How to Create an Integrated Business System

When it comes to small business success, it’s not about charisma, drive or even know-how. An entrepreneur’s ability to run a profitable enterprise depends on what goes on behind the scenes. To really grow a company worth writing home about, you need to create an integrated business system that supports your evolution.

Why Are Business Systems Essential?

No matter how awesome your team, killer app or game-changing idea seems now, enjoying successful growth means you’ll eventually run up against a bigger problem than you can tackle. There’s not much difference between a great opportunity and an insurmountable challenge, and your ability to handle each situation you encounter dictates which kind of outcomes you’ll realize.

The business owners who stay afloat even as their competitors sink don’t just hit it lucky with great ideas or favorable market conditions. Even when fortuitous situations come their way, they make a point of quantifying them so that they can apply the lessons they learn going forward.

Above all, you must implement business systems that improve the insights you get from data. Regardless whether you focus on project management, invoicing and receiving, CRM or all of the above, creating an integrated framework is essential to making more intelligent decisions.

So How Do I Get the Ball Rolling?

In the days of yore, only the biggest companies could afford to perform advanced reporting and analytics. Fast forward to the present, and there are countless apps, tools and plug-and-play frameworks ready for you to customize and adapt to your corporate model. Here are a few common domains you might want to consider integrating:

Lead Generation, Cultivation and CRM

As comfortable as your niche is, the market ecosystems you operate in will inevitably change. Mechanisms that help you identify and nurture leads are critical to keeping pace.

There are many ways to keep track of the opportunities that feed into the most profitable verticals. Email marketing tools, like MailChimp, and SEM programs, like Google AdWords, offer a wealth of performance data that lets you gauge the efficiency of various campaigns. If you want to take things a step further, Salesforce, Pipedrive, Pardot, Hubspot and countless other apps facilitate a more comprehensive approach by letting you manage multiple marketing drives simultaneously.

Apps that focus on CRM are great because they make it easier to keep your big-picture goals in mind as you zero in on the mission-critical details. There are even a number of web-based tools that focus on industry-specific CRM, such as platforms explicitly designed for the construction industry, freight handlers or B2B marketers. It may not be necessary to adopt such a specialized approach, but it’s nice to know you have the option.

Resource, Time and Project Management

It’s very easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty when you’re hard at work, and business leaders aren’t the only ones who are susceptible to tunnel vision. Individual employees and teams can become overly absorbed in their projects and tasks. Organizational resource management tools could spell the difference between a short-sighted, fatal decision and a smart move that guarantees your future.

Once again, you’ve got plenty of ready-made options. Popular apps like Zoho Projects, Asana and Droptask include a number of handy features, such as being able to create projects and tasks, import deadlines to Google Calendars or Outlook and host remote chat conferences. Even relatively specialized tools, like WorkflowMax and Time Doctor, play a big role in helping you visualize where your effort goes and whether it’s being expended as beneficially as possible. As your team grows to deal with your increasing workload, these kinds of software will become indispensable, so it’s smart to start using them early on.

Supply Chain Management, Accounts and Reporting

Tools that generate invoices, keep track of incoming shipments and remind you when it’s time to pay the bills or collect payable accounts are your best friends. Microsoft Dynamics GP, Zoho Books, Procurify, and others let you manage vendors and payments as well as take notes on which suppliers best satisfy your needs.

You literally can’t afford to forget about your bottom line. Luckily, most of the same business applications we’ve already mentioned are numbers driven, so you can generate trend data and CSV tables that integrate well into your graphing or reporting tools of choice.

Tying It All Together

There’s no point in creating a system that adds unnecessary steps to your management process. As you implement company policies that rely on new apps, ask yourself: Does each tool you use make it easy to share data with other apps and decision makers?

For instance, your preferred project management app may tick most of the boxes by letting you check in from a mobile device and delegate work to specific individuals. If it fails to provide time tracking functionality or export team schedules to a tool that does, however, your dependence on it could cripple your workflows. Your business management ecosystem needs to be capable enough to handle everything you put to it, but it should also be seamless enough that you don’t have to completely switch gears and waste valuable time going from one common task to another.

We’ve only touched the surface of the apps and software you can use to build your business system. There are thousands of ways to manage your growth, and their suitability depends on what you want to accomplish. Share your favorite tools and methods in the comments below, or read our other articles for more.