How to Improve Your Marketing and Generate New Leads in the Restoration Industry
Corbin Smith
When COVID-19 hit, one of the first expenses restoration businesses began questioning was their marketing spend. After all, in hard times, cash should be spent just on keeping the lights on, right? It’s a difficult task to navigate, but arguably one of the most important things you can do to keep your business strong during this pandemic is have a strong presence where your customers are. In our recent webinar, expert marketing panelists John Braun of HitMan Advertising, Trina Lo of FreshInk Communications, and Timothy Miller of Business Development Group, gave us some insight into how you can accelerate your marketing in the restoration industry during this global pandemic. Here’s how you can finish 2020 strong by understanding how your marketing can help you navigate the turbulent waters that is the global economy right now. What an Average Day Should Look Like for the Marketing Department During COVID-19 For starters, it’s important to remember that just because there is a pandemic, it’s not an excuse to throw away all the hard work the sales and marketing team has accomplished up until this point. Don’t let your team use COVID-19 as a way to get out of conducting regular sales calls. The fact is, Zoom should be second nature at this point. As Timothy Miller of Business Development Associates urges, “Sales people do not use the Coronavirus epidemic to avoid doing the hard work of getting on the phone and working your sales process [...] it’s very important they continue the same process that got them there”. Maintaining your regular sales and marketing processes even during the pandemic will ensure that business relationships and partners are still strong post-covid. Take the time to market not only to potential future clients, but also past clients. There are likely services your construction and restoration company still offers during COVID. Many clients don’t even realize a lot of those services are available, so reach out to your past clients with phone calls, emails, and Zoom meetings. Use the opportunity to check in, because you never know what work a person might need completed during these times. How to Build Relationships Digitally as a Marketer Building relationships can be tricky, even when we’re not in a global pandemic. When those relationships are suddenly moved online in the blink of an eye it becomes even more of a challenge. As marketers, how can we reach out to people online and continue to build those relationships? When we get bored, many of us gravitate towards social media and being active online. As marketers, you can use this to your advantage. Going where the people are (virtually, of course), will let them know that you’re still there and still open during this pandemic. Many people aren’t actively seeking out the services your company provides because they might not realize you’re open. Having a strong voice and a strong online presence will help your team continue to build relationships with present and future customers. If you want to take an even more assertive role in community building, host your own Zoom party. This is a great way to maintain some of your current relationships, and meet some new friends. Rather than staying quiet and waiting for the storm to pass, bring some of your past clients (or potential clients) into a Zoom room and chat about how you can help them during this time, and hopefully, how they can help you. Clients will remember that you were the ones there during hard times and they will appreciate that, Trina Lo of FreshInk Communications says, “One or two little nuggets can be remembered for a lifetime in a business”. Marketing Tools That Every Restoration Company Should Utilize It’s easy to get lost trying to decide what software platforms are the best fit to help your company succeed on the marketing side. Our panelists John Braun of HitMan Advertising, and Timothy Miller, helped name some of the best tools to stay on top of your marketing in the restoration industry: A solid CRM software like HubSpot Video Conferencing Software such as Zoom Lead Generation Applications like GetResponse Xactimate, QuickBooks Email Marketing Platforms like AWeber, ConstantContact To help the organization, efficiency, and reliability of your business, you should use KnowHow! Which Marketing Platforms are Working Best Right Now The best platforms to broadcast your company's message are always fluctuating, and depend on your audience. As marketers, it’s important to stay educated on which of those platforms are currently strong, and which ones are weak, in the eyes of your audience. We all have a lot of time on our hands right now, so social media is inevitably going to increase as a viable marketing platform because people are spending so much of their time scrolling their news feeds. Within the various social media channels, the platform that has opened up as a major marketing platform for smaller businesses is Facebook Advertising. Pre-COVID, Facebook Advertising had been quite expensive, but ad prices have recently dropped, creating room for other businesses. Many large corporations have pulled their ads from Facebook Advertising thanks to the drop in consumer spending due to the pandemic. As Trina of FreshInk Communications explains, “A lot of the major players with the big expensive products aren’t really spending their money there right now, because not a lot of people are buying brand new cars. Those types of companies pulled out of a lot of their digital marketing strategies, so different sizes of companies now have more opportunity and more ground to play with there”. Marketing during a pandemic can be stressful and daunting. With the right tools and tactics available to you, it’s possible to help your business stay strong and resourceful through these times. Thanks again to our panelists Trina, John, and Timothy, for helping us break down the world of marketing during an era of physical distancing and COVID-19. KnowHow is the easiest way to provide remote and dispersed teams with instant access to all of your company's processes and 'how-to' workflows - and know if they are following them. Simple to use and set up, KnowHow is the tool you need to ensure your remote team is productive and effective. With KnowHow, team members work confidently, productively and in compliance - available on desktop and mobile. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. We are also excited to announce that KnowHow is officially live on the Apple App and Google Play Stores.
How Leaders and CEOs Can Keep Themselves and their Teams Healthy
Corbin Smith
Leadership, like countless other things, is impossible to master. Even the greatest leaders of our time are always looking for opportunities to learn and improve on their leadership skills - in fact, that's often what makes them such great leaders. Every situation requires unique action, tone, and energy in order to forge a path forward. This pandemic has done just that: created a very unique situation that business leaders around the world have had to adapt to, and learn from. Those who understand that growing in leadership is a never-ending process have taken this opportunity to learn from what’s going on and lead their teams better during these trying times. KnowHow was fortunate enough to have two individuals with decades of leadership experience unpack how you can better lead your team, and yourself, through tough times. Jeff McManus and Dennis McIntee are internationally-recognized authors and speakers who specialize in leadership development. Here’s what our leadership experts had to say about leading during a pandemic, guiding yourself, and framing failure in a new light. Signs That a Leader is Becoming Worn Out COVID-19 has been tough on everyone in the workforce. It’s been especially trying for individuals in management and decision-making positions. These are unprecedented times we are living in, and there’s no guidebook on how to lead your team through a pandemic that essentially shuts down the economy. As a result of this, it’s very common for leaders to become tired and burnt out. As a leader, it’s critical to be aware of the possible signs that you’re losing steam. What are some of these warning signs? Dreading coming into work Exhaustion Feeling disengaged Lack of enthusiasm Uninterested in daily work As a leader, a great way to tell if your team is feeling worn out is by paying attention to their body language and how they are communicating. Understanding and addressing this will help create a sustainable work culture through difficult times. Dennis McIntee, president of Leadership Development Group, says that “The first step to creating culture is understanding language. Language defines culture. Once I understand language, or I can create new language, it really starts to define my culture”. If, as a leader, you happen to be feeling any of those signs, or notice your team is starting to become reactive and low energy, it might be time to start looking for ways to rejuvenate yourself and your team. How to Bring Your Team Together During Hard Times Almost every work team has been pushed apart in some ways by this pandemic. It has forced many teams to adapt, start working from home, and become more distant than usual. Even as restrictions start to loosen, and team members begin coming back into office, there will be plenty of changes and new guidelines to follow that individuals might be uneasy about. As leaders, what’s the best way to bring the team “together”, and help ease any nervousness about new guidelines? As Dennis McIntee says, “During this time we have to over-communicate, just when you think you’re saying it enough, you aren’t saying it enough”. One of the best ways to make your team feel connected with each other, even while apart, is maintaining communication. No one enjoys being left in the dark. As a leader, constantly communicating what’s going on internally with all employees can promote a feeling of togetherness. It’s equally important to continue to communicate the “why” of the company. Remind employees what the values and mission of the company are. Teams work better together when they are all working toward a common goal, and when that goal is clear and known. Communicating the “why”, as leaders, can spark motivation where maybe it was lacking. Intentionally reaching out and maintaining relationships with employees can also spark a feeling of togetherness, and shows that you care. Jeff McManus, author of “Turning Weeders into Leaders”, says “As a leader, you should be intentionally reaching out and checking on people if they’re not working. See how they’re doing, and keep them updated”. Four Factors That Affect Your Stress as a Leader It’s no secret that being a leader comes with numerous stressors. Understanding that there are ways to reduce that stress can help you become a more efficient, proactive, and energetic leader. Using the AIRE technique is a great way to start learning how to deal with and reduce a lot of your daily stress. “Attitude”- Trying to control the events or the way a situation turns out can only create more stress. The one thing you can control is your attitude, and monitoring what that attitude becomes can reduce a lot of stress. “Inputs”- There are tons of outside factors that contribute to stress. For example, too much negative social media content or breaking news stories can create an emotional frenzy that increases stress during your day. Monitor those, and take them in small bursts. “Response”- As a leader, controlling how you respond to situations is vital. Responding negatively or not at all can cause stress to build up. Responding positively and professionally is key as a leader. “Effort”- Leadership boils down to the effort you put in. Being uninterested or unenthusiastic are not characteristics of a great leader, put the effort in and your employees will thank you. Reducing personal stress is something a lot of leaders forget about because they have so much on their plate. Monitoring and paying attention to those four things can be really helpful for a leader who has lots of stress in their lives. Determining who the Leaders are in Your Organization Leaders need help. No leader is able to lead a team all by themselves, and effectively raising up and empowering new leaders gives you greater opportunity to work in your areas of strength! Being able to identify those in your organization that can help you lead can save you a lot of time and stress. The top three things to look for in potential leaders are: Engagement Coachability Character Jeff McManus uses the expression, “I can give them the keys to the store so to speak, and not worry about it”, when he finds those individuals who best exemplify those qualities. If you want to continue learning from our amazing leadership panelists, Dennis McIntee and Jeff McManus, check out the full webinar here! KnowHow is a software that can help you and your business be more productive and sustainable by putting all your companies ‘how-to’ into one spot. Check out our demo, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn!
Leading Your Team Through a Global Pandemic
Travis Parker Martin
Leading a company is no easy task, even during the best of times. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and all the sudden being a CEO and having to lead a team through unprecedented times becomes exhausting, stressful, and at best challenging. However, as one of our recent webinar panelists Mark Springer quoted from the late John Wayne, “Courage is being scared spitless, and saddling up anyway”. It takes a lot of courage to be a CEO, and KnowHow was lucky enough to host three of the most courageous CEO’s out there in our recent webinar ‘How are Restoration Industry CEO’s Responding to COVID-19’. Our panel of restoration industry CEOs included Rich Wilson of Paul Davis Restoration, Mark Springer of the Restoration Industry Association, and Dan Cassara of CORE Group. Here’s what our expert panel had to say: How CEOs Have Responded to the Challenges of COVID-19 This pandemic has been challenging for everyone, to say the least. COVID-19 has impacted businesses of all sizes, and as a result, this has created many new obstacles which CEOs must face head-on. So how are leaders responding to such adversity? As the President & CEO of Paul Davis Restoration, Rich Wilson believes education is the first response to the challenges of COVID-19. Education and continuous learning has always been an important factor, especially in the construction or restoration industries, but with the incredible health concerns in every work environment now, it’s become more important than ever. Educate your clients first and foremost, but also your employees, on any new procedures, regulations, and how you are going to keep them safe during this pandemic. It’s also important to educate the leaders making financial decisions for your business. During a global pandemic like COVID-19, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page in regards to how the company's cash flow is being utilized. Your team will not only listen to what you say, but also how you carry yourself during this uncertain time. Honesty, connecting, and checking in with employees as much as possible shows you care about your team as a leader. People are stressed out during these times, and as a CEO it’s important to show your employees that you care about their well-being. Being honest with them will not only put the situation in perspective, but also bring the team closer together. Dan Cassara, CEO of CORE Group, says that, “Keeping a pulse on how [COVID-19] is affecting the overall team is really important”. Take the time to check in with your team to see how this pandemic is affecting them, and be honest about how the company could be impacted by it. While connecting with your team, you’ll likely encounter a lot of nervousness - and that’s okay. Managing fears, in response to this pandemic is vital to your team’s success. There is a lot of fear going around related to the virus, so how can you lead your team through that? As a leader, Mark Springer advisest saying, “Okay, I’m scared, but here’s how we’re going to take decisive action”. Figuring out a plan, and executing it as soon as possible can show your team that you recognize (but are not paralyzed by) fear, and help them take a step toward succeeding during a global crisis, both as individuals and as a business. How Can CEOs Keep Themselves Healthy During These Stressful Times When dealing with the craziness of running a business, somebody’s physical or mental health can be one of the first things to waver. This is even more important when times are stressful, and leading a company during this pandemic definitely constitutes as stressful. Here’s how our panel of CEOs are staying healthy physically and mentally during the pandemic: Meditating Bike riding Spending quality family time Working on building relationships, new and old, inside and outside of work Separating your work load into top priorities Dan says that, “This is a time not just professionally, but personally, where you kind of have a pause. It really is a moment for us to be able to re-calibrate”. Taking the time to do the things you’ve wanted to do while you have the time can make you a stronger leader professionally. The Most Significant Business Opportunities COVID-19 Has Introduced COVID-19 has only been around a short while, but we’re already seeing the changes it’s making to businesses across the country, and the new opportunities it’s creating. Dan Cassara says COVID-19 is changing the way we do business, “I think that forcing the entire world to be at home has created personal and professional paradigms for all of us, and quite frankly, this might be the start of new ways of doing business”. There’s no doubt that as businesses and the ways of doing business slowly morph, new opportunities will present themselves. What are some of these new opportunities, and as leaders, how can we adapt to this? COVID-19 has presented a tremendous opportunity to grow business relationships, so that when this pandemic does pass, they’re stronger when we come out the other side. Strong relationships can undoubtedly benefit businesses of all sizes in the restoration industry. As Mark Springer of the Restoration Industry Association says, “One of the greatest opportunities our business development team has right now is to forge and build new relationships that otherwise they may never have had before. I brought this up to the team and they said, that is so true, I talked to this CSR at this insurance agency who normally would give me 2 minutes, we talked for 30 minutes. For the first time ever.” This pandemic has created a huge opportunity to implement technology further into restoration businesses. There is a growing need for 3D imaging, especially in the construction and restoration industry now that physically going into homes is becoming less viable due to COVID restrictions. It’s important to pay attention to feedback when implementing new procedures, such as the use of technology, into a business model. Taking the time to engage with customers and listen to feedback on the many changes and seeing what’s working, and what isn’t, is critical for you and your team to come out of this stronger as a business. As Dan Cassara says, “We are being very cognizant of the things that we’re doing now, and trying to figure out what works, what doesn't work, and bringing those things to our clients and saying hey, this could potentially be your reality going forward”. Being a leader is never easy, and takes tremendous amounts of hard work, energy, passion, and courage. Thanks to these inspiring individuals, Mark Springer, Dan Cassara, and Rich Wilson, we all gained amazing insight into what it takes to be a leader during a global pandemic. To continue learning from these amazing panelists, you can watch the full webinar here. KnowHow is a software that can help you and your business be more productive and sustainable by putting all your companies ‘how-to’ into one spot. Check out our demo, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn!
Maintaining Business Operations During a Pandemic
Corbin Smith
At the onset of 2020, the world was introduced to COVID-19, more commonly referred to as the coronavirus. It’s no secret that over the past few months, industries have been experiencing the immense shockwaves as a direct result of the virus. It has forced companies to adapt, change, and learn new ways of doing business day in and day out. It’s no different for businesses in the construction and restoration industries, who’ve had to drastically alter their business models to accommodate this “new normal”. You might be thinking to yourself, what does that look like? What does my business, or my employer, need to do to really get their feet back on the ground during this pandemic? In our recent webinar, we brought in some of the industries most experienced and knowledgeable operations experts as panelists, Chuck Violand of Violand Management Associates, and Trace Larsen of Utah Disaster Kleenup. They sat down and shared with us their insight into how they have adapted their business operations to not only function during COVID-19, but succeed. How COVID-19 Has Exposed Problem Areas in Businesses We know that operations in construction and restoration businesses have changed dramatically, but how does this affect work done on the ground? For Chuck Violand, he is taking this time to re-evaluate the inefficiencies that existed in his business before COVID-19 even began. He believes that, “In addition to the specific things with COVID-19, I think what it’s done is expose issues that existed before this that are getting addressed now”. Taking the time to evaluate how your company functions during a crisis is key to evaluating how to change and adapt your operations to be better in the future. A major surprise for many restoration business owners was how quickly the volume of work slowed down. At the same time however, a whole new service that needed to be provided came steamrolling into the limelight: disinfection services. It just so happened that restoration companies fell into the crosshairs of being among the most qualified to deliver those services. Trace Larsen discussed how he managed to deal with the drop in work, and also getting his business prepared to deliver a whole new service and the changes in operation that required. “You had to shift on the fly. Deal with a slow incoming of your day-to-day core competency work, and now learn how to handle the new incoming work”. For many in the restoration industry, cash flow has needed to be redirected significantly. For example, prioritizing Personal Protective Equipment became a lot more important, as restoration company owners had to provide their workers with the essential PPE they needed to stay safe on the job. The Most Important Values for a Successful Business During COVID-19 For many restoration businesses out there, a culture of accountability is the backbone of all operations. Yet, COVID-19 brought to light the need to hold accountable an even higher level of safety, cleanliness, and care for customers' property. According to Chuck Violand, that has to come from the top. “The first person we have to look at for accountability is us! As the leaders or owners of an organization we have to set the standard”. Accountability starts with managers and leaders, because you can’t expect employees to do something their leaders aren’t. Second only to accountability, is education. While there will always be a level of explaining towards a customer, COVID-19 just added another level, another step. Trace Larsen breaks down his customer education during this time as “We’re explaining our methods, what we’ll do, what their expectation can be, and a lot of disclaimers.” Tips to Avoid Accounts Receivable Problems With Clients For many business owners and individuals during this pandemic, money has been unsurprisingly tight. As a result, many business owners in the restoration industry find it challenging to manage their accounts receivables right now. According to Trace and Chuck, here are a few helpful tips to avoid accounts receivable problems: Always refer to, and keep fundamental documentation of the agreed upon terms. Don’t forget respect and kindness during these times. Everyone is struggling, and everyone can use a little extra compassion. Work together as a team to come to an agreement moving forward. Don’t be afraid to explain to a customer that you are still a business and still need money to operate. “A lot of it has to do with how you deliver the message, as it does with the message that’s delivered”. - Chuck Violand What do Sales and Pricing Look Like in Times of COVID-19? With many physical distancing measures put in place by both local and federal governments, it makes face-to-face sales and estimating next to impossible. Thankfully, our panelists Trace and Chuck had valuable insights on how to adjust your sales tactics during this pandemic. The short answer? Get creative. There’s really no wrong way to run a sales team right now (except face-to-face), and thinking outside the box can make or break many opportunities. At Utah Disaster Kleenup, Trace Larsen is ensuring his sales staff stay busy by helping elsewhere for the time being: loading trucks, helping with paperwork, whatever helps keep the company productive. In addition, using video and online applications like LinkedIn to expand your network is a great way to connect with people and still provide engaging, quality content and information to potential clients. If you are successful in closing deals, is it necessary to adjust prices and charge much more for the same services? According to our panelists, this is a bad idea. It’s important to keep a handle on your costs, and if you’re fluctuating and adjusting your prices, you’ll never know if you’re making money or not. As a result, despite the volatility, Chuck Violand and Trace Larsen feel it’s important to maintain pricing as is. In the restoration industry, most business operations have been put through the ringer during this pandemic. Thanks to our amazing panelists, Chuck Violand and Trace Larsen, we are all able to better navigate the waters. KnowHow can help you and your business be more productive and sustainable by putting all your companies ‘how-to’ into one spot. Check out our demo, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn!
Adapting Your Sales Team for COVID-19 in the Restoration Industry
Travis Parker Martin
Every industry was affected one way or another by COVID-19, but construction companies that leverage door-to-door sales have found themselves at a particular disadvantage when generating new leads to help stem their much needed cash flow issues during the pandemic. As a result of physical distancing measures rolled out all across the country, many companies have been forced to get creative in order to continue to meet new customers and grow their business. With handshakes and door-knocking no longer acceptable, how are some of the top sales leaders in the construction industry adapting their teams and tactics to this new reality? Recently, KnowHow assembled an all-star panel of sales leaders and advisors to help break down how any construction company can unlock new opportunities in the midst of a pandemic to grow their sales. Here are some of the biggest takeaways: Leverage the Best Digital Tools Out There Zoom meetings are quickly becoming industry standard for connecting with customers and potential customers, but that’s only the tip of the technology iceberg that’s available for salespeople to use to stay top of mind when in-person meetings are off the table. One of the tactics Sam Taggart, founder of The D2D Experts is advising his clients to use is the traditional voicemail, but with a modern twist. Via text or Facebook Messenger, a simple video message for a specific client goes a long way. “Think of Marco Polo: ‘let me watch it in my due time, but I am going to watch it.’” Not only does this let the client know you’re thinking of them, but it puts them in control of when and where that happens. However, if you want to stay front of mind, video messaging is just the tip of the iceberg. As Sam describes it, using the power of Facebook Ads, “if I have a name, phone, or e-mail, I can show up on their screen when I want to and when I choose to. It could literally be, these 15 e-mails, I want to target. Now all of a sudden, you’re talking to them as they’re scrolling through Instagram.” Then, when you go to show up for your first Zoom meeting with them, they’re like “you’re the guy!” Talk about an easy way to ensure that you’re everywhere, even though you’re actually stuck at home. Yet when it comes to leverage existing digital tools, the software sweeping the industry right now is Matterport, a 3D Camera and Virtual Tour app that is rolling out across the US. As Jacklyn Christian unpacked in our webinar, innovative companies like Paul Davis Restoration are using Matterport to gather clients, property managers, and adjusters and showcase the services they provide while still maintaining social distancing. Get Creative with Non-Digital Options It’s said that constraints breed creativity, and few salespeople have experienced more constraints than what 2020 has brought so far. For John Monroe of Violand Management, creativity has looked like advising his clients to not abandon their sales routes too quickly, just because they can’t knock on doors. “We’re all door-knockers. For a door-knocker, not being able to do that? Wow, that’s like taking a fish out of water.” Some of the alternative ideas that they’ve come up with include physically going door-to-door, but instead of knocking on doors, calling prospective customers from your car. Assuming you have phone numbers on hand, this is a great way to ensure you still are thorough in canvassing a neighborhood. But what if you don’t have phone numbers? According to Sam, the pandemic has the opportunity to be a great icebreaker. “I have clients that knock on the door, but then stand back with a 6-foot measuring tape out and say ‘Don’t worry! I’m 6 feet away!’ The homeowner laughs and says ‘we’re all in this together - let’s talk.” Keep your team motivated Ultimately though, teams are just a combination of different humans, working together to accomplish an agreed upon goal. That’s why, while brainstorming different tactics can be effective, first and foremost, leaders need to care for their people, who all react to uncertainty differently. “Us extroverts, we just need to talk and talk and talk”, reminds Jacklyn Christian. If your sales team is isolated at home, they are likely not getting their quota of energizing conversations. “The biggest thing for extroverts is picking up that darn phone, asking probing questions, and being in a supportive role just listening to them talk.” Yet, just because the era we’re in is uncertain doesn’t mean that accountability goes out the window. “Your CRM doesn’t go away during this times,” says John Monroe. “The metrics have to stay in place, and as a manager yes, you have to be sensitive, but we still need accountability.” For Violand Management, this means creating a step-by-step, daily task list on the things sales teams should be doing every day. Having the structure of well-documented processes means that employees wake up in the morning and still know what’s expected of them, even though their surroundings look different than what they’re used to. Staying Focused on the Future The situation around us changes every day, and your job as a leader in the restoration industry is to help your team weather the storm, while keeping in mind your financial commitments as a business. We want to help at KnowHow. Just as John mentioned, the best way to ensure your sales operations continue to run smoothly is to clearly define expectations and the work set out in front of your team. Sign up today for a 30-day free trial of our process hub for teams at http://tryknowhow.com.
Platform Calgary’s Junction Program to Pilot KnowHow’s Software to Support Calgary Startups
Travis Parker Martin
KnowHow and Platform Calgary are collaborating to empower Calgary-based startups participating in Platform Calgary’s Junction program. In addition to using KnowHow’s software to support the delivery of the Junction program, all entrepreneurs accepted into Junction’s Spring 2020 cohort will receive a $500 Credit to KnowHow, a mission-critical software that helps growing companies improve staff productivity. “In order for Calgary to become a global tech powerhouse, we need to equip founders with what they need to refine their ideas, find product/market fit, and then give them resources and guidance to scale their solution to the world” said Leighton Healey, CEO of KnowHow. Junction is Platform Calgary’s 9 week residency program that helps entrepreneurs build a strong foundation to scale their startup. “We’ve designed Junction to help founders organize their business, articulate their value proposition clearly and develop a growth roadmap for their next 12-18 months,” said David Yiptong, Director of Programs at Platform Calgary. “We are always keen to provide Junction Founders with a value add and are excited to be piloting Calgary startup KnowHow for the next cohort.” Born out of a Silicon Valley-based technology accelerator itself, KnowHow’s platform for centralizing company processes was built specifically to help businesses scale their systems and equip employees to work with confidence as they grow. “We’ve benefitted by experienced entrepreneurs guiding us and giving us the tools we need to succeed” said Leighton Healey, “that’s why we’re so thrilled to be partnering with Platform Calgary to support the next generation of high-growth tech startups in our city.” About KnowHow: Based in Calgary, AB, KnowHow is a platform for managers to share step-by-step processes with their teams. Launched in December 2019, KnowHow is a central source of truth for all of a company’s internal know-how, equipping employees with what they need, when they need it. About Platform Calgary: Platform Calgary’s mandate is to work collaboratively to transform Calgary’s economy and identity by fostering a movement to create hundreds of innovation-driven, highly scalable companies. Platform provides access to education, coaching and connections that help people gain the entrepreneurial and technical skills needed to thrive in the new economy, helping startups grow and scale. Calgary’s new Platform Innovation Centre is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2021. Located in the East Village on 9th Ave SE, the physical space will serve as a visible and active hub for Calgary’s startup and innovation ecosystem, bringing an additional 50,000 feet of public access space to serve the community. For more information about how you can get involved and help shape innovation in Calgary, visit www.platformcalgary.com.
How to Build the Perfect Process on KnowHow
Travis Parker Martin
One of the best things you can give your employees is a clear roadmap to accomplishing their best work. Doing so gives you confidence that your team is working in the right direction, while also empowering them, knowing that they’re having a tangible impact in their jobs. This is why we built KnowHow: to help managers equip their employees with everything they need in order to succeed at work. In this blog article, I’ll detail how to make the most of KnowHow’s “create process” tool. The key to the right work being done is clear, actionable guidance in easy digestible steps. With KnowHow, giving every employee a step-by-step guide to accomplish the task at hand is one of the best ways you can improve their work, and yours! Create a Title and Description The Right Title In productivity philosophy, the best name for a task is one that describes what the end state (or promised land) will be, once this task has been accomplished. These almost always start with verbs, such as Run a UX Testing Session, or Report Monthly Blog Analytics. Once a team member has completed this process, they will have successfully ran a UX testing session or reported the monthly blog analytics. Conversely, a name like Blog Analytics is much less effective. Ex: Update content calendar for the next month Ex: Send an update e-mail to new users Ex: Close store at the end of the night Choosing an Image When we interviewed managers and employees while building KnowHow, they told us that, when searching for the right information, they often look for visual cues (as opposed to reading the text of every process). For this reason, including a thumbnail that accurately reflects the subject material is critical. If you don’t have any available, websites such as Unsplash or Freepik have great, high-quality stock images available for you to use for free. If you want to add your own custom branding onto the image, here is a template we built for you. Description (What’s Your Why?) Another insight we unlocked during our interviews with managers was that most of the time, employees didn’t follow the right process because they didn’t know what that process was. However, equally vital was employees understanding why this process was important to follow. The description is your opportunity in a paragraph or two to explain to your team members why this process is worth following, or any additional details they’ll need before they get started. Take advantage of this space to not only equip your team with the how, but also ensuring they’re bought into the why. Add Steps This is the meat and potatoes of process building: breaking down the process into clear, actionable steps that your team can follow and implement. A few best practices before we go into the details on everything you can do on KnowHow: Break down steps to the smallest size possible. Mentally, it’s far easier to begin work on a task that is clearly understandable and seems accomplishable Don’t assume knowledge. Ideally, your process is the only thing an employee would need in order to successfully complete a task, so all details necessary for completion should be included Like the process name, every task name should start with a verb Title Your Task This should be fairly self-explanatory, no need to go into greater detail. Make it clear and actionable. See below for examples. Ex. Lock the doors at 9pm Ex. Attach files to e-mail and click ‘send’ Ex. Log into Hubspot Describe How to Complete Your Task You’ve just titled your task with an action item - this is where you unpack how they can accomplish that action item. For example, if the task is “Download PostSQL”, you would include information about where they could download PostSQL, or any additional info they would need in order to do so. We’ve added the ability for markup text, meaning you can bold, add bullet points or lists, and a variety of other options for you to emphasize the points you need as you equip your employees. Add URL With the Add URL function, you can directly link to any websites (such as, PostSQL’s website), or cloud documents hosted in places like Google Drive or Dropbox (among others). Additionally, KnowHow automatically embeds YouTube or Loom videos. With Loom, you can film a short video instruction for your co-workers and then easily embed it into a KnowHow process. Time to Complete This field is optional, and allows you to give your co-workers an accurate understanding of how long it will take for them to complete a specific task. This could give them the extra motivation they need to get started, knowing that a specific process could hypothetically take less than a half an hour from start to finish! Add Tags Finally, the last step is to make it easier for your team to find your process. Tags help add keywords to your process, ensuring that whatever it is that your employees are searching for, finding the right information is only a few seconds away. We’ve made it easy to standardize your tags across the organization by suggesting common tags your company with our auto-complete feature. This allows you to easily group your teams’ processes together if they are related to the same topic. And That’s It! A well-built process saves you more and more time the longer it exists. By taking the time to clearly define what will be accomplished, and detailing exactly how to get there, you’ll give your employees the ability to work with confidence, and you’ll have more of your own time available to work “on the business”, as opposed to “in the business”. Enter your e-mail in the form below to get started!
How to Scale & Grow Your Business Through a Culture of Processes
Travis Parker Martin
Any startup founder or small business owner that has read Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited will be familiar with the concept of working on your business vs working in your business. The former means planning out high-level strategy, determining growth objectives, and goal-setting, while the latter usually consists of running day-to-day operations, putting out fires, and delivering whatever product or service you offer. Most startups and small businesses fail to grow because their managers spend too much time working in the business as opposed to working on the business. Yet, ask manager currently drowning in tasks, and they’d agree that they’d love to work on their business more, but it’s a luxury they don’t have because of everything else on their plate. The Power of Systems and Processes While finding time to work on their business, rather than in their business, is a challenge every business owner has to overcome, those that have found the ability to do so rely on the power of systems and processes to get there. The gap in between where your business is, and where you want it to be, is always created by the absence of systems, according to Michael Gerber. By developing and codifying the processes, routines, and the systems you follow to work in your business, you can create capacity for yourself to work on your business. If habits are actions that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort in your personal life, think of processes as their workplace equivalent. The best businesses document their day-to-day how-tos: how to help a customer, how to onboard a new employee, how to run a weekly meeting, etc. Doing this has multiple benefits: Growth becomes more sustainable, as success is not reliant on the knowledge of any one employee After getting their expertise “out of their brain and onto paper”, managers have greater mental capacity to tackle higher-level business problems All employees feel empowered, as they can be leaned on to complete tasks outside their department or area of expertise Of course, the easy part in this process is agreeing it should be done. The much harder part is actually building a culture of developing systems and processes for your business. Below, I’ve unpacked the small changes business owners can begin to take today that will create a habit of documenting and sharing systems and processes in their organization, allowing them to go from working in the business, to working on it. Make everything reusable When we were building KnowHow, we met with hundreds of managers who shared with us a very similar refrain: “I’m tired of saying the same thing over and over again!” An employee would forget where to find a certain document, so their manager would e-mail them instructions on how to find it. Then a month later, that same employee couldn’t find the e-mail instructions in their inbox, so the manager would describe the process on Slack. 2 weeks later: lather, rinse, repeat. The best way to develop a culture of building systems for your business is to respond to requests as they come up, but ensure the answer you’re giving is in an evergreen format: it can be housed in a central storage place where employees can access and re-access them. Think of this as a reusable water bottle instead of a single-use plastic. By taking the time to save it somewhere centrally accessible (we recommend KnowHow 😊), you solve your problem not only today, but tomorrow as well. Empower your team to become teachers Organizations suffer when single individuals hold all the knowledge necessary to complete a task or function. Not only is this incredibly risky (what if that individual falls ill, or realizes how valuable they are to the success of your company and begins to use it as leverage?), it creates bottlenecks up and down the organization. However, you can use your employees’ expertise as an advantage by framing them as teachers, instead of mere knowledge-holders. Using a system such as KnowHow, you can empower team members to claim ownership of subjects and processes, and document their expertise to be accessed and utilized by others. By exalting them as the domain experts they are, you give them the opportunity to wield their knowledge for the organization’s benefit, contributing to the systems and processes they use on a regular basis to your company’s collective know-how. As a bonus, having them take ownership of the solution (your organization with a fully-fleshed out internal knowledge and process hub) increases the likelihood they will champion its use to other team members in your org. Maintain Compliance In my experience, once your 70% of your organization has adopted a tool (such as Slack, Sharepoint, Dropbox, or anything else), onboarding the rest of the team becomes quite easy. Lagging staff quickly realize they are missing out on conversations and resources because they are late to adopt the tool into their workflow. However, getting to that 70% threshold is tough, and relies on a combination of: Old-fashioned top-down role modelling Internal champions If you can find a few team members that believe in the value of documented systems and processes, they will lead your “bottoms-up” initiative, but you will still need to be disciplined in modelling this to the rest of the team. After all, the best systems are the ones staff actually use, and if you can demonstrate that it is just in your company’s DNA to document and share processes with each other, it will soon begin to influence your staff’s activities as well. Conclusion Creating a culture of taking the expertise of individuals out of their brain and moving it onto paper will pay dividends for years to come, but it is hard work that requires discipline, dedication, and buy-in at the team level. By focusing your efforts on creating resources that are evergreen, empowering employees to do the same, and putting in the energy to ensure the whole team sees the value and creates a habit of doing so, you will be able to free up the time for both you and your employees to shift your attention from working in your business, to working on your business.
How to Improve Employee Productivity
Leighton T Healey
Anyone that has ever led or managed people has asked themselves how they can improve the productivity of all or some of their team members. Over years of building and leading teams ranging in size, location, personality, demographic, and skill level, I have learned a great deal on the topic of improving staff productivity. Some of these lessons came from books and mentors, and others came through successes or failures. I’ve implemented a lot, and had many experiments blow up in my face. Fortunately, I’ve also experienced some big wins in the area of team productivity, in some cases leading teams to outperform the competition by a large margin. Productivity defined Let’s start with an important point of clarification. Productivity is not simply doing more work efficiently. Productivity is doing the right work in a more effective manner that can often lead to a slight or sharp increase in doing more of the right work effectively. This definition forces us to consider a few important questions: What are the ‘right things’ that my team members should be doing? What are the ‘wrong things’ that my team members should not be doing? What does ‘working effectively’ look like? Do away with the cliches We also need to throw out a number of cliche sayings and misinformation circling around the topic of productivity. Cliche saying: “All that you need to improve productivity is a goal and a deadline.'' Reality: people are not machines, input a goal and deadline, and results pop out. On top of that, the marketplace is dynamic and things rarely go according to plan. Cliche saying: “Motivating people requires either enforcement or incentive.” Reality: often referred to as ‘amoeba motivation’, in which a biologist causes a single-cell organism to move by either poking it with a needle (enforcement), or enticing it with a molecule of sugar (incentive), this basic methodology arguably may have worked in pre-19th century, but in the modern world does not draw out a person’s best work. Cliche saying: “A leader/manager’s role is to motivate their team.” Reality: any neuroscientist, therapist, or psychologist will affirm that real behavioural change requires a person to arrive at individual reasons to initiate and sustain a behaviour long-term. Don’t mistake tactics for motivating people for a couple hours with sustainable strategies that facilitate enduring productivity. Cliche saying: “When performance is off, it is due to skill or commitment”. In other words, if a team member underperforms or makes a mistake it is because they either didn’t know how to do it (skill) or chose not to do it (commitment). Reality: I tend to say this often. The truth is that in today’s fast-moving marketplace, it is just as likely that large or small external factors (trends, consumer demand, political dynamics) change the rules of the game in an instant to which we must adapt. The 9 components of productivity you can impact, and 3 you can't When you are having trouble getting improved performance out of a team member, the temptation is to throw up your hands and let HR know it’s time to fire the person. I want to challenge you to hit pause, and realize that there are nine components of productivity that you as a Manager or Leader you can influence, and that there are three that you cannot. Below I have provided a very brief definition of each component, and a turn-key tactic you can implement right away to throttle up your team’s output. The nine components of productivity you can impact: Mutual Fit: Impacting employee productivity begins in the recruiting and selection process. More often than not, a candidate’s principal concern in an interview process is ‘getting the job’. As a manager, your first priority when recruiting is to determine if there’s mutual fit: the characteristics of the position must fit the characteristics of the candidate. You must have a clear understanding of what the role entails, the personality type that will thrive in the role, the behavioural predispositions that would help or hinder someone in the role, and be clear on what are the expectations of the role. A strong interviewer learns how to clearly articulate these to a candidate while still selling the candidate on the role (as the best candidates normally require some selling). Turn-Key Tactic: define the characteristics of the role you’re hiring for, and compare them to the candidate’s goals, personality, career ambitions, and lifestyle. Clarity & Expectations As defined above, productive work is ‘activity that is first and foremost applied to the right work’. Few things are more frustrating for worker and manager than when things are done incorrectly, or unnecessary work was completed because the worker was unclear on what their work priorities were to be and what the expectations of their work product were to be. As managers and leaders it is difficult enough at times to plan out your own week’s work, but your responsibility is to not only clearly define your work priorities, but to provide a clear outline of what each team member’s work priorities are what your expectations are for the quality of their work, how long it should take them to complete tasks, and to be crystal clear on what ‘complete’ looks like. Turn-Key Tactic: block off a weekly time on the last working day of the week to assess what got done, and what didn’t get done. Determine what the company’s goals need to be next week, define your goals and work tasks, and define what each team member’s goals and key tasks need to be in light of this week’s performance. Hold a crisp, recurring team standing meeting to review this week’s goals vs actual results. Your people will experience a much more satisfying weekend when they are clear on what their priorities are for the following week and what the expectations are associated with those priorities are, so ensure everyone leaves the meeting crystal clear. Skills & Competencies You cannot expect someone to increase their productivity if they have not developed the skills required for all of the components of the tasks involved in their role. Use the following tactic to “fill in the gaps” and improve your team’s productivity. Turn-Key Tactics: Create a spreadsheet on which the horizontal column titles are all of the skills and competencies needed for the role, and the vertical column on the left, turn each row into the name of one of your staff. Conduct an audit for each staff member on whether you have observed them demonstrating that skill or competency to an acceptable level. Structure & Ritual In order for any system of moving parts to achieve optimal performance, structure and ritual are required. I’ve found the most effective management style for modern organizations is a “Tight/Loose” methodology, where leadership is “tight” on the goals, priorities, expectations, deadlines and roles, but is “loose” on how they achieve those priorities. Turn-Key Tactic: establish clear structure including goals, measurable results, reporting structure, and modes of accountability. Create rituals in your team, such as daily standing huddles by department, a results tracker, weekly 1:1 meetings between each manager and their report, and a brief end-of-week meeting focused on the key metrics you are trying to move forward. Team Culture Next only to selecting the right people, nothing has more impact on your team’s productivity than the culture you allow to grow within your team. I like to define team culture simply as “The way we do things around here”. If the ‘way’ your organization does things is ‘in an extremely productive manner’, then that is part of your culture. To raise performance, you must cultivate a culture that values high performance. To improve personal accountability to goals, you must cultivate a culture that holds achieving personal commitments in high regard. Culture is a broad topic, but when it comes to leveraging culture to improve productivity, there are several turn-key tactics you can implement right away. Turn-Key Tactics: Humans are tribal. Identify your culture champions: members of your team that have the respect of their fellow colleagues, and who reflect many of the qualities you want to instill. Take them aside, and provide a clear vision of the type of culture you want to grow on the team and invite them to be part of leading the transformation. Allow them to contribute to the vision, and schedule weekly short meetings to determine how to best cultivate and grow a culture that places high value on, among other things, high productivity. Work Environment You can improve the productivity of your team by improving the work environment. Cluttered desks and work spaces, noisy speakers, people eating at their desks, poor lighting and returning to a dirty office on Monday morning are all examples of a work environment that does not promote high productivity. Save the inspiring speech, and instead invest a day ‘optimizing the work environment for increased productivity’. Turn-Key Tactic: Set aside a generous period of time and pause all work. Have every member of your team brainstorm one or two ideas to improve the workplace environment and increase overall productivity. Be comfortable adding and vetoing as you see fit. Once this activity is complete, shift gears from brainstorming to actually implement the changes. Personal Health Every human is more productive when they are well-rested, well-fed, active, are looking after their mental health, and feel a sense of fulfillment in activities outside of work. As a manager and leader, there is an appropriate amount of inquiry that you can have into your team member’s personal lives.This is not the time to be an expert or a hobby-psychologist, but make sure that your team hears that you care about them, and that you encourage them to take care of themselves. Turn-Key Tactic: in a weekly 1:1 meeting with each of your reports, share with them your desire to support them to be healthy and fulfilled outside of work. Invite them to share a meaningful personal weekly goal in addition to their weekly work goals. Ensure that you set the expectation that they are in no way accountable to you for their personal goals, but that you want to succeed inside and outside work, which requires them to be healthy. Allow them to share as they’re comfortable about habits or disciplines they are developing. At all costs, avoid bringing judgement, advice or accountability into these personal discussions - just listen and encourage. Tools There are many productivity tools on the market today that claim to improve the effectiveness of your team. As a manager your job is to select the right tools that will ensure three key things: your team knows what they need to do, when they need to do it by, and have instant access to how they should properly do things. In all my years, I have found that tool to support the how is the trickiest to find, which is why we built KnowHow, a platform for managers to share step-by-step processes with their teams. Turn-Key Tactic: Take time to find tools that appeal to your culture champion(s) that will make it easy to equip your team with the what, the when and the how’. Check out KnowHow for free. Mindset & Motivation As a manager you have many responsibilities, but ‘motivating your team’ is not one. Your role is to orchestrate the right conditions to ensure that mature, adult employees clearly understand where the company needs to go, how it needs to get there, and what their role and responsibilities need to be. When things are clear, the right people are in the right roles, compensation is fair, and their leaders are nurturing a productive work environment, employees will respond with a motivated, committed, and loyal mindset. Provide your team members the respect of treating them like adults, forget about the inspiring speeches, and focus on the hard work of creating a work environment in which your people can thrive. Turn-Key Tactic: implement the aforementioned turn-key tactics to create a work environment within which your team members can independently apply their personal motivation and focused mindset towards work they determine to be meaningful, towards goals they are committed to. 3 things that drag down productivity that you can’t impact. In my experience managing teams, there are three things that, if present in a team member, are not in your control. In this case, investing time and energy in trying to fix these is outside your job description as a manager and is not fair to your other reports. Poor Work Ethic “You can’t push a wet noodle”. A person that has not personally invested in developing a strong work ethic is not going to suddenly undo years of behavioural preferences and start working hard after a firm warning from their manager. You are not their parent, and it is not your job to teach them how to work hard. If they are a wet noodle, move them out fast. Values If a member of your team does not align with what your organization values, both your organization and the individual in question are better off going their separate ways. A person lacking the values your organization holds dear will not be able to do work the ‘right way’, and thus they will never truly be productive in your workplace. Intelligence This might seem harsh, but I have learned that if the requirements of someone’s role is greater than their intelligence, they know it, their colleagues know it, and your customers know it too. Do the right thing, and either move them into a more suitable role, or move them out of your organization. Asking someone to become more productive within work they are not capable of doing is demeaning and not kind. Do the kind thing, and move them out of the role. If you see any of these three things present in a role on your team, with rare exceptions, the right call is to transition the person out, in a respectful and rapid manner. They are dragging down your team’s productivity (and yours). Increasing employee productivity is hard work, and your time is not well spent with this person. Remember, improving team productivity is difficult because humans are complex, and we live and work in a rapidly changing world. If you are ready to start this challenging and important work, I hope that the ‘turn-key tactics’ outlined above provide you with some helpful guidance.
Sharepoint Alternatives for Small Businesses and Startups
Travis Parker Martin
In 2020, a small business owner or startup founder has more options than ever when it comes to software designed to keep their team all on the same page. Yet, the incumbent tool most people are familiar with for any “intranet-style” interactions with their team is Microsoft Sharepoint. Is this still the best software for the job when there are so many Sharepoint alternatives available? The truth is, Sharepoint is a bulky tool best-suited for large enterprises that can dedicate the time and energy necessary to build and maintain it. If you’ve got a team of 100 or less employees, depending on the job-to-be-done, there are likely many simpler and cheaper options for your startup or small business than Microsoft Sharepoint. Here’s a list of 5 Sharepoint alternatives for small businesses and startups in 2020, focused on the specific problems they solve for your business. KnowHow URL: http://tryknowhow.com Pricing: Free for teams under 5, $10/mo/user after that Best Optimized For: Sharing processes internally with your team. KnowHow is a brand new software tool that is hyper-focused on helping teams share step-by-step processes internally and equipping employees with the internal know-how they need to succeed at their jobs. On KnowHow, managers or internal experts create step-by-step guides to accomplishing specific tasks, such as “Onboard a new client” or “Conduct a job interview with a potential candidate”. By inviting other team members onto KnowHow, managers give their employees access to all of these processes, which can be accessed on desktop or mobile. As employees complete these tasks, managers can see in real-time who following the process and where they’re at in doing so. Alternatives to KnowHow, such as Process Street or Tallyfy exist, but their onboarding process is difficult - a common problem among internal communication tools. If the primary challenge you’re encountering is equipping your team with the processes and information they need to succeed at their work, KnowHow is a great, inexpensive, lightweight tool (and we’re friends with the founders 😉) Dropbox URL: http://dropbox.com Pricing: Free 30-day free trial, $15/user/mo after that Best Optimized For: Sharing files with your team Dropbox is a cloud-based storage platform that businesses can use to share files with their team. On Dropbox, users can upload files such as Word docs, excel sheets, or anything else, and make it accessible to their entire team. Integrated with Slack, Trello, Microsoft Office, and plenty of other tools, Dropbox allows teams to view, edit, and upload files on desktop or on mobile. If the primary challenge you’re encountering ensuring your team always has synchronized access to your files, Dropbox is a great, albeit pricey, tool to help keep everybody on the same page. Jostle URL: http://jostle.me Pricing: $10/employee/month for a team of 50, with per employee price decreasing as the team size grows Best Optimized For: Centralizing communication among your team Jostle is a modern intranet tool that focuses heavily on eliminating clutter. As your team grows, most intranets (Sharepoint included) evolve in complexity, and quickly become out-of-date. Jostle centralizes company news, discussions, and events, and employee information all in one platform, so if your team spans multiple locations or office floors, you can keep your team all on the same page. If the primary challenge you’re encountering is ensuring the most important company announcements and information gets distributed to your employees, Jostle is a modern alternative to Sharepoint. Notion URL: https://www.notion.so/ Pricing: Free for individuals, $10/user/month Best Optimized For: A centralized database and wiki for your teams Notion is a new, cloud-based notes tool that is making waves among investors and founders in the Bay Area, primarily for its versatility. With Notion, teams have a centralized place to store their internal wikis, personal or team to-do lists, a lightweight CRM, task manager, and more. Notion is essentially just a versatile notes tool, but its flexibility has allowed teams with diverse needs to find it useful. If the primary challenge you’re encountering is not having a centralized place for information, data, and projects among your small team, Notion might be a great tool. Confluence URL: http://atlassian.confluence.com Pricing: $7/month for teams Best Optimized For: An internal wiki for your growing teams Confluence is a collaborative wiki tool for scaling startups. With Confluence, users can document relevant information for their teams such as project requirements, company announcements and events, and more. Additionally, users can assign tasks to each other, attach images and more. Workspaces can be broad, for an entire company, or segmented for specific departments within a growing organization If the primary challenge you’re encountering is not having a centralized place for information or company workflow, and your team is scaling between 10-100 people, Confluence is a popular tool that many tech companies are using. Verdict Ultimately, the right tool for your needs depends on the job you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re looking to disperse company announcements, and have a reference tool for internal knowledge, Jostle, Notion, and Confluence may be great options, depending on your company size. If your goal is to share documents and other files with your company, Dropbox is the industry standard for a reason. And if your goal is to equip your team with the processes necessary for them to do their jobs well, you should give us a try at KnowHow, by signing up via the button below.
15 Processes Every Service Industry Business Needs
Leighton T Healey
It is never too early to introduce processes, systems, and best practices into your business. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t tackle this important work until they have reached what I call a capacity tipping point: a level of busyness so great the ‘knowledge-holders’ in an organization can’t be everywhere they need to be. This is a period of business growth characterized by two extremes: success in the form of growing interest and demand for your product or services, and problems in the form of things going wrong as you frantically try to service all of this increased demand. In response, business owners either try to do everything themselves, or they quickly hire people and throw them at the problems with limited training and little to no guidance. Neither of these responses are effective. As the old Chinese proverb goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is right now.” The same is true for mapping out the way you want things done (a.k.a. your processes). The best time to outline them was before the capacity tipping point, but you will have to settle for now. Remember: your business makes more money when your staff do things the right way. ‘The right way of doing something’ is a process. If you are currently in a situation similar to the one described above, or if you want to grow your business and expand your staff, it’s time to write up organization’s processes. Processes for the Service Industry If you’re in the service industry, your business needs are unique, and your processes should be too. To help you get started, here are fifteen examples of processes that you can develop that fall into each of these three key areas. Tasks that don’t require a high level of skill or industry knowledge: How to complete a month’s end inventory check. How to set up a jobsite for the next days work. How to prepare the marketing flyers for delivery. How to clean the shop at the end of the day. How to make sure the work van is ready for the next week’s work. What to do when things go wrong, especially when customers are involved: How to deal with an injury on the jobsite. How do clean up a paint spill. How place a product order. How to deal with a rain day. How to troubleshoot (piece of equipment) when it is not working Tasks that allow you to focus on the type of work that enables the business to make money and keep the work rolling forward: How to deliver a ‘Standard Level 1 Cleaning’. How to market the community after setting up a new jobsite. How to contact tomorrow’s clients to confirm the next days projects. How to properly install (standard product your business installs). How to remove (standard item your business removes or cleans). As your business continues to grow, hopefully your staff will continue to become more competent and committed to your business. In order to sustain this growth (and continue to give them challenging new work), you will need to continue outlining the processes and systems you want to staff to graduate into, before you delegate to them. This is an important component of what I like to call, “keeping the train track clear ahead of time team”, one of an owner’s key responsibilities as they manage a growing company. In his book The E-Myth Re-visited, author Michael E. Gerber says "to grow your business, you must move from working in your business to working on your business”. Establishing your company’s systems and processes is the first step. It is also the first step to experiencing one of the best parts of starting a business - to create a machine that makes you money. Machines need to be well-tuned and well-oiled; what keeps a business tuned and running smoothly are clearly defined, and easily accessible processes.
KnowHow Partners with The Accelerator to Support Scaling Local Startups
Travis Parker Martin
Today, KnowHow is proud to announce a partnership with The Accelerator, a Calgary-based seed accelerator that provides curriculum, services, mentors, and connections to growing technology startups. Beginning immediately, all current and past Accelerator alumni will receive $500 in credits for KnowHow’s software platform for sharing and accessing team processes. “Early-stage startups turn into global enterprises when they can solve a tangible problem for people, and then create the systems and processes necessary to scale their solution to people around the world.” said KnowHow CEO, Leighton Healey. “We’re thrilled that KnowHow will enable alumni of The Accelerator to take what they’ve learned and through its incredible programming and translate it into actionable processes for their team on KnowHow in order to have a truly massive impact” Launched in 2016, the Accelerator combines the best aspects of proven accelerator programs like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and more, and tailors it specifically to Canadian founders. Their five-month program provides hands-on mentorship, dinners with local experts, and a demo day pitch to investors. According to Sam Begelfor, Director of New Ventures at The Accelerator, this partnership should unlock new growth for their businesses. "We're so excited to partner with KnowHow to help our startups get their processes in check, to help fuel their growth! KnowHow is the perfect way to have all your processes in place for your startup to scale." Born out of a Silicon Valley-based technology accelerator itself, KnowHow’s platform for centralizing company processes was built specifically to help businesses scale their systems and equip employees to work with confidence as they grow. “The future of our city’s tech industry relies on early-stage startups finding product/market fit, and then having the ability to scale up their team to serve a large audience.” said Leighton Healey, “Thanks to KnowHow and The Accelerator, local startups are better equipped to not only solve meaningful problems, but to put Calgary’s technology scene on the map globally.”
KnowHow's Product Philosophy Pt. 2 - Easier Than a Pad of Paper
Travis Parker Martin
Getting answers on the internet has never been easier. In our first blog post, we discussed the odd disparity between finding information as a consumer, and finding information as an employee. While world knowledge has been easier to access than ever before, finding the information you need to succeed at your job is still surprisingly tough. This is for a few reasons: Most of the expertise required to function in your job is not universally applicable: it’s specific to your workplace, market, and role within the organization The knowledge required to complete any one task likely only exists in a manager’s head, until they communicate it to others or document it somehow The process of documenting processes is cumbersome, which leads to this task being put off, or processes quickly becoming out-of-date We knew that if we were going to make it easier than ever for an employee to access a company process or procedure, we had to make it equally easy for a manager to define that process or procedure on KnowHow. In this blog post, we’ll go into detail on exactly how we did this, by unpacking our second product vision: Philosophy 1: Employees should be able to access information as easily as consumers do Philosophy 2: It should be as easy to create a process on KnowHow as it is to write it down on a piece of paper Pain Unresolved While interviewing managers prior to building KnowHow, we discovered that some companies were trying to solve the problem of inaccessible company processes by using cloud storage software tools such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Yet, these solutions often created new problems. Once an organization scaled beyond a dozen team members, the file structure was becoming so complicated that employees would need training just so they could find what they were looking for! Additionally, if different managers had different ways of communicating information, the processes they created in Google Docs could look wildly different, leading to confusion among their team members. Other software tools (such as Process Street or Tallyfy) have tried to solve the same problem as KnowHow, but have done so by creating software tools that, while thorough and feature-rich, are complicated and cumbersome to set up. To put it in the words of one manager: "All I need is a tool that allows me to create a simple process that I can send to Joe Employee, who can easily access it." Such a thing didn't yet exist. Re-inventing the notepad We set out to build a product for this manager, and every other one like her. We knew that processes on KnowHow would need to be standardized, but simple. Easy enough for a technophobic manager to transfer their expertise in a matter of minutes, but structured enough that teams of 20, 50, or 100 could use it without becoming chaotic. Basically, we needed to reinvent the notepad, for company processes. Simple with no instructions needed, yet structured so it could be easily discovered and interpreted by anyone in any department. We went about accomplishing this through three primary features: Frictionless Creation One of our biggest priorities when building KnowHow was ensuring that it was remarkably easy for a user to take ideas in their head and transpose them into a step-by-step process. Many of our competitors have struggled here, building tools that require lengthy training in order to use. We knew we needed to design KnowHow like a pad of paper: when you know what you’re writing, the pencil and paper fade into the background, and all you focus on are the words. So we made KnowHow ridiculously simple to use. One line to describe the next task to be completed, with optional details available if need be. No onboarding, no required fields, and no managing workflows. KnowHow, getting into a process creation flow state becomes incredibly easy, as anyone can describe their process as easily as jotting it down on a piece of paper. Utterly Flexible At the same time, we knew that if a simple pad of paper was sufficient to share processes with a team, then most organizations would run on a pad of paper (which they don’t). In addition to being accessible for anyone to use, KnowHow would have to scale up and allow administrators to provide in depth detail, resources, and links, if they needed them. In a sentence, KnowHow had to provide both wide and deep functionality; not cluttering a user’s experience with features that were irrelevant to them, but also ensuring that, if they needed it, those features were there. The end result is a tool that allows users to attach documents, embed videos, modify timelines and link to external resources, all while keeping it streamlined. Whether you have a deep understanding of every detail of the process, or just the high-level bullet points, KnowHow is flexible enough to allow you to codify your knowledge in a step-by-step format in a matter of minutes. At any time afterwards, you can edit or add detail to your process with the click of a button. Clear, replicable, standardized structure The best part about conducting interviews with over a hundred managers and employees prior to building KnowHow was the new insights we uncovered that we could have never predicted. One of the biggest pains we discovered was among organizations of more than 20 people that had already documented their processes on Google Drive, Dropbox, or Sharepoint. These companies had multiple managers codifying their internal know-how, but because of different working/writing styles, it wasn’t easy for an employee to find, read, and implement a company process. Different managers would structure their processes in different ways, and confusing file/folder structures meant many employees, even if they were able to find the right process, didn’t necessarily know how to implement it. KnowHow resolves this problem with its standardized process format, optimizing for action-oriented, step-by-step guidance that focuses on what the reader should do next. With KnowHow, every process has the same structure, so employees can fluidly move between different processes from different people without running into any hurdles. Additionally, we made the bold decision at KnowHow to not have file folders. Instead, we focused hard on optimizing search, in order to ensure that employees did not need to focus on remembering a file structure in order to access important company information. A few keywords, or even the manager’s name, is all that’s necessary for employees find the process they need. Evolution We view KnowHow as a digital evolution of the notepad or heavy process binder. Yet, while KnowHow is already making work easier for teams from coast to coast, the product will continue to evolve and grow over time. As it does, it will be our central product philosophies that will shape and guide its features to better enable teams to work confidently and with greater impact. Try it out for yourself by clicking the form below.
KnowHow’s Product Philosophy: Google for your Company's Processes
Travis Parker Martin
This summer, our Co-Founders Leighton Healey and Travis Martin traveled down to Silicon Valley as a part of the Founders Embassy startup accelerator. While we were there, we discovered a giant problem with the way most organizations do work in 2019. As consumers, we have become accustomed to obtaining the answer to any question we could possibly have within seconds of the thought forming in our brain. Despite having no knowledge of history, I could pull out my phone, or lean over to my Google Assistant, and learn who the Pope was during World War I, or the year hydrogen was discovered, in less time than it takes me to type this sentence. Yet, in most organizations, this is the exact opposite experience employees have when trying to access company knowledge, procedures, or processes. Getting vital information on the right way to run a sales call, file an expense request, or anything else relevant to me doing my job well is incredibly difficult - in an era so defined by our ability to access knowledge in the moment that we’ve dubbed it “The Information Age”! Why is this? A problem waiting to be solved Returning from the Bay Area, we called over 100 managers and employees to ask them questions about their work, access to important knowledge and processes, and what the most aggravating aspects of their job. Here’s what we learned: Many managers are not confident their team members are following the right processes (in some cases, this is literally keeping them up at night!) Many employees find it difficult to access the processes or procedures necessary to do their jobs well. When they are able to find them, it usually involves interrupting their manager’s workflow, or searching endlessly on internal tools such as shared drives or intranet software. In this, we determined there was a tremendous opportunity to make work easier, and more efficient, for both remote and centralized teams through a simple software tool that houses company processes - accessible both on mobile and desktop. We got to work building KnowHow, but we knew if we were going to build a tool that would truly solve the problem of the managers and employees we spoke to (and the millions like them), we would have to build KnowHow carefully and intentionally, around a few specific product philosophies. Philosophy 1: Employees should be able to access information as easily as consumers do Philosophy 2: It should be as easy to create a process on KnowHow as it is to write it down on a piece of paper Over the next two weeks, I'll be unpacking those philosophies, and how they're reflected in the design and experience of our product. We strongly believe that excellent products cling to a few key truths and don't deviate from them. We're proud of the foundation that KnowHow was built on, and the path we've taken to get there. Philosophy 1: Instant Access to Information While conducting customer research this summer, we learned the main reason employees don’t consistently follow company processes isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because doing so isn’t very easy! So we sought to change that, by making it easier than ever to find, and follow, the right process, right when it’s needed. We accomplished by prioritizing three things above everything else: Dynamic Search Our product team used Google as our inspiration here. In the same way Google’s algorithms can predict what we’re searching for before we finish typing, KnowHow gets to work trying to find the right process for you after just a few keystrokes. We went deep on our search tool because we knew of its importance in the moment, when an employee is setting up their development environment for the first time, or about to hop into a sales meeting. Google has taught us to rely on algorithms working hard behind the scene to connect us to what we want to look for instantaneously. We’re proud to have created similar functionality on KnowHow. Standardized Processes When chatting with employees about what barriers they encounter to following company processes, we discovered that even if a system or procedure was documented, variability in styling and important details led to it being an unreliable source for employees. For this reason, every process on KnowHow is standardized with the same format. Whether the subject is deeply technical, purely administrative, or anywhere in between, processes on KnowHow all have the same structure: a title & description, steps to complete, and any additional details or resources needed. This allows employees to easily jump into a brand new process and instantly connect with and understand the content. Available on Desktop or Mobile This was a must-have for a remote workforce, whether they’re a distributed team working across multiple cities, or a mix of front-line and office workers. Consistent with our philosophy, we needed to ensure that employees everywhere were only seconds away from the information they needed to do their jobs well. We’ve streamlined KnowHow on mobile for finding the company process you’re looking for and working through it without any distractions. Being a cloud-based solution, all changes made to any process are instantly reflected on every user’s mobile and desktop device, so they are always following the most up-to-date version of a company’s know-how. In the next week’s blog, we’ll unpack the features that were borne out of KnowHow’s second product philosophy. In the meantime, you can test out this product philosophy firsthand by signing up for KnowHow yourself with the link below.