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I often get asked by consultants who are starting their own practice what systems they should implement. I always suggest that you start with the basics as you can always implement and integrate other systems and technology as you grow and scale your business.

The secret is to not let yourself get overwhelmed by the number of options available. If you’re not sure, write a list of what capability you need and then start your research. Keep it simple as you don’t need systems that do everything but clean the dishes! Just keep in mind your longer term goal of integration and automation of processes as you want to eliminate the manual process and double handling.

Here are my top five favourite systems that I recommend you implement when starting a new consulting practice;

1. Xero (www.xero.com) – in my opinion this is by far the best accounting software in the market. It has excellent training videos to teach you the basics and you don’t need an accounting degree to understand the terminology. It allows you to minimise your book keeping costs and all the end of month stress, as all your bank feeds are automated, the data entry step is almost eliminated and you can manage your cash flow in real time.

2. Camtasia (www.techsmith.com/camtasia) – allows you to easily record videos of your screen and edit them. An absolute must have when training employees or virtual assistants, as you record it once and they have it as a reference forever! There is also a free version Jing that allows you to record up to five minutes per video, but Camtasia is still cost effective and worth every cent.

3. WorkflowMax (www.workflowmax.com) – this is a fantastic customer relationship management (CRM) system for any consulting practice. It allows you to manage all of your contacts effectively, quote jobs and manage your time sheet. It also integrates with Xero as it is now owned by them to make your invoicing seamless.

4. Import file capability through your bank – having the ability to export all your creditor invoice and payment details as an ABA file directly from your accounting software into your bank account will save you so much time. You will pay a small monthly fee for this capability, but it removes the risk of human error and will save you hours of data entry.

5. Macroview DMF (www.macroview.com.au) – whilst this software is relatively expensive initially to set up, once you have employees it is a great platform to build your business on. It is a content management and knowledge management system in one, allows you to share documents and maintain version history and can easily be integrated with other systems including Microsoft Outlook to create a very user friendly interface for dragging and dropping emails and documents into your document library.  It also has a brilliant add on called Clausebank which allows you to template your knowledge and templates saving you significant time and energy.

So there you have it, my top five recommendations. Regardless of the systems and software you choose, if you are serious about setting up the foundations of your business the right way from the start then you really need to invest the time to set them up correctly and learn how to use them. This may take a few hours of your time initially, but I can guarantee you will not regret it.

Just one final tip, make sure you utilise cloud technology. Gone are the days where you need to set up and maintain your own server, and why would you when there are so many affordable, low maintenance alternative options available!  You can access your systems anywhere anytime all from the convenience from any computer, tablet, phone or internet connection.