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Episode 244: Implementing and Optimizing Key Consulting 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 podcast, we're going to dive again into some systems that make sense both for your consulting business as well as serving your clients as a consultant.

And I brought on the ever-fabulous Danielle McGinnis, who's going to talk about some of the ways that you need to think about systems, about implementing them and ultimately optimizing them so they do what you want for your business. They help you get business, and they free up time. They provide an amazing, incredible client experience and absolutely delight who you're working with.

We're going to dive into a couple systems and talk about how you should be approaching those so that you're spending your money wisely. And they serve you, serve your business and serve your clients in the way that you want. So, let's get started.

Hey, I want to welcome to my show today one of my favorite people, Danielle McGinnis. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Danielle McGinnis: Thank you for having me again.

Deb Zahn: You were like a perennial guest because we have so much to talk about. We couldn't possibly fit it into one podcast. So, we're going to nerd out again because that's what we do every time we get together.

But let's start off, tell folks what you do, and then we're going to dive into the fun stuff.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes. So, I'm Danielle McGinnis. I am the owner and founder of Cutting Edge Operations. I am a business systems consultant. The purpose of what I do is I help all the entrepreneurs out there who are just getting started in our businesses or just running their businesses and trying to tighten up their business operations processes to be able to free up their times and scale their businesses.

Deb Zahn: And I, so that you don't know that I'm going to say this, but I'm going to say this. I want to thank you publicly for you doing that exactly for me. And I've told you before, but I haven't actually stated it publicly. So, I'm going to, I don't know that I would still have the Craft of Consulting business if you had not been part of it, if you had not helped me with the operations so that it wasn't this.

Death by a thousand paper cuts, occasionally a guillotine and, and all the fires and just all the stuff that happens whenever you're starting something new. And I only knew what I know now. You were my first hire, and I'm usually really bad at hiring. Somehow the heavens opened, and I was smart enough to say, “Wait a minute. I think this is the person.”

And I just want to state publicly how incredible you've been to getting me where I wanted to get in my business. And I thank you so much.

Danielle McGinnis: A pleasure and an honor.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And we have a good time. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I've embarrassed you completely. So, we'll, sorry, I had to, but we'll jump off that.

Let's get into the systems stuff. So, first of all, for those who are not systems nerds, like we are like, why even think about having systems? Look, I'm just a consultant. I'm just going to hang up a shingle. So, what's the point of having systems?

Danielle McGinnis: Systems create consistency for your business. So, that's the number one piece.

And with consistency comes efficiency. And when you become efficient, that allows you not only to serve more clients, but it allows you to serve more clients in a better way. So, without that, you're kind of flying by the seat of your pants. Sometimes you're reinventing the wheel when you've already done this thing before. And when you've got a system and a process in place to do that thing, it becomes rinse and repeat. You could almost do it in your sleep.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah. And I sort of see flying by the seat of your pants and your pants are on fire is sometimes how folks who are really new to this start. And then of course the other piece, which you and I have talked about gobs of times is the client experience.

What is how to being systems do for the client experience and then ultimately for your business?

Danielle McGinnis: So, there's different pieces of the client experience. There are different categories. At the beginning, it creates a great first impression if you've got systems, and so that great first impression can make the difference between whether or not you actually nail that sale, but then within the service delivery process.

Having efficient systems allows your clients to be able to kind of peek behind the curtain, get an idea of what it's like to work with you, but also next steps throughout your process. So, always keeping your clients informed and actually being able also to have that professional front end is important.

So, your clients should never feel like you don't know what's next. If you’ve got some systems in place, it'll allow them to see, “OK, she knows exactly what she's going to do next. And I feel taken care of.” And when they feel taken care of, it is the best feeling overall because you can feel that. And that actually results in repeat business a lot of times as well.

Deb Zahn: And referrals. Yeah. And it doesn't take a lot to seem fancy pants. So, another consultant that I worked with told me even using a scheduling system and sending people a link to schedule, people are so impressed with it because in the world where she gets her business, people don't do it. It hasn't really caught on yet. So, they think that that's like some pixie dust, magic, unicorn kind of stuff. And it makes her seem ahead of the game for a lot of other consultants. And she says, people talk about it all the time.

Danielle McGinnis: A thousand percent agree. It doesn't take much. And then add in an automated email that comes back to the client, and you're really doing it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Oh, I love all that stuff. So, now not every consultant who's like, :OK, I get it. I need to have systems” or “I really like systems.” I'm going to do it. There's a whole bunch of common mistakes. So, let's sort of deal with those first, and then we're going to talk about kind of the right way to do it.

What are the common mistakes you see where they're like, I shall use a system and then things go off the track after that? What do you tend to see?

Danielle McGinnis: I see where people just implement something because someone else did. Yes. So, you're on social media and you're like, oh, everybody's talking about this new thing.

It's great. I need it. That is like the number one mistake that I see is implementing the wrong system. So, you haven't actually sat down and determined what it is that you needed to do for you. You just took the word of someone on Instagram who you follow and then you've gone down the wrong path from the start. That's one mistake.

Deb Zahn: Then you've spent money. You probably tore your hair out trying to actually make it do the thing that you needed it to do before you realized, “Oh, they have a totally different business than me.” Yeah. I can see where that doesn't make sense. Yeah. I I've seen that. I've seen that. More than once. I've seen that with my clients. As an example, when they're implementing electronic systems, new technology, and they're on their second or third one because they didn't do what you just described.

So, we thought we would focus on two critical systems for consultants and one that's at the front end, which is really a business tool for your consulting business, which is a customer relationship management system or a CRM.

And we're going to dive into that a little bit. And then one that you can use. For your business, but you can also use it in service delivery. So, when you're actually serving your clients, a system that helps you do that beautifully and seamlessly if you're using it right. But let's start with the CRM.

So, if I'm a consultant and I, I keep hearing everybody talk about these CRMs and what they are, and there's so many different ones out there. What just generally can I expect that they're going to do for me and what aren't they going to do for me?

Danielle McGinnis: So, what they should do is the very basic bare minimum is a CRM will keep all your client information in one spot. So, that means you don't have to go to your inbox and scroll to figure out the last time you talk to that person or what's the name of that person or what's their email. It's all going to be in your CRM that you implement.

It should also have some way to create like some a contact form. So, that you can actually send this to your clients and gather that information. That's how they get into your CRM. Some CRMs have their own schedulers built in. So, then you can one place be able to take in those appointments as they're needed, and then you can also accept payments on a lot of them. They integrate with a payment processing piece. And so those are like the bare bones, but they do a lot more. Some of them integrate with your email. So, you can talk back and forth with email with your clients instead of going to your inbox and everything is organized in one place.

And some of them allow for you to be able to send your proposal, your contract to a client. And then my favorite part, of course, is automating and automating and automating.

Deb Zahn: I have to make the sound of angels. Yeah, that. So, basically routine tasks that you do over and over again, you can, you can automate it and take yourself out of it.

So, they still happen, but they don't require you to say, Oh gosh, I totally forgot to do that.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. And in terms of what you said about forgetting, CRMs can also remind your clients on things, which I might be really great at sending that initial proposal, but when it comes to circling back on it a week or two later, that's where me personally, without a CRM, I would completely fall off.

So, a CRM is going to leave that, take that part off you and take it on.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Automatic reminders is a beautiful feature. Or if they sign, they review my proposal or they sign my contract or they do the initial payment. If I have that set up in my CRM, I get alerted to that instead of maybe I got an email and I was super busy and I didn't see it and I didn't notice that they did it.

I can go directly into my CRM and say, “OK, here's where we are. And oh my goodness, now we have to start the now it's the onboarding process.”

Danielle McGinnis: Right. Or it's buried in your inbox because that's another one. Like sometimes our inboxes aren't as tidy as we would like them to be.

Deb Zahn: OK. She's talking about me. Let's just be honest. She's talking about me. Miss I-have-a-thousand-tabs-open, but yes, I do have like. I know, but you also know, I have like 80,000 emails.

Danielle McGinnis: And so sometimes things get buried, it happens, but with a CRM, you don't have to be focused on your inbox. You can just jump into there and you can see which, what stage each client is at in your pipeline.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And you can look at your overall pipeline and say, this looks good. This looks healthy.

Or you can say, “I got some problems, and I have to deal with them. But I don't have to.” You know, try and imagine, do I have a ROI? You can actually look in your CRM. You can see exactly where you are. Exactly. Love it. So, someone says, all right, that sounds good. It's not going to do everything, but it's going to do a lot for me.

I'm going to pick one and we're not going to get into the picking of one. That's a whole, that's an entire podcast, but they need to start thinking about implementing because these aren't. You pay for it and now it automatically is ready to go and it's going to do everything you want it to do. You actually have to do things to get it to do what you want it to do.

So, what do folks need to understand and think about as they're starting to approach actually implementing it for whatever purpose they have in mind?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, after they nailed down what they needed to do, and they've identified the right platform, then it's. Taking it by pieces, right? And with your client experience, your overall client journey, it's I keep talking about these phases.

So, there's the, the initial phase, which is like the potential client phase where you're making that great 1st impression. And then there's the actual onboarding and service delivery. And then there's the off boarding. So, if you can think about jumping into your CRM and chunking your process into 3 phases, that's going to help from the start.

But I always suggest a good old fashioned brain dump, whether that's on a paper, like using paper and pen, or it's a Google doc, a Word doc, what have you. It is literally brain dumping what your current process is and what you want to happen in the CRM, which the two should be hand in hand, whatever your current process is.

And so taking that initial phase, which is the initial contact and then the onboarding and service delivery and the offboarding and making sure you've gotten all that written out. That's the best place to start before you even start getting in the tool clicking around.

Deb Zahn: That's right because you're also going to look at it.

If you have it all written out or mapped out, you can look at it and say, am I creating friction, unnecessary friction, for a client that is going to make it. They're going to follow through and ultimately sign a contract. And why do I have that step in there? can I just get rid of that step? Like we had we've played around with the one that you've set up for me.

We had something where people had to read this whole thing and then download it and sign it. We had this much more elaborate process. And then you're like, why don't we just have them like you can read it and then click a box. And now. We got rid of a friction point and now it's much more likely that they're going to do the thing that we're asking them to do.

So, you can look at it then and say, what do I really want to bake into the system that is going to be an excellent experience from the first moment they engage until all the way through the process.

Danielle McGinnis: Absolutely. And you can also look for gaps to see what's missing. So, on the reverse of that, you can say.

Oh, I went from here to here, but I don't even have a way for them to pay. I didn't bake in the sending of the invoice or what have you.

Deb Zahn: Kind of important. Yeah.

Danielle McGinnis: So, you can look for gaps as well, which is important.

Deb Zahn: I love it. And so really nailing down what you're implementing before you're implementing, which seems like a no brainer, but both of us have had experiences where people just start implementing and they don't think through what's the, what's the step by step. And I know you love workflows, as do I.

But that's basically what it is, is step by step what do you want to have happen that gets baked into the system. And then, I, I like you're dividing it into three. So, do you generally say start with the first phase and then work on the second and then work on the third? Absolutely.

Danielle McGinnis: Because again, you need to start the onboarding and the service delivery, you need to have somebody to start that onboarding and service delivery with.

Yeah. So, it makes perfect sense to capture them at the beginning. To be able to make that good first impression from the first time they like land on your website or click your contact form, whatever it is, tighten that up and make sure that first experience is a great one. And then that it's going to ultimately, hopefully lead into the service delivery and onboarding.

Deb Zahn: That's right. But if you can't do it all at once, start with first impression, which I love because if you don't do well there, the other processes aren't going to matter because they will never experience them. So, that's perfect. Now I know that, so if you implement sort of the basics in those, let's say someone implements in those three categories, but in some ways, they're still only using a few of the features.

So, you mentioned you're going to see things you're missing. Like, do you have a way for people to pay? Do you want do you want this to be in your CRM or is this some separate system you have to make choices, but I've seen people use CRMs. Almost like elaborate, more expensive Excel spreadsheets where all they're really doing, she just made a face.

You can't see it, but she made this great face like, no but they're using it to essentially track, which is not a bad thing. Tracking is really important that you can, it'll still help you with a lot of things, but they're not necessarily optimizing it so that it. Really does free them up and create an amazing experience on the other end.

What are some of the ways that, that you help folks think about where does it make sense to optimize?

Danielle McGinnis: Typically, I ask them, it starts with me asking them about their process. So, a lot of times I can pretty much pick out what it is that this tool should be doing for them. And a lot of times people get into this well, I want to be, I want to be really personable with every client and I want to give that personal touch.

So, instead of doing this in the CRM, I'm going to send this email every time, and I'm going to send it from me and not from the CRM. A lot of times I help clients to understand that within CRMs, there are these things called custom mapped fields. And so that allows you to give some personal touches like using a person's name or what you talked about on your call.

There are ways to personalize your client experience without you being the one who has to do it. So, ultimately, I always suggest like why they're not…I try to get deeper into why they're not using the tool. And then we get into how they can optimize it. But that's just one way also to sometimes it. Is a team member sometimes, whatever it is that they're not doing, it might need to be a team member that does it.

Deb Zahn: But that's usually our last resort asking someone to do something manual is usually the last resort. And so I like to talk through with them the what is the system not doing for you? So, maybe it's the personal piece. Maybe it's not the right tool and sometimes we have to accept that. Yeah.

And then thirdly sometimes. It just may not be set up correctly. And so if it's not set up correctly, like I was talking to someone the other day about a CRM Dubsado that I had set up and she's like, I had no idea it did this thing. And so sometimes it's just a matter of you've purchased this tool what it's capable of, but you don't know how to do it.

And so you're just not optimizing it because it's not set up properly.

Deb Zahn: Right. Or you have a wish list and you don't know it does that. I recall years ago I was. with some consulting clients and it was all around these technology systems they were using in healthcare and people in a group start saying, I wish it did this, this, this, and this.

And there was someone next to me who had been using it for years and leaned over and whispered to me, it does all those things. And, and I thought they're frustrated because they think they have to go buy something else, but, or they have to do everything manually. And so it just helps to have somebody who can say.

Tell me in the best of all worlds because this is the conversations you and I have, where I'm like, OK, now let's put on our customer our client experience hat. And when we have our client's experience hat, would we want to be on the other side of this? Would this feel good to us? And if there's any spot where we're like, I don't know.

We first ask, does the system do that? Does it have something that would allow us to create the experience we want before we start thinking of doing anything manually? Because you've trained me well.

Danielle McGinnis: Sometimes it can result in you having to tweak your process. And there's always room to tweak your process if you're wanting to do this thing and this thing is not feasible with the system, the question becomes, do you need to do this thing?

Or can you tweak your process to now allow for that system to be able to support you better? That's

Deb Zahn: Right. And it's and the thing I want to emphasize is that this is not automating human relationships. This is not automating client relationships. This is automating steps that help create a good client experience, but you still have the relationship with the client.

That's not going to change. And if a client sometimes because I get very close to some of my clients, they'll send me things that are happening with them personally, or some worries and frustrations they have that don't lend themselves to being in a CRM, in which case. I don't want them to be in there and that makes sense, but I want to be able to track my emails in the CRM to make sure that when they told me this really intense thing, I actually replied to them and I didn't just think, Oh, I got to get back to her.

And then I totally forgot. So, but it, you still have the relationship. This is a tool to help facilitate a some of the smooth steps that you want and reduce frustration. Does that sound right?

Danielle McGinnis: That sounds a 100% right.

Deb Zahn: You nailed it. Oh, well, thank you again. Trained well, trained very well over here.

So, there is no way. In the heavens, I could have done this all by myself. Right? So, like, I, I must, I have a systems type of mind. I can think through details, but I can't do what you do. So, when does it make sense if, if somebody is starting to implement a CRM to get help?

Danielle McGinnis: Honestly. Starting with knowing your limitations and whether that's a skill set limitation or a time limitation, a resource limitation, knowing those limitations.

Some people come to me and they say, I'm not techie. I don't know, just make it work. And then other people come to me and they're like, I could do this. I think I could do this, but I don't have the time. So, you make it work. So, knowing those limitations, number one, and then number two, I always tell people that you should be driven by the amount of time you want to, to save on the, on the end, so when you know what this CRM is going to do for you.

That's going to drive you to get someone else to do it for you quicker, so that you get to that end result much quicker and sooner.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, again, when I look at what you've set up in my CRM, and I'm pretty good at figuring things out you know, I'm the one who fixes things around our house, yeah, it would have taken me forever.

Ever to do that, and any time I spend doing that is time I'm not spending getting business and serving my clients. So, this is where I think an investment on someone who this, I mean, you, you probably dream of workflows most nights. It's true. Shoes and workflows. Are together now, that'd be a dream right there. Like really nice shoes and workflows. That would be great.

Deb Zahn: So, there's no reason I wouldn't turn to someone like you and say, just do this magical thing that you do because it's going to save me time and save me money. And I get to focus on what only I could do.

Danielle McGinnis: Right. And that's the thing, like at the end of the day, like we all have a little bit of impatience with us.

So, do we want to, like. Impatiently have to wait for weeks or months because this is the thing that gets pushed off the easiest, right? Your clients and all the things in life scroll to the top of your to do list. And this is the thing that gets kind of pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. But it's also the thing that can make the most impact.

So, that's the reason why it needs to be prioritized. And bringing someone on to help is the best route to take there.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I sort of envisioned two lists. There's the, the to do list that gets pushed down, but it's still at the top of the frustration list. So, you want to switch those. Love it. Love it. Now the other tool that again, you've set up for me and it's absolutely incredible is a project management system.

So, we have a project management platform that we use. We use Asana because you know, it's It's fun. And we love unicorns shooting across the screen. Deb Zahn:but that's something, yeah, who doesn't, right? That's something that you, you set up and then you made me use because I was being silly and I, I'm just be honest.

I was being silly and I wasn't using it. And now I can't imagine not using it for any project, including, so I use it for my business, but I also am now using it in my consulting engagements. And I've. shared it with other consultants I've done projects with, and we've all had the same response.

What the heck were we doing before? Like, how were we tracking anything before? Because it just made everything we were doing easier and clients love it, etc. So, project management system, thinking about sort of delivering the goodness to clients again, what can you expect that it's going to do and not do for you?

Danielle McGinnis: It is going to organize your projects. It's going to organize. So, the one thing I want to clear up is you can't have one and not the other. So, some people think, “Oh, I'll get a project management tool, so I don't need a CRM” or the other way around. You can't have one without the other. They do very two very different things.

So, the CRM is bringing in the clients and getting the onboarding finished and things of that nature, but then once you begin to deliver that service, all the tasks that go into completing that service for that client, that's what gets organized in your project management tool. So, you typically have step 1, as soon as the client signs, we do this, and then I might have to give them access to that or whatever the thing is, but you have that outline nicely in your project management tool, and you're able to set dates and deadlines and.

Assign team members. And so that's going to keep your service delivery process like running seamlessly and smoothly. And again, all contributes to an outstanding client experience.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah. And again, it's the same thing with implementing, which is garbage in, garbage out. So, you have to think through, again, the project management system can do a whole lot of things for you.

Organize your tasks. There's a lot of different ways that that can look like. So, what do people need to start thinking about before they start implementing?

Danielle McGinnis: Project management organization can be challenging because there are different views there. So, there's like how you want to see it laid out or what deadlines that need to be said or things of that nature.

So, I always say, even starting with a brain dump with the project management tool, very similarly to what we've said with the CRM. Start with that brain dump. Do not get hung up on all the views. There's the list view, and then there's a board view, and then there's timeline, and la la la. Just get it in the tool, and it's amazing how once you start to put in the process that you follow for service delivery, it's just amazing how your brain starts to move.

You start to add to it. Then it'll start to make sense because you can say, “OK, well, within X amount of days of when the client is on board, if they need to have this, and after that happens, they need this.” And it just becomes this beautiful, seamless process that you're building, right?

Deb Zahn: Which you can replicate.

And what we did over time is we started to figure out, wait a minute, some of what we do involves a lot of handoffs, meaning. I do something and then somebody else has to do something and then somebody else has to do something. So, when I'm even using it with consulting clients, that sometime is true where I'm dependent on them giving me something before I can do my thing.

And then I have to shoot something back to them for approval before I can do my next thing. So, we, at a certain point realized what we had originally set up, which was largely related to task. management, we had to then do handoff management. And so you very well because I didn't know what it did. So, you very wisely set up status updates and then the let's say we change the status update.

Then what happens? Explain what you said. It was life changing. It made everything easier after that.

Danielle McGinnis: So, we've got some status updates so that as soon as you change the status, it pings the next person so that they're aware that, hey, it's time for you to receive this handoff and start your task. So, from an efficiency perspective, that person is not constantly checking us on and wondering if this thing is done.

They're just waiting for a ping from you. And you don't have to do two steps when you change that status. You just have to do one and the comment tags the person automatically. So, again, it's makes it a really efficient process.

Deb Zahn: And if you have all your communication within Asana, they, there's no, there's some, and it's hard sometimes when you work with teams or even if you work with clients and they're like, yeah, I never got that from you.

Well, we like to call it the source of all truth. So, not that I get into blame games with my clients. But if I'm done, I changed the status, they got pinged. There is a record that that handoff actually occurred and any communication related to it is put into the project management system. So, we're not going and hunting for emails.

I'm not sending somebody an attachment in an email. I send them a link that deals with the version control. But I mean, there's so much that you can do in it that just reduces. Drama is drama and frustration that typically happens when you're managing a project and you have a lot of handoffs and a lot of back and forth.

It can all be set up in Asana so that it's easy, it's clear, and it's traceable.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly and efficient because, let's face it, no one has a lot of time. No one has time to be searching their inbox or going and looking for something. So, when you can give someone a link directly to a task and oh, the task opens up, the document is uploaded there and your comment, your feedback is all in one spot.

It is so efficient. It allows that other person as well to just jump in and do what they have to do quickly.

Deb Zahn: I was, I would admit that I was personally embarrassed when you kept telling me, Deb, get in and use it, get in and use it. And I was resistant for whatever silly reason. And then I got up and used it and it freed up hours of my time every single week.

And then I was embarrassed. I admitted it to you. I was like, what have I been doing? What did I think was more important than doing this? Because between that and the CRM, I've created better experiences on the other side, but easily got back three to five hours every single week, just with those two systems.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah, but you do bring up a good point. It's a new habit to create. So, it's, you have to get used to it, whether it's the CRM or the, the PM tool, the project management tool, it is a new routine. And so I like to tell my clients every day, I want you to jump into your CRM, don't open your inbox. Open your CRM, open your project management tool, start there because the sooner you get used to using it, and I remember that's what happened with you, as soon as you got used to using it, you were creating tasks and pinging me on them that weren't even in there.

Deb Zahn: And she's like, wait, wait, wait, what? What's happening here? Oh yeah, and then we were stealing each other's unicorns. Anybody knows Asana what we're talking about. different kinds of animals across the screen as you complete tasks and you get a little dopamine hit, which I love, but yeah, I don't know how I did it before.

And now heading into some complex consulting projects with a whole lot of moving parts and a condensed timeframe and all this stuff. I can't imagine doing that without a tool like this and, and we're always discovering sort of new things that can be automated new integration. So, I've integrated it with my email system.

So, if I, if somebody sends me an email and I now know that that's an Asana task, I have an add on that I can just click. And I can, from my email system, add an Asana task, assign, do everything that I can do in Asana with ever, without ever having to open it. It does cool stuff.

Yeah. How long is the podcast?

But that's, that's some of the things you can do. Now, again, this is one of those things where.I showed off recently one that I set up for a consultant and you were very impressed and proud of me. You might've gotten a little misty, I don't know, but at the beginning I couldn't do this. I still to this day, how do you set up a status update and all that stuff?

I don't know. So, when's the best time to bring a human in someone like yourself who can get it purring the way we want it purring.

Danielle McGinnis: At the beginning, after you've identified what you want it to do, and realistically, you're not going to know, Oh, I want a status to change every time this happens or that happens, but that's the purpose of a pro coming in because they're going to tell you, OK, if this is the step and you need to get it from a to B, then we need to put a status update here so that this happens.

So, don't get hung up on the intricacies. Of the system, but once you identify everything that you wanted to do, it's best to get someone to set it up for you at the beginning up front. And then you can just use it and you don't have to worry about, like, going 6 months and going. Oh, my goodness. I've been doing this all this time, but I could have done it.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. And if you bring someone in also, they can also show you how to do things that are going to be routine things that you do because you know, good, good people like you don't just try and create dependencies. You try and make sure that your clients are smarter and wiser and more capable after you've left.

Absolutely. Which I hope I am. Absolutely. You're creating your own Asana board and stuff.

Deb Zahn: I did. Oh my gosh. I was so proud of myself.

So, now there's some consultants obviously who are luddites, and luddites are never going to use a system to save their life. And there's others who are like system, system, system.

And they'll just like buy anything cool that, that comes out. But at a certain point, you always have to pay attention to where you're making investments in your business. And what should a consultant be paying attention to so that they know I've got the right systems and they're doing the right things for me.

And if the answer to those is no, I'm going to do something different. What should they be paying attention to or looking at?

Danielle McGinnis: I would suggest doing a little audit. So, if you still got that brain dump document that you had at the beginning when you first set up your system and looking at that brain dump and saying, OK, I invested in this system for this.

And is it checking off all these boxes? Yes or no. And then why? So, sometimes that's, “Oh, what? I'm on the pro plan.” You know, I need to actually go up and I need to upgrade my plan or it's again, it could be a process thing. Oh what? It's not serving me anymore because now I changed my whole process and now I never brought the system along to meet me where I'm now at.

And then sometimes, like I said earlier, it is just not the right tool. As your business grows and scales, you're going to change systems. So, depending on how quickly your business grows over time, you may start in one place and then determine, “Hey, a year later or two years down the line, the system no longer serves me, I might need a little bit more.” Then it makes sense to, to make a switch at that point.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I think of a couple of examples for us. So, there's been a few times I had to upgrade because it didn't do the fancy things. A few times I downgraded because it turned out we didn't really need some of the fancier things that the higher-level paid plans did. And then I remember one system we used to use for scheduling social media posts because I was on a bunch of different platforms and then I decided, why am I doing that?

My audience, the folks that I most want to hire me are on one platform. And oh, by the way, that platform doesn't like you using those systems. It likes you to post natively. So, we got rid of it. And that's did it, what did it save me? It saved me a few hundred dollars a year, but that adds up.

Danielle McGinnis: Absolutely. And you should have all of your systems somewhere. So, if you've got this project management tool, the cool part about that is you could create your tech stack list right in your project management tool. And it's a this is what the tool is. This is what I'm paying, whether it's monthly or yearly.

And then you should be. Reviewing that tech stack, like you said, to see, Hey, what am I spending and is it serving me?

Deb Zahn: That's right. And that's the nature of an investment in your business is treat it like an investment. Don't spend the money and then hope that everything's fine.

Take a look at it. I love the idea of an audit. You and I have done those before and we're about to do another one where we're getting rid of some stuff that we didn't need. We upgraded another thing. And it makes sure that every dollar that I'm putting out to support my business is a smart dollar.

Danielle McGinnis: That's the whole point of the matter. Like everyone works hard for their money. And no one wants to just check their bank account and realize there's this recurring charge that's been on there for six months. And you're like, “Oh my God, I haven't used that tool since I signed up six months ago.”

Deb Zahn: It's like the worst feeling ever.

I've had that feeling where I'm like, I thought I canceled that. Why do I? Oh my gosh, I've spent X amount of money over two years because I wasn't paying attention to it. I hate that. So, if, if anyone out there wants to feel as joyful and grateful as, as I am because they get an opportunity to work with you and, and this is not hyperbole, like this is exactly how I feel working with you.

Where can they find you?

Danielle McGinnis: Yes, I am on Instagram Cutting Edge Ops. I am on LinkedIn under Cutting Edge Ops. I have a website, So, those are the three places you can find me and get in contact with me, to work together.

Deb Zahn: And it's fun to follow you too because you've been doing more cool videos, which I'm absolutely loving that.

Alright. And I also know, and it's funny, I'm asking a question about how you bring balance to your life. And I know the answer to some of these things, which also I feel like I need to do more of that. So, how is it you bring that balance to your own life?

Danielle McGinnis: I am really adamant about self-care and exercise.

There was once upon a time where that would be the thing that I'd sacrifice first. It's now the thing that's non-negotiable. So, I do work out a couple of times a week and I'm even now to the point where there's other things that make me happy, like my nail appointments and a massage here or there, hair appointment.

Those are all forms of self care that I now know. Are important to how I show up for my clients. And so definitely those are things that help me. And then just taking that family time with my husband and daughter.

Deb Zahn: And taking real vacations. So, I obviously follow your vacations on Instagram and I'm like, I want to be on a beach, but what I love is you take real vacations.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes, finally, like there was a time where again, that wasn't the priority, but again, when you realize just what it does for you, I come back every time and my brain is literally on fire because I've had a moment to rest and be, and then I am recharged. I'm reenergized. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to show up for my clients. It's a must.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I've seen it and I've experienced it. So, I love it. Well, Danielle, I have to thank you again. I embarrassed you at the beginning by saying how awesome you are. I'm going to embarrass you at the end by saying just how grateful I am that you are in my life and that you are such an important part of my business.

And I want everybody else who is struggling, particularly with their systems and their operations to even get a piece of that joy. So, I'm encouraging everybody who needs the help to reach out to you.

Danielle McGinnis: Oh, well, thanks again for having me. I'm so glad we've been together as long as we have and looking forward to everything else that we can automate.

Deb Zahn: When in doubt, automate.

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 in a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

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