Useful Tools and Books | The Chameleon Guide
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Useful Tools and Books

“Don’t settle; don’t finish rubbish books. If you don’t like the menu; leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path; get off it.”    –   Chris Brogan

Useful stuff to run your business more efficiently

Tools & Books

There are so many challenges running a small business and anything that can help take the strain is a good thing. It helps improve your efficiency, streamlines your business and leaves you free to get on with the things you are really good at.

The following are some suggested tools and services that I have tried and use and don’t cost the earth to buy and are excellent products for when you’re in the early(ish) stages of your business.

I have tried all the tools or products listed on this page and read all the books – I don’t recommend anything I haven’t tested first.

The links are all affiliate links which means that if you click on any of the links and buy something, I will get a small percentage of the sale price as commission. It won’t affect what you pay at all.

At a minimum you should have an accounting package and a CRM system.

 

Accounting packages

An accounting package helps you keep tabs on your business day to day:

  • You can list all your customers and suppliers making it easy when it comes to creating invoices and matching payments when they come in.
  • You can create your invoices and track them. You can even offer a pay now link on the invoice (usually for a small fee, but it saves having to chase)
  • You can have repeat invoices so you don’t have to start from scratch each time.
    Put in auto chase rules, so that your customers are chased by email (that you can amend the content and frequency of issue of).
  • You can link your bank account to the package allowing you to reconcile your payments and expenses.
  • It makes life a lot easier for your accountant to do your VAT and income tax returns.
  • And provides all the reports you need – P&L, balance sheets, aged debt reports. In short, all the information you need to keep control of the financial side of your business

Examples include:

  • Xero – this seems to be the most popular one – https://www.xero.com/uk/
  • QuickBooks – https://quickbooks.intuit.com/uk/online/
  • FreshBooks – https://www.freshbooks.com/

They are all very affordable for the small business owner. And with Making Tax Digital coming our way over the next few years, if you don’t have an online package yet, you will need one.

Here’s a useful article from the HMRC on what it’s all about – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital/overview-of-making-tax-digital

Books

There are a number of books I have read that I have found very useful covering marketing, sales, and personal growth. I will be adding to this list over time. But if you have any recommendations, please let me know – karen@thechameleonguide.com

CRM – Customer Relationship Manager tools

This is an absolute must have and I am always surprised by the number of businesses that don’t have one. Many of my clients had been operating off multiple spreadsheets to try and manage their clients, leads and prospects.
One particular client gathered up his business cards from his networking activities, kept them in a drawer and then at the end of the year, threw them away! What madness is this?

So, what is a CRM system?

If used properly, it’s a wonderful aid for your business. It’s essentially a clever database that helps you track your business.

  • You can enter all contact details into the system and apply what are called tags so you can classify anyone. In my case, I put in where I met them, what kind of business they are and how big they are.
  • You can also classify them as to where they are in the sales cycle. So, are they prospects, leads, opportunities, clients and so on. I also have referral partners; people who may give me business.
  • They have workflows in allowing you to put tasks in with dates and they remind you of what you need to do. And there is a set of standard steps that you take once an activity has started, you can plug those in as a workflow and it reminds you to take the next action. Crucial for those all important sales leads, or indeed for keeping in touch with your most valued clients.
  • You can track your pipeline – you can put in your sales targets and track your sales against them each month.
  • By being able to cut and dice your contacts and export the information to send targetted emails, newsletters or offers.
  • They are usually accessible on your smartphone too, so you can carry around your contact database in your pocket.

Capsule CRM

Capsule CRM

Capsule CRM

Simple CRM for taking care of Customers

This is a nice easy CRM solution. You can easily add all the details from your business cards, tag them so you can identify the type of business, or import a list from a csv file. You can also use it to manage your activities – it sends you reminders. And you can track your sales pipeline.

It’s very intuitive to use and a great system for businesses starting out.

CRM – OnePageCRM

OnePage CRM

onepage crm logo

Another easy to use CRM package

You can easily add all the details from your business cards, tag them so you can identify the type of business, or import a list from a csv file. You can also use it to manage your activities – it sends you reminders. And you can track your sales pipeline.

It has the additional benefits of some great integrations such as to MailChimp allowing you to easily export your data into your mailing system, LinkedIn and to Xero accounting.

 Emailing systems

Active Campaign

Email automation

This is an alternative to MailChimp. I really struggled to use Mailchimp and spent a long time researching alternatives and finally came across Active Campaign. It’s brilliant and pretty easy to use.
You can use it for standalone emails, or you can automate a sequence of emails depending on what the reader does. For example, I offer lead magnets on my site and with GDPR now need to make sure that they only get the lead magnet and that they have to actively choose to get my newsletter. So I have created a flow which says if they give me the details for the lead magnet and tick the newsletter option, they get added to my newsletter mailing list. If they tick the – ‘Don’t want your newsletter box’, they only get the lead magnet. I am a techno pigmy, so trust me when I tell you, I managed to sort this out for all my lead magnets on my website in less than half an hour!

www.activecampaign.com

Siteground email and website hosting

Web Hosting

Email and website hosting

I originally had my site hosted through WP Engine – which was very good, but a bit expensive for my liking. So I moved it to 123-Reg, but it was very slow. I was recommended SiteGround as an alternative and they are excellent. My website is now lightning fast and it was very easy to add the SSL certificate to make the site secure (https). Their customer service is excellent too – very useful for idiots like me!

www.siteground.co.uk

Acuity Scheduling - online appointment booking

Online appointment booking

This application allows people to book time in your diary without having the constant backwards and forwards emails working out when you are available. You can set up different time slots e.g. 15 or 30 minute calls.
You can sync it with your calendar so it only shows available times and you can also limit when you are available for calls, so you can tailor it around your own schedule. What I also really like about it is you can create forms for people to fill in before they speak to you, so you can gather some useful information, or in fact, stop wasted calls because the person doesn’t meet your criteria. e.g. I don’t work with MLM businesses, so I say that in my form.

https://acuityscheduling.com/

Useful books

My books

 

My new book has been published! – The profitable business – How to create a thriving business that works for you – in seven short(ish) steps. It’s packed full of examples and actions you can take to improve the efficiency and profitability of your business. It’s a page-turner and no mistake!

If you’d like to see a chapter before you make your decision here are two for you to look at:

The first chapter is on getting your strategy right – what should be in it and how to create it. – Read it here

The second chapter is about how and when to take on new people – a particular challenge for the solopreneur who wants to grow. Read it here.

I will be offering it at a discounted price to start off with – in the hope that you will buy it and then leave me a cracking review! If you’d like to be notified when that is, please complete this form and I’ll send you an email on the day the offer starts

Or, if you can’t wait, you can buy it now by clicking on this link

Here is what people are saying:

‘Karen has written a remarkable book that captures in just 90 pages what you have would have to read in ten different books to get the same range of knowledge.
The fact that it all comes from her own personal experience makes it all the more credible and readable.
It is a first-class guide into how to set up a business that will deliver what you want in terms of money, time and effort and not leave you working for the bank or your employees.
It’s not often you can find all the information you need in one place and the fact that Karen has achieved it in just 90 very valuable pages is a great testimony to her experience and understanding of the business world.’

‘The style of this book is easy to read and hugely practical. There are lots of real-life examples of how owners of small businesses have achieved growth. These help to spark ideas that can be adopted in your own business. I particularly like the actions to complete at the end of each chapter. The only thing missing is Karen holding you accountable to complete them! I guess if that’s what you need you can always contact her!’

‘I read a lot of business books, being self-employed I am keen to learn. The tips and content are spot on and succinct enough to read bite size. Recommended’


My second e-book is about how to increase the profits in your business without increasing sales.
Sales are vital to any business – without them, you have no business. But making sure you have a profitable business is just as important – without profits, you can’t run your business, pay yourself, grow the business or plan for a financially secure future.

If, like me, you find sales one of the more challenging disciplines when it comes to running your business, wouldn’t it be good to know what steps you can take to make it more profitable? Without having to sell a single extra product or service? Better still, if you could sell less and still make more money?

This e-book will help you do just that.

Even if you are brilliant at sales – you still need a profitable business and this book will benefit you too.

Read it here 

(Please note, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Which means that if you click a link and buy a product listed below, I will get a small percentage of the sale price as commission. You will not be charged more for doing buying from any of these links.)

Running a business/Strategy

Marketing

Accounting and finance

I can start your business:
Everything you need to know to run your limited company or self employment – for locums, contractors, freelancers and small business
by Russell Smith: Kindle - £0.99 : Paperback £6.99 - Perfect for small business owners who want to understand their accounts and finance

Improve your sales

Self growth/improvement

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