Canadian entrepreneurs are renowned for their openness to explore emerging business tools and adapt practices to deliver great goods and services.
But recent times have called for agility and innovation on a scale many entrepreneurs haven’t seen before — especially those who have built their businesses from home, even before the pandemic. From keeping customers and clients happy, to finding simple ways to engage teams across time zones, Canadian entrepreneurs are enlisting digital tools to keep their businesses powering forward.
In this article, six work-from-home entrepreneurs share the digital tools and software they rely on to keep the show on the road. You may already be using some of these tools in your business, or you might find a new match for a remote-working challenge you’re tackling now.
Connecting distributed teams
The challenges of keeping distant people connected became acute quite quickly, once the pandemic forced millions from offices. David Temperli, owner of Alberta-based digital marketing and advertising company Nolios, understands these challenges only too well. His team is spread across the globe. Nolios uses well-known tools for video conferencing, customer relationship management (CRM), communication, and cloud accounting.
It’s Slack, the business communication tool, he values most. “With one tool we may eliminate the need for office space, expensive phone calls or other tools such as Skype, and it allows me to communicate with my team in any time zone,” said Temperli. “We may set up calls and video conferences in the team, with external partners or with clients — a big plus over other tools.” Nolios also use Slack to exchange files, sort communication into various projects, and change members from projects and sub-groups.
It’s a similar story for Lucas Robinson, Crediful’s chief marketing officer. He is a keen advocate for Google’s free Hangouts tool, as it helps him do voice and video calls with colleagues. “Hangouts boasts an auto-generated closed caption feature. This means you’ll see subtitles for whoever is speaking in real-time. That’s ideal if you’re tuning in from a loud location or if you’re trying to understand the person talking.”
Supporting strategy and planning
Increasingly, digital tools are not just about helping people talk — they’re being used to power thinking too. Makro Agency is a Montreal-based company that works with ecommerce brands. “We conduct a lot of brainstorming and strategy sessions," said Michael Chammas, Makro Agency’s founder. “These sessions rely on our team and clients to be engaged and to actively participate.”
In the past, the agency conducted these sessions on a physical whiteboard, but this became a problem as it transitioned to a work-from-home environment. “We found it wasn't as effective conducting sessions over Zoom, where one person was sharing their screen and adding notes while others felt like spectators. It was crucial the whole team could collaborate,” said Chammas.
The agency turned to team collaboration software, Miro, which helped agency staff to video call, while making a whiteboard the centerpiece where any team member could edit and actively contribute. “The Miro board also comes with tons of features and the ability to save templates which have definitely improved how we conduct our sessions,” said Chammas.
Consultants need great ideas and sharp thinking to thrive too. Some entrepreneurs stick to a notepad by the bed, or a small jotter in their jacket pocket instead. But Marie-Michèle Larivée, a Montreal-based trend forecaster and consultant, uses Pocket to save useful articles, videos, and content. “Around 80 percent of my work is research. And as a trend forecaster, I track evolution and innovations,” said Larivée. It is valuable to her to have mental cues and ‘a pocketful of resources’ to support her client work.
Keeping it simple
It may seem like there is a digital tool for every possible scenario. And even more are being released to solve the challenges of our increasingly remote world of work and commerce. This is why it may be helpful to prioritize.
Nolios's Temperli believes too many tools may be ‘overwhelming and pricey’ and it’s a view shared by Alison Bernstein, founder and president of Suburban Jungle, a real estate advisory and tech platform.
“Just having a few go-to items is key,” said Bernstein. “Otherwise you spend your days going in and out of various apps and it is too time-consuming. We have built our own proprietary technology — and continuing to improve the workflows within that where we “live” for our business daily has been key. It has been getting a lot more attention and we have been launching new productivity features.”
Don’t forget many of the best tools are those you already have too — like the humble calendar. “It isn't fancy or glamorous, but it's where the magic happens,” said business strategist and author Kelly Roach. “Everything that needs to be done gets a spot on my calendar. No to-do lists, just time blocks on my Google Calendar and iCalendar,” said Roach. “Running two companies as a mom, I have lots of things to juggle. If I relied solely on lists, I wouldn’t get a third of what I need to do accomplished each day.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.