EP 261: 5 Project Management Tools These Small Business Owners Can’t Do Without

The Nitty-Gritty:

  • 5 small business owners share the project management tools they can’t live without
  • Why each tool is the right fit for the way each business owner works
  • How they incorporate the tools into their workflows
  • Plus, what tools haven’t worked for them

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Project management is so much more than software.

But if you think about tools like Asana, Trello, Clickup, or Notion (referral link that helps to support What Works) when you hear project management, you’re certainly not alone.

I remember when Asana first started gaining popularity among digital small business owners. “Finally!” we thought collectively, “We can figure out how to get it all done.”

Of course, most of us quickly realized that software like Asana doesn’t solve the problem of having too much work, unclear priorities, and a decidedly nonlinear project to complete.

Project management is as much about how you approach the work that needs to get done as the software you use.

So if project management is as much about how we approach the work as it is the software we use, why do we spend so much time stressing over that software?

My hunch is that, despite all indications to the contrary, we believe that there’s a piece of software out there that will make us more productive, more organized, and more effective.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true, instead:

My project management software is only as good as I am. I can’t expect it to do for me what I’m not willing to do for myself.

But if I commit to doing the work of project management…

…if I organize my projects and get real about what’s required to bring each of them to completion…

…if I’m willing to do the work I say I’m going to do…

…if I consciously balance my big picture goals and my daily to-do lists…

…then I can find project management software that helps me do that. But it starts with me and my own approach to the work.

Now if that sounds personal, I can assure you that it is. I thought I was “broken” when it came to project management and that maybe there was some piece of project management software that could fix me. I tried a bunch. For while, I tried managing projects in Evernote–but that really just turned into me relying on my own brain, as per usual. Then, we dabbled in Trello… but it just didn’t work for us.

Then, I tried using Asana. My team used it for 2 full years but I could never get the hang of it.

That’s partly because I needed it to do something it just didn’t do–but it’s also because I wasn’t fully committed to doing the work of managing my projects. Then, I decided to grow up and do hard things.

At the same time, we switched to Notion.

Yes, Notion lets me do things I could only dream of in Asana or Trello. It combines content with task management in an completely customizable interface.

But the most important piece is that I decided to manage my projects. I decided to work the system. I committed to following through–and Notion helps me do that.

Today, you’re going to hear from 5 business owners–all member of The What Works Network members. They’re sharing the project management software they use and how it fits with the way they work.

Susan Boles shares how she manages her projects in ClickUp. Joe Taylor, Jr shares how he and his team manage projects in Basecamp. Ayelet Marinovich shares how she used Trello to manage writing & publishing a book in just 6 weeks. Melissa Emler shares how she got used to managing–and automating–projects in AirTable. And finally, Jonathan Stewart shares how he took a windy road to managing projects in Notion.

Keep an ear out for why each business owner uses the software they use and how it lets them manage the work they way they want to. Remember that the software is there to help them manage projects the way they choose to manage projects–not because it’s fixing them or the work itself.

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support