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Make More Money with Tools I Bet You Didn’t Know Existed (Part I)
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Getting your large or small business organized is often a difficult task at best.  Making sure your team is on the same page can be even more arduous.  Many business owners and project managers struggle with where they should start.  You may find yourselves asking questions like, “What tools should I use?”, “When should we employ them?” and “How can we apply them for maximum organizational benefit?” 

The need to ask these questions often arises out of necessity, such as when you’ve reached a point of critical mass with a given client or in your ability to attract business.  Perhaps the lack of certain office equipment kept you from landing that big account last month, or insufficient software inhibited team member communication when you needed it the most.  Maybe it’s the outdated hardware that keeps you in the technological dark ages that’s the real problem. 

Sometimes just NOT knowing what your competition knows can get you into real trouble.  In fact, this last one alone can kill your salespeople’s ability to land certain accounts or make more money with less effort in a huge way. 

Fact is that any number of reasons should and can motivate you to do a little online research so you can get started in the direction of where you need to be  ―organized and ahead of your competition. 

Any successful business has as one of its primary goals to be organized so that it can operate efficiently.  Of course there are a number of ways you can go about this, but my suggestion for 2011 is to shop for technology.  Being on the cutting edge technologically is one way to make your company stand out for sure.  Knowing how to employ and apply the latest advances for maximum advantage is oftentimes the key to making your and your project managers’ workloads lighter and your overall operation more profitable. 

So, are you ready to make your and your team’s business lives easier?  Is the idea of making more money while doing less appealing?  How about those employees you hired―ready to help them work smarter? 

If you’re like many work-from-home business owners, you might employ staff or use a freelance team that is spread to the four winds.  Project managers, owners, consultants and other team members often find themselves in need of a project management program to bring the team together, if not physically then virtually. 

Enter Backpack Professional 4.6… 

Backpack Professional 4.6 consists of seven stalwart applications in one easy-to-use software solution.  Backpack is Web-based; your Backpack Pages are accessible from any computer, even while traveling.  Features include backup and restoration of files, burning CD/DVDs and printing directory/folder structures.  Newsgroup files can be downloaded, files can be emailed and Web sites published. 

And that is just the tip of the iceberg!

It's not for nothing that The New York Times said about Backpack, “Very cool organizational tool,” BusinessWeek named it an “Editor’s & Reader’s Choice,” and PC World said it is a “Tremendous.  Top 100 Product.”  Kevin James Culp adds to the plaudits and says, “Finally, a simple tool that enables you to make more money that is well worth the investment.”

Backpack is very useful software that provides members access to a shared calendar, task lists, centralized messaging and files…it even allows your team to send alerts and reminders to cell phones.

Sure, all of that is fine and great, but the truth is that many software tools you can buy online do the same thing.  While those others are a good place to start when you need management software, they’re not Backpack

Here’s how Backpack took a great platform from sufficient and made it awesome by allowing you to further manage your business in the following key ways:

  • Keep important documents in one place.  The files, forms and documents your employees need are likely scattered across the office on different computers or in different filing cabinets.  That's old-school and inefficient.  Now you can store your company’s forms, expense reports and worksheets on Backpack so that everyone knows where things are.

  • Share “how-to’s,” tutorials and guides.  You might share information with your employees by email, phone calls or posting flyers in common areas.  Maybe your company publishes a newsletter or catalogs employee FAQs in the form of employee manuals.  Now there's a better way.

But that’s not all…

The backbone of Backpack is the pages function, where you can quickly and easily create pages for individual projects or even separate aspects of individual projects.  You can now also do the following tasks with ease:

  • Gather/Review Research:  Researching a subject for a project?  Gather whitepapers, documents, evidence, photos and more on a Backpack Page.

  • Product/Project Ideas:  Working on a new product or project?  Keep your ideas, feature requests, prototypes and to-do lists on a Backpack Page.

  • Press Mentions:  Make a Backpack Page of all your press mentions.  It’s the easiest way to gather all your publicity in one place.

  • Meeting Prep/Notes:  Prepare for a meeting, make a to-do list, gather notes, post the slide deck, etc.

  • Standardize Procedures:  Keep standard answers, responses and procedures in one place so everyone knows exactly what to say or do in any situation.

  • Frequently Needed Forms:  Gather all those common forms (NDA, expense report, timesheets, business letter template, etc.) on a single page.

  • Comparing Options:  Planning a conference or seminar?  Gather your options on a Backpack Page to make it easier to compare venues, ideas, etc.

  • Organize/Archive Receipts:  Store your receipts on a Backpack Page and make expense reporting simpler.  Organize them by month, year, category, etc.

  • Know What You Bought:  Keep track of what you bought, when you bought it and how much you paid for it.

  • Present Design Directions:  Present several design directions to a client on one page.  Fonts, logos, screenshots—upload any images you’d like.

  • Track Potential New Hires:  Make a list of leading candidates, post their resumes and take notes during the interviews.

  • Lunch Menus (Who delivers?):  Order lunch a lot at work?  Store the most popular restaurant menus on a single Backpack Page.  It’s that easy.

As you can see, with just a click, you or anyone from your team can handle almost any aspect of your business or project on the appropriate page―meeting agendas, task lists, photos, notes…and you can even add files.  This means that no one on your team will have to go on a hunt for bits and pieces of information. 

I find the integrated communications and scheduling Backpack provides with its calendar tool to be especially helpful.  It is so simple to master and it can, in almost all cases, be exported to any other calendar you use (Outlook, Google Calendar, etc.).

You may also love, as I do, Backpack’s Newsroom application.  No more messages going to spam so that they are never read by some team members, which then causes confusion and a total lack of cohesion at the most critical times.  

As any business owner or manager knows, just one lost message going to spam that is not read by a team member wastes time and energy.  With Backpack, you can post a message regarding your project and ensure that every member will see it. 

Using Backpack is so easy, anyone can do it!  It’s a very short learning curve to master the technology that is well worth the effort.  And not having to follow up as a result of what was once routine miscommunication can make the time you and your team spends learning this system priceless.

Backpack offers a number of options, allowing business owners and project managers working with smaller groups to save some money.  There are three different levels of Backpack commitment: Pro ($99 per month), Plus ($49 per month) and Basic ($24 per month).  They even offer a free trial!

Check back later this week when I review Basecamp.  Basecamp is another top choice for entrepreneurs, freelancers, small businesses and groups inside larger organizations who want to keep things on track.

Carpe Diem My Friends!

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