Achieving an efficient-state as you grow your business must be amongst the most difficult things to do for entrepreneurs. Most often, we default to throwing people at every problem, every unmet obligation, every open task and every form of operational frustration in the business.

So as the business grows, the needs of our customers grow & with time an ever-diminishing resource we revert to form, hire more people.

It’s not uncommon for most start-up or growth leaders to look in the room and not know half the people in it, when only a few months ago, everybody knew everybody.

This is not bad: businesses should grow, customer bases should expand & employee numbers should swell. What is important is to manage the “swelling”.

I am an avid user of enterprise software. I am the quintessential early-adopter who will test a beta version of s software and give feedback to the developers of that software so that they can build for the user experience. My companies are also ubiquitously tech-enabled. We test and trial technology solutions consistently to ensure that maximise process efficiency.

Here are the SaaS applications I could never live without:

a. Asana

This is a task & project management tool that ensure that teams are aligned on the tasks that must be performed, the person responsible, the due date and the files required to perform the task. In the early days of the VC firm, this tool really brought a sense of direction to the team & helped us eliminate the drudgery of email;

b. Evernote

If you run a knowledge business and have different people in the firm meeting with key stakeholders, making commitments on behalf of the firm then you need to ensure that you on top of the meetings, what is discussed, what is committed, by whom and what obligations it places on your business. Evernote has been a staple application for me. I have using for the past 8years. The enterprise version allows for multi-device version syncing and control, unlimited back-ups and searches by word. I can upload PDFs and jpegs and search the document by the word at a future date. But most importantly, every employee that takes a meeting with a client must load the recording of the meeting onto the system (Evernote enabled) and then save their notes on Evernote.

My management team can listen in to these meetings later and understand the detail of what we are required to do, and by when.

As an extra, Evernote released templates that allow you to standardise processes in the firm by having standardised documentation. We are past this stage but a start-up or scale-up, these are gold.

c. Salesforce CRM

Sales are the red blood cells of any business (large or small) & cash flow, its oxygen. So you want to make sure that you keep a steady finger on the pulse of your sales. We religiously measure pipeline vs. close rate, days to close a sale, stage progression per lead, rot rate (the number of sales that rot because the lead doesn’t return calls or communication) and even quantum year on year. So implementing an intelligent system that enables this is vital. You want to have the system so seamlessly integrated into your workflow processes that your salespeople don’t have to stop selling to input data in the system.

We just acquired SalesforceCRM and for the stage of business we are in, it is perfect. We license an off-shelf system developed by another firm in NYC but the application does 95% of what we require.

If you’re reading this and don’t have the budget for license fee CRM then don’t despair. There are many freemium options in the market. My personal favourite is ZohoCRM.

Remember though, salespeople are notoriously difficult to manage. Without a clear & detailed sales process enabled by an online platform, your odds of success are drastically reduced.

d. Slack

Easily the best decision I ever made for my business over the past decade. Gone are the WhatsApp groups, the email conversations that are impossible to track and the long lists of To-dos. There are not enough words in the length of the English language that I can use to describe how revolutionary Slack has been for us as a firm. Much quicker communication, greater collaboration and increased speed of delivery.

Running a high-growth business is amongst the most fulfilling endeavors any person can take on. However, not well managed, the drivers of growth can be your Achilles and lead to untold stresses, unmet customer expectation, and rogue employees. Whilst people are the most important asset in any business (and this is true) systems are how you ensure that those people are aligned and clear on what is the purpose of the firm & their role in the business achieving that.

This is not even a third of the systems my businesses run. In a fortnight, I will post a follow-on article about what we call TierII systems in the business that runs the actual core processes of the firm.

Vusi Thembekwayo
Speaker | Investor | Dragon Slayer