EP 235: What’s Working To Scale With Software With Scale Spark Founder Susan Boles

The Nitty-Gritty:

  • How ScaleSpark founder Susan Boles uses software to solve capacity problems for her clients and help them scale up
  • Why she starts with a software audit before making any changes—and how you can too
  • What she looks for when considering what software options to go with
  • The first step to getting started with new software (it’s not what you’d expect!)

When I first got serious about building a team and documenting our business systems…

…I signed up for Asana.

If you’re not familiar, Asana is a project management system that tons of people were raving about at the time. They claimed how organized it made them. they said how wonderful it was to have a checklist of everything that needed done in front of them. They loved being able to assign deadlines and delegate tasks.

That all sounded marvelous.

But my experience of Asana was… not so great.

No matter how hard I tried to “be good”—check off all the boxes, stick to my deadlines, and process my tasks, I’d end up falling behind and ignoring the whole system.

My team could use Asana. But I couldn’t.

And I felt like a bad business owner. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t disciplined enough, like I just couldn’t hack it.

Dramatic? Maybe but it seemed like Asana was what worked for everyone I respected and I just couldn’t seem to get on board.

Late last year, Marie Poulin—who you just heard from in Episode 234—shared that she’d switched her project management (and practically everything else) over to an app called Notion.

It turned out that Notion (why yes, that’s our referral link) allowed for way more than checking things off a list and organizing tasks by project. It was purposefully non-linear, adaptable, and infinitely customizable.

I was intrigued.

We took a look… and we were hooked.

Now, it’s no surprise that my team can use Notion. They’re a bunch of a project management badasses. But the fact that I can use it? Well, that was a surprise.

What Notion has made me realize is that software doesn’t just work on its own.

It works with you—or it doesn’t work.

Asana is great. But it’s not great for me. It doesn’t help me scale my capacity. It doesn’t help me do my job.

Notion works with me. It let’s me think the way I want to think. It helps me do my job and increase my capacity for doing my best work.

Notion reminded me that I am organized, disciplined, and committed to growing my company.

And no piece of software can take that away from me again.

Now, my guest today is no stranger to the way software can either help or hurt a business.

Susan Boles is the founder of ScaleSpark, a consulting firm that helps companies break through growth ceilings by fixing back-end processes and creating systems designed to scale.

One way she does that is by addressing operational capacity problems through software. She helps business owners and their teams get more done by better utilizing the software they have—or the software they should be using.

In this conversation, I ask Susan what’s working for her clients—how she helps them identify their operational challenges, choose the best software, and adapt their processes to create additional capacity. We also talk about the challenging work of implementing new software—and how to make a change easier and more effective.

Plus, Susan’s own podcast just launched this week and I am her first guest! We talk about default decisions and how they can create the ceilings we bump up against on the path to growth. Click here to listen!

By Tara McMullin

Writer, Podcaster, Producer. Founder of What Works.

Sep 12, 2019

Read More

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

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

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