The conversation between my dad and me would always go something like this… “Isn’t it about time?  Dad, we should really modernize our small business and digitize our records.” He’d laughingly respond, “Don’t worry darlin’, I keep track of it all in my head.”

As a teenager and in my early twenties, I blissfully accepted this answer knowing my dad was smart, capable and successfully managing our small business in a way that secured our family’s future. This all worked quite well until we were hit with that one inevitable certainty in life. When my father became ill, my mother looked to me to keep the business going – which I happily did. I was a successful lawyer who had helped run other businesses so how hard could this be?

But when I sat down at my father’s desk, ready to take the helm, I quickly faced the practical implications of his “I keep track of it all in my head” approach to running the business. There were papers everywhere – invoices, insurance documents, utility bills, contracts, legal documents, bank statements, tax bills, vendor agreements… you name it, we had it. To the extent anything was tracked, it was all in a book meticulously maintained by my dad – in his sometimes difficult to read handwriting. This was definitely one of those “Calgon, take me away” moments!

I had to dig deep and dig in. As I spent the time organizing our documents and reconstructing the information we would need so the business could survive and thrive, I became painfully aware of how much revenue we were losing, how much employee time was being wasted, and how much overhead could be saved. As a lawyer, I was familiar with digital workflow tracking and I knew it would solve a lot of these problems and help our small business achieve our short and long term goals.

I tackled this challenge by first making a plan so I could prioritize my tasks and determine my most immediate needs. I focused on document tracking and storage as well as alerts so I would know exactly when invoices and payments were due. There was nothing that kept me up more at night than the thought of the electric being turned off because I missed a payment or losing our insurance for the same reason. Or even worse, the idea a payment due to us would slip through the cracks and then I wouldn’t be able to pay our loans or tax bills on time.

I didn’t need complex software with fancy bells and whistles designed to serve Fortune 500 companies. Instead, I needed a tool that was simple enough for me and my staff to understand and use on day one.   I wanted to get our work done more efficiently, conserve resources, and make money. I was very fortunate that Bigfork Tech provides an easy to understand and practical tool to address the needs of my small business.

Here is what I learned along the way . . .

Lesson 1: I wish we started sooner.

Once I realized how much easier project workflow software made our lives, I wished we had started using it years ago. The system is so adaptable that it allows us to adjust to any changes in market conditions. This is especially important now that we are facing the economic fallout of the COVID crisis.

Lesson 2: Project tracking drives revenue.

With tracking, we are able to close deals twice as quickly, ensure our bills are paid, increase collections, and minimize paperwork. It reduces my labor costs because I am not paying employees to spend time looking for documents or recreating lost documents. It streamlines my whole workforce and makes my business easily scalable for growth or outside investment.

Lesson 3: Increases worker accountability.

One of the challenges of any small business is making sure your employees are actually doing the work you need them to do. With project tracking, I am able to reward those working to their maximum potential.  I can also let go of those who are simply trying to fly under the radar and collect a paycheck. It also helps me to ensure those who are working remotely during this current crisis and beyond are actually staying on task.

Lesson 4: Tracks KPI’s.

Because I am able to see all the pending projects in one system, I can track progress and see if we are meeting our revenue goals. This enables me to address any issues before they turn into big problems. If we are not meeting the goals, I can identify the pain points and adjust accordingly.

Lesson 5: Improves quality of life.

I spent many sleepless nights in those first few months. Now with the most basic level of document and workflow tracking, I am able to get home earlier. Not to mention the peace of mind that comes with knowing my family small business is running efficiently and at a profit. I often think about just how hard my late dad worked to make our business a success. He didn’t have a lot of the tools we have today to avoid those long hours. I think he would be happy knowing we have a thriving business as his legacy. But he’d also be happy to know we have a thriving family because I can spend more time with them.

So now I’ll ask you what I used to ask my dad so many years ago, “Isn’t it about time?”

Maria Syms

Maria Syms

Maria started her career as a lawyer in the early nineties at a D.C. international law firm. She worked on a clunky WANG computer that was far from “user-friendly”. Having ridden the technology wave (both good and bad), Maria understands how the right technology can be used to create value and grow your business. Maria practiced as a partner in a law firm representing multinational corporations, an Assistant United States Attorney and an Assistant Attorney General. She was also an elected Arizona lawmaker. Maria holds a Master’s degree from Harvard, a law degree from American University and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. She is a member of the Arizona, California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and D.C. bars.