“Can’t see the forest for the trees”…I wonder who originally came up with that saying. I have a gut feeling that person started a business at some point in their lives. When you start a business, you communicate with a lot of people. This means tons of emails, phone calls, networking events, lunches, drinks after work, conferences, meetups, etc. You know its is to much to keep in your head so you gotta think of a system (on a side note, you try to keep too much in your head anyway). For me, I kept notes in notebooks.
When I was taking notes, I focused on speaking with as many people as I could and filled notebook after notebook with detailed information from every inch of the nonprofit world. This system gave me two huge problems as I accrued more and more data.
- Finding specific nuggets of information
- Finding themes
I had valuable information all over the place - in my inbox, in blogs I read, in my notebooks - and I tried to create an Excel file to organize it all. A big problem with that is it would take up way to much of my time inputting data and I had to keep adding rows and columns because I would realize I forgot something or something would change. Another problem I had was using all this data. For example, I had great conversations with education focused foundations and nonprofits focused on primary and secondary education. I would fill up my notebooks with valuable Q&A exchanges and then the notes would just sit in a pile on my desk. I had problems remembering which conversation was in which notebook. Also, I felt like I did not have the time or energy to review notebooks and look for patterns or trends.
This system also led to subpar following up. I would have a conversation with someone and forget to circle back with them in a week - even though it was written in my notebook. I would forget to email a document to a nonprofit even in my inbox I told them I would send them the file the next day. These little mistakes would happen every now and then, but they did happen. And if they happened to me, I know they happened to members of the Rethink Impact team. I wonder what we missed out on because of poor relationship management.
In starting Rethink Impact, I was obsessed with speaking with everyone because we were going to revolutionize the grant process and I needed everyone on board now! Unfortunately, I’m positive that my slow phone call returns or email responses halted others from having the same urgency as I did.
Having one place for the team to put information, and more importantly, retrieve information on a person is important. It also frees up your mind from worrying - which matters. You only have an infinite amount of mental capacity and the less you use on parts of the business you can easily control, the better it is for you, the team, and the business. I did not purchase a CRM because I thought I could build something in Excel and be just fine. That was a mistake. Having a CRM can be the first domino in a string that produces positive benefit after positive benefit.