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Episode 204: Managing Your Consulting Business with Two Critical Systems—with Danielle McGinnis

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So, in this episode, we are going to talk about two critical systems to setting up your consulting business so that it's doing what you want it to do, but also to be able to manage client engagements in your business in a way that's not sucking up all of your valuable, valuable time. So, I brought on again, Danielle McGinnis, who is the person who has set up all of my systems and thank goodness because she easily saves three to five hours a week for me, which is quite a bit. Yeah, just think about what that is over a year. And she has set them up in a particular way, emphasizing those things that really do save me time and create an amazing client experience on the other side. She's going to walk through what those two systems are, and we're going to talk about what they do and what they can do for you. So, let's get started.

Hi. I want to welcome to the show today, Danielle McGinnis. Danielle, I'm so excited to have you on the show again. Welcome.

Danielle McGinnis: Thank you. Thank you for having me again. This is exciting.

Deb Zahn: Ah, it is a delight. And we're going to talk about some juicy stuff, but first tell folks what you do.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes. I am the owner and founder of Cutting Edge Operations. So, there's a little bit of a clue in what I do from the name of my business, operations. So, what I do is I help solopreneurs to establish streamline business processes and to organize the back end of their business operations.

Deb Zahn: Which I love because obviously you do that for me. And I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to figure out that acronym was CEO.

Danielle McGinnis: Oh.

Deb Zahn: It took me way longer than it should have. And then I'm like, "Oh, huh." And then I was embarrassed to tell you because I'm like, "Yeah, I should have gotten that right away."

But you work with me, which I'm so grateful for. And you're all kinds of fabulous. And I know particularly in the Craft of Consulting membership, a lot of questions come up about systems. What systems should I have? How do I do this? And one thing that we've certainly noticed is sometimes people get confused about what's what.

And so they hear names thrown around about the particular platform itself and they can't decipher what things are. And so we thought perfect opportunity to get on and we're going to highlight two systems, which you helped me set up and just did an amazing job. And there're systems that allow you to automate, which is our favorite word ever, that lets you automate things that you might be doing manually or think you have to do manually. And it's things related to both getting business as well as managing business you get in managing your own business. And so we're going to dive into two of those today. And let's start with a CRM. Now, again, that's the other reason people get confused, is there's all these acronyms.

Danielle McGinnis: Acronyms.

Deb Zahn: So, what the heck is a CRM, Danielle?

Danielle McGinnis: A CRM is a customer relationship management tool. I don't know that you can say that five times fast, but that's what it is. It allows you to not only capture your leads so that they're not all over the place like in your email or in your phone, but it also helps you to manage those leads, be able to know who's where in your lead capture and contact process. You can also do cool things like send proposals. You can send your contracts through your CRMs to potential clients, invoices, onboard them, and you can even off-board them as well all through one tool.

Deb Zahn: And get paid, which is a very important part. And you joked about the lower tech versions, and I know when I started it was a no-tech version, which I believe was largely Post-it Notes and email, which of course no one with my poor short-term memory should ever rely on something like that. But that's often, when folks start, they sort of do it the same way they did it when they worked in whatever their employment was where you didn't need something like that to manage it.

And I would never suggest doing Post-it Notes and just email. I mean, Excel as a place to start is a little bit better. But as you're out talking to a whole bunch of people and having things come in and out of your pipeline, it can be a lot to manage. So, let's dive in a little bit into what are some of the things? And you mentioned some of them, but let's dive into them. So, the lead part. So, for folks who don't know what a lead is yet, that is basically someone in your market or for some reason you think that they could maybe become a client or they're somebody you're making a connection with, and you haven't had a conversation with them yet. So, what is a good CRM? If it's well set up, what does that let you do with your leads?

Danielle McGinnis: The first thing is, it's to capture them. And I mentioned that earlier, but basically, I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but there have been times for me where I've gone on someone's website, I want to work with them, they have this form that says, contact us, and I fill out the form and I never ever hear back.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Danielle McGinnis: So, I'm not exactly sure if it got lost or my inquiry even made it to its destination. So, a good CRM allows you to create that contact form that you can embed on your website and it's going to capture all the information from that potential lead. It's going to store it inside of your CRM, and then it's going to also let you be able to see it in one place. And then you can also qualify your leads as well, all within one place.

Deb Zahn: And for those who don't know what qualifying a lead means, what does that mean?

Danielle McGinnis: So, all of us have people that we want to work with. There's a group of people we want to work with, but then there's a specific targeted group of people. And within a CRM, you can actually put in your criteria into your lead capture form so you can qualify them. Like if you've got a budget, your services are ranging from this amount to this amount. And you want to know potential leads, hey, what's your budget? If your budget is $500 but your lowest price service is 1500, then by default they're not a good fit for you unless you've got a low ticket offer to offer them. So, budget's a really big one. And then other things like some people get really specific as to the category of who they're looking to work with. And then in general, what services. If they're looking for, I don't know, social media management and you're a consultant, then you probably wouldn't be a good fit for that person. So, A CRM will let you qualify the leads that come through.

Deb Zahn: That's right, because it doesn't make sense to spend the time and effort trying to get on a call or have a meeting with every single person that comes in as a lead. And I've certainly done that where if I look at what somebody is saying that they actually want, or if for some reason I'm out in the universe and I think someone's a lead and I put them in my CRM, it reminds me I got to look into them a little bit more. And so it may be that I go onto their website and I'm like, "Yeah, I don't do that. Or This is a market that I really don't have a lot of knowledge in." In which case, now it helps me understand what's the next thing I should do with them? Do I really think they could be a prospective client? And if not, what is it I'm going to do next versus what I'm going to do if I think they can really be a client? It's a time saver.

Danielle McGinnis: And exactly, I was going to say that. I appreciate it if someone's up upfront and honest with me and so I try to do the same thing. So, if someone puts into my contact form that they're looking for something that I don't provide, I have, again, this is the benefit of a CRM, I have a way that I can actually just trigger an email to go to them that says, "Hey, I really appreciate you being interested, but it appears that we're not a good fit. So, sorry, but thank you for your interest." And then I'm able to send off that email and I'm saving both their time and my own. And I found that actually as far as from a client experience perspective, it's greatly appreciated. It's never frowned upon when I have to disqualify someone.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Because people don't want to waste their time and you don't want to waste your time. It also, I find it lets me, aside from email, lets me keep track of... So, if you think of your pipeline as the business at various stages, so sort of people who've become aware of you and are our leads at the beginning of it, and then a certain number of folks move forward till they actually become clients. If you have a CRM, you get to look at them all together and say, "Okay, where is everybody in the process? So, here these leads, have I reached out to them yet? Here are the folks that I've reached out to. How many times have I reached out? Have I had a call with them? Of the folks I've had a call with them? Where are they in the process?”

To me, that's one of the most valuable things for a consultant because particularly when you're started or if you don't have a full pipeline yet, you're out there talking to a whole lot of folks. You're out there trying to get noticed by a whole lot of folks, trying to keep that in your head or manage it by... I'm horrible with names. And so I remember once spending a long time trying to find a lead that had sent me an email and I could not remember her name. I made up names in my head. And I had to spend all this time going, "When do I think she reached out?" A CRM gets rid of all that and it has it all in one place. You don't have to rely on your memory. Boom, it's right there and you can manage it right away.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And we love that. So, now if you get further down the line and you have a conversation with folks and they're like, "Oh my gosh, you're fabulous. I have to work with you. Here's what I want you to do." What does a CRM let you do next?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, it allows you to automate your proposal, contract, and invoice process. And your proposal, you can create templates within that CRM. So, you create your own fancy proposal that you think is great to be able to provide to a client, to be able to really surface what you do and showcase that. And then all you do when it's time to work with this person is you just plug in specific details that are related to their project. But the template itself is built. You never have to touch it again if you don't want to. And you do that for your proposal, you do that for the contract as well and the invoice. And when it's time, you've got off the phone with this client who's ready to proceed, instead of having to go open up like a Microsoft Word document and tweak that or create one from scratch, which I used to do, you've already got this template and it looks very professional and it's ready to go.

And then, you can build what are called workflows inside of your CRM. And it's basically, it's a series of automated steps that you would usually be doing manually. Like you would manually be sending the proposal, the contract and invoice, your CRMs going to do that for you. But not only is it going to send the initial email, but it's also going to send reminder emails. And I know for me that was one of the biggest things. I'd send out proposals and I would forget to follow up on them. So, your CRM takes that out of it. It's going to follow up after a certain amount of time selected by you and the lead will be able to continue to communicate with you and receive communication from you without you having to be the one to do it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and that's huge because there were so many times in my consulting, 12 plus years, where I've sent a proposal and just because they got really busy or something personal happened or whatever on the other side, they didn't see it, they forgot to reply, they thought they replied and they actually didn't. And if I had to remember, okay, wait, who did I send a proposal to? Okay, wait, how long's it been? To automate that is just golden. And again, it's your voice, it's your language, it's exactly the email you would write because you wrote it, but it has their name, so it feels very personalized.

The part I love is in between a proposal and contract. Now my contract, my proposals are also contracts on the consulting side, but if you send a proposal, you don't then have to manually send a contract, that template is in there too. So, this was what amazed me when you set mine up for me that I didn't have to do anything between the proposal and the contract because that was them just accepting the proposal and then it was automated that they would get the contract, be able to sign it, issue the first payment, dot, dot, dot. I thought that was like a miracle.

Danielle McGinnis: Right. It's triggers. There are triggers within the workflow. I like it because you don't have to force everything down their throats at once because everyone's inbox is not at zero, let's face it. And if you send three emails all at the same exact time, the likelihood that all three of them are going to be opened, it's not likely. But I like the way that you can actually trigger one after the other so that you're basically spoon feeding the information that they need when they need it. So, once they accept that proposal, then the contract comes. Once they sign the contract, then they get their invoice. Once they pay their invoice, then they can go ahead and begin your onboarding process.

Deb Zahn: And the onboarding process again, great, because you can actually set it up so that they book, like if you have a kickoff meeting, they get to book the kickoff meeting and around your specifications that you put in. So, being able to do stuff like that, which every consultant has to do, is critical. But often what consultants forget about is the off boarding, right? So, the off boarding isn't just cashing your last check. So, what does a good CRM let you do at the backend that creates this really great sort of not closed loop, but open loop with the client?

Danielle McGinnis: So, you can, first of all, I always suggest sending a thank you email, and some people forget to do that, but sending a thank you email. Any final deliverables, that gets all tied up there in that off-boarding email. But in addition to that, a couple of days after that thank you email, you can actually trigger either a form or some sort of other way that you'd like to capture testimonials. So, that's huge. As huge as it is, it's something that often gets missed.

Deb Zahn: All the time gets missed. And testimonials as social proof of the fabulous things that you do is often a way that you get more business. Or, if somebody writes a lot of grants and RFPs for clients, or gets a lot of government business, you can ask them if they're willing to be a referral. And then if you need them, because there's some bids that I've done in the past where you have to have three referrals, and now you don't have to go track them down and get them to say yes, you already have their permission to do it.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. I always say to put all the information into that off-boarding email that you would usually say if you were on the phone with someone. And sometimes people like they say, "Well, I don't think I should put this into the email." Put as much information in there as possible and do it quick. That's the beauty of the CRM doing it for you. Because if we're going to send the testimonial request or the referral request, I know it doesn't always come to my mind three days after I've closed out a client. Usually, it's three weeks down the line so the CRMs going to get that for you much quicker.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And then the other thing is, let's say you're closing out with a client and they say, "In the fall, we've got something else cooking that we might want your help with." Then you can bake into the CRM, an automated outreach that you're going to do at the beginning of the fall with the ability for them to schedule a call with you. Or if they don't say, "Oh yeah, maybe something later," you can also just have it trigger a nurturing outreach to them. How you doing, whatever it is that you want to put in there, so that you keep a connection with them without selling to them, but keeping front of mind and you can send those. Or if you have something valuable and you're like, "I think that they would like that," a newsletter, whatever, you can connect them with that so that they automatically get to hear from you again and you don't have to remember to nurture them later.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. And clients are often impressed by that to be honest. Because I do, as you mentioned, these system setups, I have a email built into my process where 30 days out, 60 days out, I'm just touching base, "Hey, how's it going? How's the system that I've built for you?" And I've gotten so many responses, obviously it's not me, it's an automation, but they just say, "Hey, thanks so much for reaching out." Things are going great.

Deb Zahn: And for someone like myself who does strategic planning, and it just occurs to me, I need to bake this in, is I should be sending an email out because we always put in our strategic plans what should happen 30 days, 60 days, 90 days out. What a perfect time, or you have major milestones that happen in something you created for them a plan, perfect time to bake that into an automation so that they automatically get something and saying, "Hey, I know you just hit the first 30 days mark, want to check in and see how it's going." And if it's not going well, sometimes it's because they need your help and now you've triggered them to think about that.

Danielle McGinnis: Absolutely. Love it.

Deb Zahn: So, we've sort of touched on this, but I want to sort of state it explicitly. This obviously, CRMs, if they're set up really well and they're set up with heart, I would say, which is the only way we set them up, what does that do for the client experience? Because it's making our lives easier, it's reducing the amount of time that we're spending doing routine manual things, but what's it like on the client's side?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, it's polished and professional. I know prior to my having a CRM, I always felt like there was something missing. I felt like I was delaying my clients or I was making them wait. For instance, with the proposal contract and invoice thing. So, I've sent the proposal to you, you might be up at 2:00 AM and you accepted it at 2:00 AM. I'm not up at 2:00 AM so you're going to have to wait until 9:00 AM my time to get the contract.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: And then after you sign the contract, you're going to have to wait till another time to get the invoice. So, I feel like it really makes that client experience much more polished. They don't have to wait for things. And then it's consistent. I always think about how it keeps your process consistent. And some people have always said to me, "Well, the client doesn't know that the process is inconsistent. If you skip something, they don't really know because they don't know your process." And oftentimes they can still tell. If you're following through a process and you realize that you've got the, I don't know, the call agenda or something one day before the meeting or something of that nature, then oftentimes you're like, "Okay, this obviously was a before thought, but not enough advanced notice." So, they always know. So, it makes it easy for them.

Deb Zahn: Well, and the flip side, they're actually going to think you always do that, that thing that they don't like that you just did. And I know that when we've worked together and you've developed workflows for me, we put the client hat on and say what is this going to feel like on the other side? And does that match what my brand is that I'm responsive and I've got your back and I care about you and all of the things that we want to show as a consultant. And every experience that a client has with us tells them what it's going to be like to work with us. So, this tells them it's fast, it's efficient, it's responsive dot, dot, dot.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: Love that.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: So, someone's listening to this and they're like, "All right, let me stop buying the Post-it Notes and let me do the big kid version of this. Let me just run out and go buy one." And we're not going to talk about how to purchase one because there's a lot out there and there's a lot of different versions. But what should they do to make sure that whatever they ultimately set up and before they start fussing with it, it is actually going to do what they want it to do for them?

Danielle McGinnis: The first thing is to take all those Post-it Notes that are maybe all over their desk and organize them into some sort of a document, whether that's a Google Doc or a Word document. Because I always say that even though a lot of clients that I speak with, they say they don't have processes, they really do, but they're just not documented. So, I say take all of those sticky notes, organize them into some form of a document. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just needs to be from the sticky notes to the document. And then work through that document consistently and review it to make sure that there's nothing missing.

And that's a step that often gets missed when you've got all these sticky notes all over the place. But when you can actually look at it, you can see gaps. Oh, okay, usually I do this in between this step and this one, let me add that in. So, you want to have your processes solid before you move into a CRM. And then it's going to help you when you start hearing all these buzzwords of all the different, like you mentioned, there's a ton of them out there to pick from, but you'll be able to pick one better, easily, if you know what you're looking for it to do. And so you got to have those processes first before you do that.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And that goes to the “garbage in, garbage out” too, which is if you're automating bad processes, then the automation really isn't helping you. So, if you have, for example, schedule kickoff meeting and before they sign a contract or make the first payment, then you risk actually doing work for which you're not going to get paid. So, you truly have to think step by step, what do I want the system to do? What do I do? What does the client do? And have it all mapped out so that you know, you don't just call someone like you and say, "Hey, I need a system." And you say, "What do you need it to do?" And the answer is, "I have no idea, but I heard it's cool."

So, this is where I got to put a plug. And I don't want to embarrass you, but you continue to do such a fantastic job for me, is I don't encourage people to try and do the do it yourself version, that there are people who are workflow and systems experts, but also experts on the particular CRM that you're interested in using. And we use Dubsado. But get somebody who knows that system and what its capabilities are. And I know Dubsado certifies people and you're one of those, but also people who think, their entire brain organizes around workflows and systems, which you know I say as a compliment.

Danielle McGinnis: Guilty.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you're like, "Guilty." But this is not one of those things to do it yourself because if there are mistakes, then prospective clients experience those.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. And you never want to send something by mistake. You don't want to trigger, say, not a fit email when you meant to trigger the let's work together.

Deb Zahn: Oh, can you imagine?

Danielle McGinnis: I've had it happen before with clients who I've set it up for them. It's the worst thing to have to go back and say, "Whoops, I didn't mean to do that."

Deb Zahn: I didn't break up with you, I meant I wanted to go out again. Exactly. Well, so that's a CRM. It's beautiful, it's wonderful. It helps in a lot of ways. The one that people tended to get confused with is a CRM and a project management system. And again, a project management system I have found helpful in two ways. One is managing my own business, and then the second is using it during client engagements to manage the engagement. And sometimes that's just me. And sometimes I'm actually doing that with the client themselves and they're actually part of it. But what does a good project management system let you do, and we'll start with for your business. So, if somebody's a consultant, what is a good project management system going to do for them?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, just as a CRM does it's going to keep you organized, knowing what happens and should be happening, when, it's going to give you a bird's eye view of things. I know we built social media out for you in your project management tool. So, that out allows us to get a bird's eye view of your social media for the week, for the month, for as far out as we plan it. And so it keeps everything organized and it keeps our team all on one page so everyone's looking at the same things and no one has to dig or look or say what's going out on Monday or what's the theme. It really allows you to be organized and on top of whatever it is you're organizing.

Deb Zahn: That's right, so you don't take every post as, oh, what am I doing today? This actually lets you have a place where it is actually organized in everybody, if you've got folks helping you, everybody's on the same page. And then I find it also lets me manage a whole bunch of different things. So, I have a podcast, so that, our entire podcast process down to the minutiae is in there. And that also helps if by the way, I lose a team member. And we have it all mapped out so somebody could more easily jump in and start and start actually helping with things. But there are so many different things that I might be doing that are just part of my business that I need a place, particularly with marketing, particularly things like that where I need a place where it all is. And I know there are some CRMs that also do email marketing and do other things, but this lets me truly just manage on a day to day, on a weekly, on a monthly, whatever timeframes I want, boom, it's all in there.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: So, for client work, which I spent probably the first 12 years not using a project management system when I was working on multiple client projects and within client projects, I was managing up to a team of 10 people and different work streams and all of that. And we weren't using a project manager. Now we had it organized, we used like an Excel, and we used other things. And so we always did what we were supposed to do. But it wasn't until actually you introduced me to the fabulous tools that now exist that are so user friendly, much more than what existed back in the day that I realized I need to be using this with actually my clients.

So, there's one project I have where we're actually using it with the clients. Because it's so complex, no one could track everything. So, now again, contrast this with Post-it Notes, Word documents, sort of the other versions that people do. But they do, they have so many different features and we use Asana, that's the one that we picked. But what are some of your favorite automated features? Because the other benefit is it's not just a task list, it also does automate things. What are some of your favorites?

Danielle McGinnis: One that came to mind almost immediately is the auto tagging feature. So, again, I mentioned that we can use this project management tool to collaborate as a team. And I love the fact that if there's something that you're working on that I have to wait for you to finish before I can start my part, instead of me checking that task constantly or you having to go out of your way and now email me and say, "Hey, this is ready." As soon as you change the status from one thing to another, which we've set up our own statuses, it automatically will complete. Or it'll tag me and it'll say, "At Danielle McGinnis, this thing is done." And so I like that because it allows you to be able to just do one thing. When I'm building these project management tools, I'm always trying to think of the number of steps that it takes to do a thing. I don't like if it takes three steps or four steps. If we can automate that and get it down from four steps to two or four steps to one, I'm very happy.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And you don't have to be like, "Where was that email? Wait, did she do that?" You just have to look at it. And that's actually one of the ways that I talk to one of my consulting clients about it is, look, if you're worried about something and you wake up at 2:00 AM and you want to know is this thing done or is progress being made, you don't have to wait till I wake up and I've had my tea and fed all the gazillion cats. You can actually at 2:00 AM, by 2:05 you can actually know exactly where things stand. And that can be really relieving for clients, and particularly if there's back and forth with clients.

So, you mentioned the status updates, which you put in for me, and I thought it was glorious because I didn't want anybody wondering, has this thing been approved or not, it says whether or not it's been approved. I also like all of the communication is in one place. And so all of the back and forth around the overall project, the specific tasks, all of that stuff is in one place. It's not happening in email. It's all there. If I need to share files, that's where it is. If I need to share images, that's where it is. And I don't have to go searching for anything in my ridiculous number of emails I have.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. And that's important again, because we lose track of a lot. And you also mentioned that if there's multiple projects going on at once, so you can go straight to the one project. And on that, there's another feature I'll add that I like is to be able to add projects onto each other. So, if there's one board, one project, excuse me, that relates to another, you can actually link them together in our project management tool so that everyone can see them in one place. So, once again, it keeps things very organized.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I love that. So, you know my other favorite feature, which is I love a good dopamine hit more than anybody else. So, one of the reasons that we picked Asana is because randomly, sometimes when you complete a task, a different, either a unicorn or different type of colorful animal flies across the screen. I will never be too old that I don't love that. And I know we sometimes steal each other's unicorns, but that sort of gamification part of it makes it interesting and makes it fun. But it also like if I have a multistep thing that I have to do, not only am I trying to search for the unicorn, so it makes me want to do them faster, but I really get to see where am I, did I do that thing or did I not do that thing.

But it also, by even setting up a project, it makes me think very specifically about what the work actually needs to be, the sequence of it. When do I need to get approval for things? So, I can put a milestone in there, but then I can put something in that says that this has to be approved so I know or if anybody's working with me not to take the next step until that happened. And unless that's checked, it has not been approved. If I'm working with others, they need to know that. If I'm working with myself, I need to know that. And if I'm working with a client and they're clicking off that this has been approved, now I know the rest of my work can continue. It's just a huge clarity. It brings clarity and it's a huge time saver.

Danielle McGinnis: Definitely. It streamlines things greatly because then you're not having to go back and ask those questions, "Oh, hey Deb, is this approved?" You already know when you change the status that it's good to go.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Or if somebody changes the date, like a really key meeting is now on a different date, if it's all in the project management software, then I know that. And then I can move the other things that need to be moved because there are dependencies, and that's like any good project management software, it lets you put in key dependencies. So, in my mind, if you're managing more than one project, if you're managing complex projects for sure, or if your consulting business has multiple things you're doing, like if you're doing social media on even one platform or multiple platforms, or you're trying to get either you have a podcast or you're trying to get on other people's podcasts and you want to have a plan for that, that's mapped out a project management system's a great way to do it. And they're not that expensive. They used to be ridiculously expensive, but everybody got into the game and it brought the price down.

Danielle McGinnis: Especially if you don't need a lot of seats, like a lot of different users. If you just need yourself or one other person, they're definitely affordable.

Deb Zahn: Definitely very, very affordable. Now, again, as with anything, I don't think anybody should try and do this yourself. I thought it was a revelation when you set up the status updates and I have no idea how to do that. So, if somebody reached out to you and they said, "Danielle, I love it. I want unicorns, darn it," what would you tell them to do first?

Danielle McGinnis: I would tell them, again, it goes right back to what I said about the CRM, I would tell them to have the process first so that they know what it is that they need to map out inside of the project management tool. And I say that because different project management tools offer different features. They have different automations that are going to do different things. So, for instance, with our social media, we've got some boards that keep us organized with each... or excuse me, podcast. We have our things that are organized by different columns inside of it. And when we complete an episode, it automatically moves out of our view and it moves over to completed.

If that's something that's like a game changer for you that you have to have, then you want to make sure that that's a feature that project management tool has. And it may seem like very small potatoes, but basically it's going to help you stay organized. So, if you don't put a little bit of thought into why you need it and what you need it to do, then you might end up purchasing something that's not going to meet the mark that you're looking for. And then what's going to happen is you're not going to use it.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And again, one of the reasons, because it took me a while to get to actually use it, but once I started using it, I can't imagine a day going by that I don't have it because I'm so much more organized. But it's also, again, as I said earlier, the garbage in, garbage out. If you haven't thought through, like when we were building the podcast one, which previous to that, just so any listener knows how seemingly random it was, I had a checklist of things that had to happen, and it all relied on me doing them, which never should happen.

And so when we were building it, you were like, "Well, don't you also, and doesn't this, and who does this?" And I'm like, "Oh, no wonder that was already always a pain. I tried to do it." So, we had to be super thoughtful about what is the workflow actually that we're trying to do. Love it. So, again, there is no system that I would build without you, so I don't mind telling folks that at all. So, if someone's listening to this and they want help too, where can folks find you?

Danielle McGinnis: Sure. I have a website. I'm at www.cuttingedgeops, that's I'm also on all socials under the handle Cutting Edge Ops as well. So, I'm on Insta, LinkedIn, Facebook. No, Twitter or anything like that, but I've got my website as well so.

Deb Zahn: Is anybody still on Twitter?

Danielle McGinnis: Some are.

Deb Zahn: Some are, I guess.

Danielle McGinnis: It never worked out for me.

Deb Zahn: That's great. Well, so, one of the reasons to build systems is to get back time to reclaim time in life and I've certainly experienced that from you. It easily, the stuff you've set up for me, easily saves me three to five hours a week, no joke. And it might even be more than that at this point. So, I know you are a systems person in all aspects of your life, so you have reclaimed some of your time.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes.

Deb Zahn: So, how is it you find balance, however you define that?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, like you said, I try to get things as organized in my personal life as I do in my business. So, I find things that I know have to be done, my groceries or things of that nature. I try to schedule them. If I can help it, I try not to have to go to the grocery store for more reasons than one. Mainly because if I go to somewhere like Walmart, I'm coming out with way more than what I went in for anyway.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. The Target effect. I get that.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. So, it actually keeps me within budget to just do it from home. I have my groceries ordered. I do take off a day a week. I call that my CEO day. So, that's no systems, it's just me and my family and us pouring into each other, and that's their dedicated time.

Deb Zahn: That's lovely. I love that. And I love that you called it a CEO day, but it's for family love.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. I feel like as a CEO, I should be able to do that. I should be able to take a day off if I want to. And so that's why I name it that. Every now and then I will end up doing some things that are work related that day, and if I do, it's still only in the mornings my family gets the majority of the day.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And I know this from working with you because we've set up systems, it's not like I have to wait till Monday to send you an email that I might forget to send you. I just put it in Asana and tag you and then when you're back to work, you look at it and I don't have to worry about remembering it, and you don't have to worry about getting in the way of your family time.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: Well, Danielle, I have to thank you so much for coming on, and we started to hear questions about these things, and then it occurred to us, well, probably a lot of folks have questions about this. So, I appreciate so much you coming back on and sharing this fabulous stuff with us.

Danielle McGinnis: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It's my favorite topic, so thank you for having me to discuss it.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So, as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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