By Julie Tingley, The KNOW Women
Since the introduction of wireless internet and the widespread use of hand-held devices, we have not quite felt the critical impact of technology on business like we have over the past year in the global pandemic. When personal connections became distant, when commerce at the storefront suddenly froze, and the office boardroom remained empty during Monday morning staff meetings, a new type of normal settled the world as technology closed the gaps and met the needs of people and businesses everywhere. What may have once felt cumbersome or confusing suddenly became required and rewarding. Today, the ‘tech-scared’ are ‘tech-savvy,’ and this trend for business owners and executives is here to stay. Now that we’ve arrived at this place of welcoming newer technologies to enhance client/ customer experience with our businesses, two of our favorite tech experts sit down with us to share how to capitalize on the opportunities of 2021.
“The best utilization of technology is when it supports the people and organizations and connects them together, making information flow easier and more accessible. Many times tools and software get a bad rap because they were poorly used, or the people or organization were unwilling to adapt their behavior to benefit from the technology. Just getting new tech can’t solve a problem on it’s own.” – Brandy Lawson
Brandy Lawson heads up FieryFX, an Arizona-based marketing & consulting agency helping entrepreneurs maximize their use of technology to scale. She hosts a weekly podcast called Leverage Your Spark that delivers snackable knowledge bombs for business owners and marketers to better use experts and external agencies for faster, easier growth and improvement.
Her background in the IT/ digital space began in college where she caught the technology bug while working in sales for a tech company. This exposure to the world of programming along with her father’s passion for technology opened her eyes to the bursting potential that technology has to elegantly resolve many of the challenges entrepreneurs face. With 23 years in the industry today, she gravitates toward the purpose-driven women change-makers running service businesses who are ready to leverage technology to grow and scale with less effort.
“I’ve been working on leveraging YouTube for more online visibility. One tool that I love for creating dynamic videos is ManyCam, it’s a more user-friendly version of OBS. It creates more highly-produced videos at a very affordable 1-time investment.” – Jennifer Buchholz
Jennifer Buchholz has worked in higher education, training, and development for over 20-years. When she realized that traditional methods weren’t helping her students thrive—she founded Excel & Flourish. Based in Milwaukee, Excel & Flourish helps organizations and teams improve productivity and reduce frustration with Microsoft products through fun technical skills training. The result? Amped-up collaboration and better success across every aspect of their business and work.
As a Microsoft SME for over 20 years (since Windows 95!), Jennifer makes people feel comfortable and confident whether learning technology or networking. She’s an engaging geek who truly wants people to be successful at work and in their businesses. Execl & Flourish delivers technical training for end-user applications like Microsoft and Google. They also support virtual events on platforms like Zoom and Teams, and deliver training face-to-face and virtually for companies of all sizes, non-profits organizations, and government agencies. The best part of what she does is helping her clients get to that ah-ha moment when they realize how easy tech is and how they can use it to improve their lives.
KNOW Women: What are the top 3 apps making a difference in business efficiency right now?
Jennifer Buchholz: I’m going to keep it basic. If you’re doing work with corporations, get the full Microsoft 365 subscription. The mobile apps are great for file sharing and communication. If you’re a solopreneuer, have a small internal team, or mostly share outside the organization, use the full Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). Whether you use Microsoft or Google, pick one as your primary and go deep in your use – there’s so much included.
The bonus app would be Doodle or some other scheduling tool. Stop wasting time emailing back and forth to get meetings scheduled – use a calendar/meeting scheduling tool.
Brandy Lawson: Loom, Canva, and Workona.
The KNOW Women: What project management software do you suggest for a small team? Large team?
Brandy Lawson: I suggest the one you will actually USE! Business owners have so many options when it comes to project management options, and it seems like there’s a new one every month. The key to the right project management software for your business is making sure you choose one that is a fit for your culture & users. Getting shiny new software doesn’t help at all if no one uses it. Most options will fit both small and large teams alike, the difference comes down to complexity of their projects and how much integration they need. Lots of teams start with Trello as it seems to be easy for visual-based team and those just getting started with project management tools. We got started with Asana and used it until January when we switched over to Clickup. Another great one for more visual users is Monday.com. Larger teams with more complex work have traditionally preferred Teamwork, but many of them have been moving to Clickup because it offers a lot of flexibility, automations and integrations.
Jennifer Buchholz: The PM software you pick will depend on how many projects you’re running and if your team is internal or external (or a combination of both). If you already have a Microsoft 365 subscription, consider starting with Planner – it’s already included in your subscription and is perfect for internal teams. You can assign tasks, add deadlines, and there’s a dashboard with various views to manage the project. Asana and Trello are great tools as well, and may be considered if working with largely external teams.
The KNOW Women: What advice would you give to a business owner that is highly overwhelmed with technology?
Jennifer Buchholz: If you’re overwhelmed with tech, I have 2 tips for you.
1) Don’t try to do all the things at once.
2) Don’t spend money on tech till you’re ready.
So often we think that tech will FIX or SOLVE our challenges, but tech bought impulsively without an overall strategy is just a waste of time and money. There’s not one tech that will solve all your problems, so instead of trying to find that, think of your top 3 things that could be solved with technology-enablement. Start there. Ask other business owners what they use, why they use it, and what they like (and don’t like) about it. There’s no one-size-fits-all so take your time finding a good solution. Consider leveraging AppSumo to find lifetime deals on tech you want. Have a wish-list of tech solutions so when they do go on sale (watch for Black Friday deals), you are making a smart purchase.
Brandy Lawson: Take a breath and then prioritize. Many times overwhelm comes from thinking everything has to happen at once. Overwhelm might also stem from the idea you have to do it all yourself. Neither of those things is true. Taking a moment to get clear on what the highest value problem or implementation is can help take the pressure off. Also, finding a trusted tech advisor and support team can give you more confidence when you do encounter a bump in the road or get overwhelmed.