No, I’m going to come back to project templates, so we’ll leave this up for a minute.

How to Get the Team to Follow Processes Put into Place

One of the things that I hear from a lot of my clients is, “Oh yeah, we have process, but no one follows it.” Really, if no one’s following the process, it’s either a horrible process, somebody doesn’t understand it, you haven’t rolled it out, or you haven’t set the expectation that this is the way we’re going to run the business. Usually, when you ask a few questions about that, you find out it’s really maybe two people that aren’t following it, but the other 20 are doing just fine. So, you have to kind of lean into that because this is where processes bring accountability to your business. So, that is something that if two people aren’t following the process, those two people need to be addressed that we cannot scale and grow this company if you’re doing whatever you want.

We all have to be on the same page. We all need to follow this process. If it’s everyone literally that’s not following it, then some work needs to be done. Why aren’t we following it? Is it outdated? Is the information too cumbersome? Is everyone doing their own thing because we just made it too hard? So, coming in and simplifying that process might solve the problem. But if you’re not asking the people who are actually doing it, you’re never going to get that answer. You’re just going to be the management in charge that tells people what to do who never do what they’re told, right?

The other beauty of having these processes documented is for those of us who might be non-confrontational in a way and you don’t want to address mistakes, this comes up with a very easy way to approach it. So, if an outcome is not what you expect as an owner, you’re able to come in and say, “Hey, listen, this isn’t the outcome I expected. What happened in the process or what went wrong with the process?” And so now, you’re blaming the process instead of the person. And that person hears that so much better and they’re able then to jump in with you and help you fix the process.

Minimally, what you’re going to learn is that that person just didn’t follow it. But now, you have a way to talk to them about that, that you’ve approached differently as opposed to screaming. And if it’s something where you’re like, “No, I did that but this is what happened,” or, “This didn’t happen,” even though the process says it would, now you have an opportunity to fix that process before everyone else has the issue. And you updated in Teamwork, you checked the box and you publish it as a new version and now everyone knows. Your teammate is going to be thrilled. Your team member is going to be thrilled that they were able to participate in fixing something. You’re going to be happy it’s fixed. Everybody else is not going to make the same mistake.

And now your business is a process-driven business. So, it puts all the things in one place for people to come and be able to train, to remember. A lot of the times, the reason mistakes are made is because someone is going off memory and isn’t actually going through the process. So, we are firm believers here that anytime you can avoid the pros, anytime you can avoid these long Notebooks, you should. And the way you push that is to a task template or a project template. So, anytime you can make a checklist, do that instead and that becomes your task template or your project template. So, I will just jump, we have very few custom project templates here. Ours are we sell two ways of working with us.

So, it’s pretty straightforward. You either open it where we do discovery and implementation or you open it where we do implementation. That’s Phase 1 or Phase 2 or Phase 2 only. So, those templates pop up and as soon as the job’s open, it tells everyone even what to do on how to name the project, how to update the budget. It reminds me that I might have to go pay a referral fee to somebody who referred someone to us. It walks us through how to update or educate the consultant that’s going to work on the project. So, it’s all these details just even of how to set up a project. If you wrote that in prose, the likelihood that these things would happen would not be high. If we’re putting these in a task list where somebody’s like, “Check, check, check, got it done, we’re moving on,” that’s great.

And you’ll see we’ve used the number of days too so that this can automatically be scheduled for our team. We keep the information, some basic structure for the kickoff call with the client in here so that there’s some sort of an outline that we’re starting with. Obviously, if we’ve heard something from that client, we might modify that, but this is a great starting point. This is how we build our implementation plans which is what we deliver at the end of our first phase. And then, these are just our ongoing tasks, making sure that we are staying in touch with the client throughout the project and that kind of thing.

Q&A and Discussion on Practical Application of Features

Amber: Susan, I’m going to pause because you’re getting questions. I have questions.

Susan: Okay, go ahead.

Amber: The crowd has questions. I have a little bit of a comment because we are huge fans of using tasks as a checklist. I always say there’s a reason pilots still use them. It keeps us safe in the air.

Susan: Definitely.

Amber: I use checklists. I’m a huge fan of them. One thing we’ve learned that we’ve adapted from the template you’re looking at is that we don’t add a due date to every single one because our implementation specialists we’re getting overwhelmed when they would plan their work and they’d see, “Oh my gosh, I have a hundred checklist items,” but really it was one thing they had to do. So, you can’t close the parent task. You can’t close the overall I set up a new client, for example, but without closing the subtask. But we found that it overwhelmed our team to include all of them. Now, I would go back against that and change back to the old way if I found that they were skipping, missing, and going past those every time.

Susan: That’s good to know your team. I know my team is going to work off the My work list or off the dashboard. And so, if the date isn’t there, it’s not going to show up as due.

Amber: So they’ll still see the parent task. It will still say set up client, but they can’t close it until they completed all the checklist things. They still have a thing on their My work, but that thing is supported by 10 checklist items.

Susan: That makes really good sense. We probably have some like that in here that are buried.

Susan: It doesn’t look like it, but I do love that.

Amber: We’re not fighting chaos. We are fighting implementation things, and I have developers who would complain about the extra tasks.

Susan: We work with software developers, too. They’re much easier to overwhelm with little tasks than more operationally focused people, for sure.

Amber: One question from the crowd is how do you assign a placeholder for consultant versus sales associate in the template?

Susan: So, in the template, when you add it … And watch it not work, I’m in the beta, you all. If I have to switch, I’ll switch. We’ll put the test in here, and then when you come to the little person … let me switch. Teamwork, fix this. Okay. In the non-beta, see how I switched? So, I have gone back to the old version here. You can edit it.

Nikki Miller: I have complained about this.

Susan: It’s infuriating.

Nikki: Yes, this is so important to us, and we use it in the beta version. I’ve complained loudly, so hopefully, we get this back soon.

Amber: Could also pass this recording directly to Teamwork. This is why we have these also.

Susan: Yes. So, notice, to all of you Teamwork people who are watching this, that I had to change out of the beta. But if you come into the older version and do the Choose Later, you can type anything you want in here. So, it can be any role you want. Just make sure that you’re naming the same role the same thing. So, you don’t want sales assistant and then sales A-S-S-T period. That would make you have to fill, when you open the template, would make you have to fill two places. You can still fill them with the same person, but that is not very effective. All right, what else?

Amber: Another question, just going back to how you use meeting agendas, and I know others in the crowd are doing this, how do you use task list for meeting agendas? Where are you keeping the notes? How do you ensure it’s documented properly?

Susan: All right. So, I will show you, this is the meeting agenda coming up for my L10, mine and Danielle’s L10 next week. So, an L10 meeting, for those of you who don’t know, EOS is a management meeting. It happens once a week. It has a consistent format. So, this is it. You run through these things, we talk about them. If there are notes that we need to make, we can make them as comments under the task and then we check it off when we’re ready to go to the next item.

At the end, it tells us that we add the template for the next meeting so we don’t forget to do that. And it also tells us to make sure to recap and add any tasks that are action items that come out of this into Teamwork assigned to the correct people. It could be to one of us. It could be to a team member. Then if there are other things that need to be conveyed to the team, a discussion point, maybe this happens in a Notebook where it’s rolled out, maybe it happens in Slack, depending on how important it is. So, this is that agenda when we add a new one. Here’s our IDS thing. So, when we add the task list, we simply pull up that L10 meeting, name it the next date, schedule it on the date and go. So, it’s all there. What other questions?

Amber: And there’s a question about can you choose multiple later? And I think the answer is you have to name both those roles. You can’t pre-put in two different people in the template.

Susan: I don’t think you can. The way that it happens in our L10 is because it is assigned to Danielle and me because we are the two that are in the meeting. But to do multiple people, let’s see. This is a template. Let’s see if I can do it. I don’t think so. Let’s see. If we choose later, you get one.

Nikki: You could type in whatever your two roles, analytics plus SEO or whatever. And then later when you’re going to assign it, you could assign both of those for that role that you’ve chosen.

Susan: And when it comes up, does it give you that option to let you pick one more?

Nikki: Yes. Yeah. When you’re filling in your templates, it does give you the option to add more than one person to any role, whatever you name it. You just instead of clicking on their name, you have to click on the plus. There’s a little plus next to their name. So you click the plus and then other people.

Susan: What I think you want to be careful of though, I’m not a huge fan of multiple people assigned to the same task because whose responsibility is it? I kind of like that Teamwork makes that hard to do. So, something to consider there too. I’d almost rather have if two people are doing the same thing, having two tasks, each one assigned to the person. And Teamwork does let you do that. If you are adding a new task, it will let you make separate tasks for each person even just under one task. So, that’s kind of a cool feature too.

Amber: Yeah. And another thing I’ve done in the past in this scenario is one of our biggest challenges at one point was forecasting resourcing when we didn’t specifically say this person’s going to do it with our developers, especially, they planned sprint, so we might shuffle that week of. And so, what we did is we actually used a user, it was a shared fake user. And so you could use two fake users that you then go replace on the doc later on. Then, you also get a capacity view of that user. So if it’s developer one, developer two, or whatever, you can see what the forecast looks like. And then, when you change out the templates, you can simply remove that person from the project, and it automatically asks you to assign it to someone new and you put that actual individual in there.

Susan: I love that. That’s a great way if you’re using the workload, for sure. Are there other questions? I do have one other little cool thing to show, but if there are questions…

Amber: Nope, I think we’re good for now.

Susan: Okay. So, in the task templates, I know that there’s supposed to be a new way to get to this, but I’m so old school that I go wrong button, I still go through my settings to the task templates. I know that there’s a new way to get there. But you’ll see when I do a speaking engagement, even say this one, there are tasks that are opened up based on what happens. And each one of these has a trigger to open an additional task template depending on what we’re trying to do with it. So, let’s say we’ve opened, let me edit these so we can pop them up. If we’ve opened an audio/video post, this is how you post it to YouTube, you’ll see this task at the end. Assign this to the VA to set up the task template Posting Blogs if needed. So, we don’t always take our audio/video post to a blog, but sometimes we do. I’m still making that decision so it’s assigned to me. But then that VA will know, “Okay, great. I open that next task template and we continue.” So, you can build task templates as much as you want, but if they stop and don’t tell you what to do next without that trigger, things can just stop and it’s over. So, you want to make sure that you’re putting triggers in there. And then also, what are the triggers to fire the test templates?

We have one called Pick my Brain, it’s on our website. People can sign up just to spend an hour with any of our team members. The trigger actually comes when the Stripe receipt comes into my email box. The virtual assistant has that in the CEO email process as the trigger to fire that pass template. So, you have to have template or you have to have triggers so that you know when to fire a task template, also when to fire a project template. Our project templates get fired when we receive a paid notification on an invoice. So, whatever that trigger is needs to be written into your process so that people are like, “Okay, yup, that’s what that means. Now we go.” And then, you can go through your checklist. So that was the last little trick I had there. So, I will take any more questions anybody has or anything that anybody else has done that’s really cool in this world, I’d love to hear it too.

Amber: I harbored up a couple questions throughout. One question I had is that I noticed you use a lot of task templates versus project templates. Is there any reason for that? Is it because a lot of your things are so dependent and triggering like you just talked about?

Susan: Yeah, it’s because I think if we were our clients, it would be different. But we’re only selling two things. So those project templates open when that is sold. Those task templates … Hold on, I have gotten a window up here. There we go. Let me make it disappear so it doesn’t hide over this. I can kind of walk you through why they are task templates. But sales lead follow-ups, I don’t want a project for that. This is when we have a proposal or a proposal that goes out. These are the follow-up steps we take for it. So, we don’t want a project for each of those. That makes sense to be a test template.

The same thing on what we do when we win a proposal, what we do when we follow up with one. The curated newsletter, that is a repeating monthly thing that goes into our marketing project. Interviewing consultants, again, don’t want 12 different consultant interview projects. So, most of these are operational and are pulled in as needed. And it wouldn’t make sense to pull it in as a full project because of the way they interact with each other, how small they are, you’ll see. I mean, I think this one’s a big one, but we have a project for this engagement, and so when a new project comes in or a new client comes in, we have the task list ready to go, but it’s always in one project.

Amber: Okay.

Susan: It depends on how you’re going to set it up or what makes the most logical sense for you.

Amber: Yeah. Awesome. We’ll keep questions rolling in. I think Angela and I were both inspired in similar ways by the task list that you had for reminding team members to log their time. Can you go through that a little bit further? Is it a weekly thing? What are the expectations you set with the team? I’m really curious because I think the reminder that goes out and the auto reminder becomes noise after a while, and there’s no way for a manager to really… In my scenario, selfishly, I’ll speak, we have a lot of managers and those managers aren’t always great at holding the accountability to the individual. So when I saw that, I was like, “Whoa, they could totally be notified of this and understand what’s happening with their people.”

Susan: Absolutely. My team is small enough that I can tell when it’s done. And I give permission to people if they are doing their time sheets regularly. If they don’t need the reminder, they can remove the task. That’s okay. So, I’ll make them put it back if they’re not doing them. But most of the people that remove them, they are just naturally prone to tracking time, so it’s not a big deal. If you’ve ever worked in the advertising world, many of us have been pushed that way, and it becomes ingrained that we can’t leave for the day without finishing our time sheet so we don’t have to have that reminder. But if it is helpful then it goes to your my work. So it’s something on your page that you have to check off before your day is over. And these just repeat the next day. If they get behind for some reason, like a consultant who isn’t on an active project, they might get a month behind or something like that. We are checking late tasks once a week, and so that will come up. And if we know they’re not on a project, we’ll just reschedule for them. If we know they are on a project, we might be, “Oh, hey, what’s going on here?” Is the issue that most people are seeing, people aren’t doing their time sheets or are looking for a better way to remind?

Angela Lindauer: For me personally, I’m looking for a better way to remind. We have certain people that are culprits, but we’re getting ready to expand who I support. And this is coming from … Some of those people don’t track their time now, they just work on a project and their life is chaos because there’s no one looking at their capacity. We all look at their capacity here pretty soon and the only way I know to do that is to have them track time.

Susan: They have to for that to work. It’s not going to work if they don’t.

Angela: But I know it’s going to be very painful for some people to remember to log their time.

Susan: So, in our case, you have to log your time to get paid, and because we have to invoice our clients based on that. So, there are real consequences to not doing it. If it’s a workload management-only issue, now you have a bigger challenge, right? The only thing you can do with them is kind of explain and coax and say, “I am trying to make your life easier. I know this is something that adds chaos or a mess or something to your plate, but I promise if you will do it, we can make your life easier.” And then, you could assign these people. And so, where I give my team the opportunity to delete their task if they don’t need it or they’re not using it, maybe in your case, you would want to follow up with those that you’re asking to do it and say, “No, this needs to be on my work,” at least for the month until you build the habit or two months or something like that. I think it’s helpful. We created this before time sheet or before Teamwork had its new notification thing. So, this has been around for years for us.

Amber: Yeah. I think one thing that’s great about Teamwork tasks is it provides accountability or it’s ensuring accountability. And when you have to check a box to say you did something, it’s a little different than getting a reminder saying, “Did you do something?” And you can do something with that or not. But there’s an honesty principle I think in saying, “Hey, I logged my time, I checked the box, and I can go and enjoy happy hour now.”

Susan: Right. And you’ll see you can go back and look too because it shows you what’s been completed. If you want initially, as a manager, to get notified when they check it off, of course, you can do that. That might be a little bit overwhelming for you, though. It might be easier for you to have a task in the morning to go see if everybody checked it off.

Amber: Do we have any other questions for Susan? I’m curious, how many of you are using Notebooks as process documentation? You can give a thumbs-up. Is there a thumbs-up? I should know this. There is a thumbs-up, so you can give a thumbs-up if you are.

Nikki: We will now.

Amber: Yeah, one more new user.

Susan: So Teamwork might kill me because they push spaces a lot to do that, but this is so much more seamless. It’s a lot more seamless than using that. Crop that part out before you send it to them, please. I don’t want to get in trouble.

Nicole Pereira: I think we’ve said more troubling things than you’ve ever said in that meeting.

Amber: I think Nicole is going to say it, but I may have announced to the whole product and internal team that we were moving from spaces to HubSpot knowledge base in front of them all on space.

Susan: Well, luckily, they mostly love HubSpot too, but yeah.

Nicole: I think they appreciate our candor and look to us to give them maybe the feedback that they’re not quite getting from a less opinionated crew.

Susan: Well, and I think the other, I agree with that. But I think also, we are people who are strong users or not your typical users so it’s not like, “Oh yeah, they can’t use it again. It’s user error.” These are real issues that we’re bringing up.

Amber: Speaking of which, have you noticed that the Notebooks are buggy at all or that things are mysteriously deleted? That is a question from Jen.

Susan: I have heard people say that, but I’ve never really experienced that happening.

Nicole: It’s when you have more than one person in their editing simultaneously, their engine is … Honestly, it’s not a collaborative tool. It’s almost like it’s saving every minute. And depending on how active you have multiple users in there, it’s like it overwrites or it doesn’t save. It’s really silly.

Angela Lindauer: Yeah, we had some problems with that early on when we adopted Teamwork where we were noticing some, honestly, it was specs about a project that were changing, but we didn’t want the initial stuff to move. And yeah, it was a problem, but.

Susan: It is not a high-end editor for sure, but it conveys what you need. We don’t have a lot of multiple people in things at the same time with what we do and with whom we serve. So, that might be why I haven’t seen it. But you can also, you can lock them. You can lock the Notebooks so that others can’t edit, and that could help prevent that problem work around.

Amber: Yeah. We used to see them quite a bit with clients for that feature you could lock it and clients couldn’t touch it, but they could still see it in their project.

Susan: Other people have said, “Oh, well, then anybody could just edit the Notebooks, and you wouldn’t know.” There is an audit trail on them. You can go back to the versions and you can see who changed it. So if that’s a concern, you have that as a backup for you.

Amber: One more question before we wind down the hour. Thank you, Susan, so much for answering all these. Are you using any of the Slack integration features?

Susan: We do. We do. I have Teamwork set up in there. I’m going to pull my Slack over just now so I can answer the question better because it helps me to look. But the Teamwork notifications come in to our Slack for me. Also, HubSpot notifications come in for me if you’re one of those users as well. I love having that my notifications go there instead of having to look in my email or anything else. I’m in my Slack way more than I am in my email. And it cuts down on the email.

It’s great if you have used the Slack integration; you literally can click on it and it will take you straight to the task. Or you can even reply to it in there, too, which is kind of cool. I think too, there was a question about any of the Teamwork communication features.

I’m not a big fan of Teamwork chat. I mean if you’re using it, if your team is only internal, it might be an alternative. We’ve always used the free version of Slack, so it didn’t matter much. And we are in so many other Slack accounts because we’re talking with so many different people that using Teamwork chat just really wouldn’t be of benefit to us. It is also a lot easier if you’re pulling somebody in that’s not in Teamwork because they’re used to that being a more community worldwide type tool.

Amber: Someone asked me if we use the chat the other day, and I’m like, “I forgot that was even there.”

Closing Remarks and Session Conclusion

All right, well, we are at the hour. We so enjoyed your company, Susan, and appreciate you sharing all of the processes we need to create magic at the end of the day.

Susan: Well, thank you so much.

Amber: If you have any follow-up questions you didn’t ask or didn’t get a chance to, head over to Slack. Susan’s in there. We’d all be happy to share any insights there. Thank you, everybody. We’ll see you next month.

Susan: Thanks, ya’ll. Bye.

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