I recently was speaking at a meetup in Wellington, New Zealand and I was asked about the tech products I use to run and automate my business. Here is a list of products that I use and recommend highly. Some products have affiliate links but all these products I use myself.
We use Google Suite for our emails (We used to just use a Gmail address before that). We use the drive to sync some folders to our computers so we have the files we need with us all the time. We used to use Hangouts for chats but now we use…
The problem with Google Hangouts is that you end up talking about multiple subjects in the same chat and it gets confusing about which response is for which subject. Whatsapp helps a little with this by allowing you to select a previous statement and reply to it so that it repeats the statement in a box and your reply comes linked to that. That can get quite cumbersome though. Slack allows you to have channels which in essence is like a chat subject. If you want to talk about cats, you talk about it in the cat channel. You talk about dogs in the dog channel. This makes things much easier to understand as you already know what subject you’re meant to be talking about. The free version is good enough for us although sometimes I really would like to search back more than 10,000 messages which is a paid feature.
This is where you can find people who want to work remotely for you. This site used to be known as Elance. Since they changed their name and pricing strategy I haven’t needed to use them. Its started to become more expensive than I would like. I recently tried a Facebook group Online Filipino Freelancers. But so far I haven’t been impressed with the quality of the staff. Two staff members that I tried to hire from that site quit after a week because they knew they weren’t up to it or I fired them for performance issues. I’ll probably try this group again with some better self-selecting techniques to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Private Box is a New Zealand based company that scans your posted mail and sends you a PDF. You list their address as your address and your mail gets sent to them. You can ask Private Box to forward mail to you anywhere in the world if you want. They have lots of features and rules you can create for different situations. Before using Private Box I had to ask my friends to open my mail and take pictures of it. It was unreliable and caused me some problems in missing some important notices. Now Private Box handles all this for me and I can travel the world not worrying about if I miss a court summons. For Australia try HotSnail and for the United States try Earth Class Mail (although I haven’t tried Earth Class Mail). Otherwise do a search online for mail scanning service. The link gives you $20 credit on your account when you sign up.
We used to use a Skype number that would get directed to one Skype account that everyone in my team was logged into if they were on the ‘Receptionist’ Role. That worked fine until people started asking to specific people.. then there’s no way of transferring the call to someone else and since my team all work remotely from their homes it’s not as if they can hand the headset/phone to someone else. Additionally we couldn’t really use a caller ID – it had to be a cell phone number. I could set a NZ based Cell phone number but then if I was overseas who would answer it if the caller rang back the number on caller ID. We tried using my staff’s number in the Philippines but people weren’t so keen on answering calls from the Philippines either. The best solution we had was to just call anonymously and we all know people that refuse to answer anonymous calls. I recently came across 2talk as I was looking for VOIP solutions. They seem to be the cheapest and have the most functionality. You can set all sorts of things with menus (“press 1 for sales..) and forwarding rules and it fixed my primary issues of caller ID and transferring calls. I could keep my Skype in number too. They ‘ported’ that number so I didn’t need to advertise a new number.
Freshdesk is a support ticket website that you use to keep track of emails and issues. In the old days we just used email and that would work fine until someone forgot to get back to someone, or we were waiting on someone to get back to us… and that causes all sorts of issues when people are waiting for things to be fixed. Freshdesk keeps a track of all the emails (or phone calls too if you want) and your staff close the ticket when they deem they have been completed. If the ticket stays open for long enough you can set up rules to escalate it to you or whomever. We make it work with the free version.
Time Doctor allows your staff to record the amount of work that they are doing for you on their computers. They download an app and hit start and when they are done, they can hit stop. You can set Time Doctor to take screen shots every so often so you can see what your staff are doing (hopefully not mucking around on facebook) and it will automatically turn off the timer if there is no keyboard and mouse activity after a defined amount of time (I’ve set 3 mins). You can set up rosters and shifts and it will tell you if they were late or partial absent. I used to pay Elance (now Upwork) $150 a month for their product that does nearly exactly the same thing. Although TimeDoctor doesn’t do the payments for you and with elance/upwork you would pay via credit card.