10 Tools for the Creative Business Owner
I always love when the events we help out with align with the things I'm passionate about. While a lot of what you see on here is about hosting and celebrating and all the pretty things, a massive chunk of my time is dedicated to the grit-over-pretty business side. How do I grow a business? How do I develop a meaningful service and provide something really special in this community? How do we get systems in place? And funding? And find the right people?
And living in Nashville, I know I'm not the only one asking these questions. This city is awash with small business owners working in coffee shops putting in the deep work to make their idea something concrete and viable. It's a steep climb, often messy and exhausting, but for the people who trudge through it's incredibly worth it.
As a nod to this entrepreneur side of our community that I so admire, today I'm sharing 10 of the top tools and resources I use at 12th Table to keep our brand on point and forging ahead. If you're in the trenches doing your best work, I hope these are helpful. And if you have any great tools/resources you use, I'd love to hear!
Tools + Resources
1. People. The number one resource you have in starting or growing a business is people. I know that seems like such a cop-out thing to say, but in a technology driven world it's so easy to overlook the value in building strong relationships/partnerships and hiring the right people. But people are everything. They provide you with that second (ok, let's be honest) fifth wind when you want to throw in the towel. They refer you to that new client who gives you your biggest job of the year. They give you a fresh perspective and a wise word of advice. They let you borrow their space for a launch party. They stay up late, working far more than asked, answering emails and writing proposals because they care about the clients and about doing a job well. Technology and apps can improve your process and make you more efficient. People give you heart and hope and ensure you succeed. Don't overlook or undervalue them.
2. 27" iMac Desktop. I can't tell you how many friends I have who are starting a business and who hold onto their old trusty behemoth laptops that always have to be plugged in or immediately succumb to a powerless death. I know computer prices can be steep, but they're one of the absolute best investments you can make. I spend no less than 12 hours a day on the computer. Working on a big screen with a fast processor allows me to be far more efficient and far less frustrated. It maximizes how I'm able to serve my clients. If you're sitting on an oldie, do yourself a favor: say your peace and retire it.
3. Adobe Creative Cloud. Everyone on our team has subscriptions to the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Good design is the backbone of our brand — not only in the actual pieces we provide, but also in how our clients interact with us. We create all of our design boards and rental proposals through InDesign. We store, edit, and tag all our photos through Lightroom. We manage all our contracts through Acrobat. In other words, Adobe is our third arm making all the design glory happen.
4. GSuite. 100% fundamental to what we do. We store all of our files on Drive for easy updating and team access, use Gmail as our email provider, and then tap into Analytics and AdWords for marketing purposes. Efficiency on steroids.
5. Later. If you want to tell your brand's story, social media is an obvious necessity. But if you run a small, scrappy team and don't have the luxury of a full-time social media maven (or twelve), managing that content is more than a full-time job. We use Later to map out our Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest posts. You can plug in the visuals and pre-type captions, so everything is lined up ready to go. I love this because, first off, it's a time saver. But two, it also allows us to visually map out our story. I love when I look at an Instagram feed and it feels cohesive and beautiful as a whole — not just as an individual picture. Mapping it out in advance gives you the space to see how the big scheme looks and make alterations as necessary. While everyone works differently, I'll normally sit down and tackle this in chunks — knocking out a couple of weeks of content at a time so it's ready to go, and so I can spend each day focusing on the tasks at hand rather than "wasting" my time debating which visual I want to post.
6. Coschedule. The primary goal of 12th Table is to be the go-to contemporary rental resource in our community. But I also want us to be an educational and inspirational resource for people who are diving into the hosting/celebrating world. A large part of a being a reliable source is being active in your storytelling—sharing stories, visuals, and how-tos that are thoughtful, valuable, and fresh. CoSchedule is our newest tool that helps us map out our entire editorial calendar, along with the necessary tasks, to make sure that story/shoot happens. Before we adopted this, so so many things fell through the cracks and great concepts never materialized. Coschedule keeps us far more on track and accountable. #OrganizationForTheWin
7. Squarespace. A couple of years ago, I spent far too much money on a new fancy website. Some French guy with a mustache put together an absolutely stunning and unique design that would, in theory, separate us and more clearly define our brand. The only problem? It was 0% functional. No one knew what we did or what products we offered. No one could even find the navigation bar. (An entrepreneur's nightmare.) So, painful though it was, I trashed it. With the help of Lauren Ledbetter and Squarespace, we crafted the site you see now. It's still beautiful and on-brand, but more importantl it's super functional. People know what we do (miracle!) and can discover all the details about the products we offer (double miracle!).
8. Slack. This is how our team communicates 95% of the time. Slack has literally has cut down on my inbox by 1,000 percent and incalculably improved company communication. I cannot imagine running a team of our size (or any size for that matter) without this.
9. Sonos. So this isn't technically a tool, but it is something we use every day. I am obviously a big believer in creating the right environment. And that isn't just aesthetics — it's all the senses. Music is such a motivator to me. It clears my mind, focuses me, and keeps me going when the caffeine has long since called it a day. Sonos is a staple at our office. The music is always on and can be tailored to every room. So if I'm feeling some electronic and the girls are feeling some Top 20, we can all do our own thing and churn out a day's work to our own beat.
10. Productivity Planner. I'm in an entrepreneur mastermind group here in Nashville filled with some killer women, and this is one of the first tools they all fiercely recommended. While it's so simple, it's also incredibly effective. Write down your goals. Prioritize them so you can focus on the essential items first. It's so, so easy to have your attention diverted and monopolized by the loud, squeaky wheel, or get lost down a side track that has very little bearing on your end goal. If you know what matters to you, if you call it out, and if you see how your hours are spent, you'll be able to continually refine and improve how you spend your most valuable asset: your time.