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5 business tools to plan, predict, and grow
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When we started M&R in 2008, we weren’t given a book of processes to follow or a set of business tools to use. We were less than 5 years out of college and what we lacked in experience, we made up for in hard work and a deep desire to figure it out, whatever “it” was that day. As our team grew, we quickly learned that delegation would be crucial to our growth, and to delegate well, we would need more structure and processes.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve built structure and defined processes in five key areas:

  1. Strategy
  2. Sales
  3. Project Management
  4. Operations
  5. Culture

Here’s a look at the tools we use in each key area and how they help us plan, predict, and grow.

#1: Strategy: Marketing Plan

Company growth is good, but strategic growth is better. Each October, our internal marketing team initiates a five-step process to ensure our marketing efforts are generating the right leads and are aligned with our sales team goals.

  1. We evaluate the current year’s efforts, which includes a meeting with sales to analyze several key areas, including:
    • New clients divided by market
    • Referral sources
    • Website analytics
    • Website health and ranking review
    • Total sales by service department and client revenue categories
    • Overall performance of all marketing channels
  2. We engage in discovery, where we review our master document that includes our marketing strategy, 1-year plan, 3-year picture, and 10-year target, we determine our central messaging for the upcoming year, and review our notes from step one.
  3. We create our marketing plan. This includes our budget, marketing channels, organization of required creative for the year, and a presentation to the sales team.
  4. We schedule our creative projects for the entire year.
  5. We begin production, utilizing our in-house creative team for design, dev, copy, and digital needs. We set a goal of having all projects for Q1 of the upcoming year completed by the close of the current year.

It’s always important to listen to the market and be ready to pivot. Our marketing and sales departments meet monthly to review the results of our marketing. This meeting includes a review of new clients and their referral source, notifies the sales team of our current marketing efforts to better equip them for follow-up, and we discuss any tweaks that need to be made to the plan.

#2: Sales: Hubspot

An important part of prediction is data. Our sales team utilizes Hubspot to track all proposals, interactions, make update notes to the proposal, track our current proposal revenue, and track our close rate for leads and clients. By understanding our proposal revenue and the average time it takes to close a deal, we can predict future revenue.

If you don’t currently use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, Hubspot is a great platform to consider; it is integral to our marketing, sales, and finance departments.

#3: Project Management: Teamwork

At any moment, we have over 500 open projects spread across four departments, owned by six different account managers, and spanning from a 20 minute web-update to a year-long, multi-faceted ad campaign. There are a lot of moving parts, and it’s all held together by our Scheduling Coordinator and Head of Production, using our project management software. We originally used Basecamp but made the switch to Teamwork about 7 years ago. If you don’t currently have a project management software, both Basecamp and Teamwork are excellent places to start your research.

Teamwork’s features are robust, and we utilize most of them:

  • Post all project details
  • Attach accompanying files
  • Select who receives notifications
  • Post project updates
  • Track over/under metrics on time allotted to projects
  • Assign tasks and to-dos
  • Set due dates for each project phase
  • Review production team member hour load

Teamwork is central to ensuring our projects are completed on-time and in line with the client’s vision and goals.

#4: Operations: EOS

I could write a book about how our business changed when we began using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). In 2019, we began searching for a system to help organize our yearly growth goals, cast vision for M&R’s future, align our teams, and set healthy meeting rhythms. We had grown from 2 co-founders to 20+ creatives, spread across 6 departments, with seniors running each department. We needed a system to keep us moving in the same direction.

We connected with an EOS Implementor, whose job is to help businesses implement this system. Our Implementer had decades of business ownership experience, grown teams, acquired companies, and recently exited his own company. Through his tutelage, we improved in three major areas: company growth, company alignment, and meeting rhythms.

  1. Our company growth is measured, in addition to revenue goals, through the “rocks” we complete each year. After setting a 1-year plan, each department creates quarterly goals, called rocks, that get us one step closer to our 1-year plan. Our rocks are the most important tasks that need to be completed that quarter. The design department rocks will look different than the finance department rocks, but they both move M&R one step closer to accomplishing our 1-year plan.
  2. Our company alignment primarily occurs through working toward our shared goals, which are stored in two main areas – our scorecard and our VTO. Each department has a scorecard, which are the most important numbers for them to calculate and review each week, such as billable production hours, errors, over/under, revenue, etc. Secondly, we are aligned through the EOS tool known as the Vision / Traction Organizer, or VTO. This houses our marketing strategy, niche, ideal client, 1-year plan, 3-year picture, 10-year target, quarterly rocks, and more. This document is reviewed as a full team every quarter.
  3. Our meeting rhythms have been transformed through EOS. Every department has a weekly meeting with a structured agenda. Every team member has a quarterly conversation with their leader, in addition to their annual review. And every quarter we have a full-team meeting to review the past quarter, discuss the current quarter, and cast vision for where we are headed in the future. This meeting structure ensures our time is well spent, avoids the “got a minute?” meetings, and keeps everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.

#5: Culture: RAFT Team

Every Monday-Friday, we spend more waking hours at the office than we do at home, and we all want to spend time with people we respect, trust, and enjoy working alongside.

Team chemistry has been a priority from day one, and by focusing on our culture, we are able to get better as a team each day. When our team was small and packed into one, open office, it was easier to stay connected. But as the team grew, the office expanded to two floors, half our team began using offices with doors, and 30% of our team became remote, maintaining the tight-knit culture became more challenging.

Enter RAFT, short for Recreation and Fun Team, aka our culture team. They plan our monthly meals, bi-monthly team hangs, holiday parties, quarterly volunteering opportunities, help celebrate their co-workers’ birthdays and workaversaries, and make M&R a fun and healthy place to work.

Moving Toward an Exciting Future, Together

Each business has a set of tools that keep them running smoothly, and I’ve shared five of ours. As we continue to grow, other tools will be introduced, but these five have seen us through the last handful of years. We are grateful for our colleagues, friends, and coaches who have pointed us in the right direction along the way.