All the "stuff" | Case Study | Small biz resources
15 April 2021
What happens when you’re the finance lead for a successful startup that gets acquired? Everyone wants to work with you. Chris Scott is the one-man finance team behind some of Vancouver’s favorite startups (full disclosure: Chris leads finance for Charli), many early-stage companies like Charli opt to hire contractors, consultants, and freelancers to supplement full-time employees. One area you’ll see many startups outsource in the early stages of growth is finance, Chris saw this as an opportunity to work with not one but four different startup teams at various stages of growth.
How Chris manages the finances of four fast-growing startups
So how does he manage workflows and tasks across multiple clients?
“Working with different teams you start to learn the importance of the process really quickly. You don’t want to create disparate processes across your clients. Sometimes it’s inevitable things will be different from team to team but I try to keep my own process the same.”
Managing attention across multiple clients
Attention management is a hot-button issue for anyone struggling to manage a high-demand services business, whether it’s business consulting or the law, the common denominator is managing your attention across multiple competing tasks.
“In the early days of going from one day job to consulting for multiple clients, I really struggled to manage my time and attention. I would set out to only work on client X in the morning but inevitably the slack notifications and emails would pull me into multiple tasks. It quickly became chaotic trying to keep track of which tab had client X’s Google Drive or client Y’s Gmail inbox etc.”
“Discovering Shift was a bit of a game-changer for me, it simplified the chaos.”
What Chris came to realize is that fighting against multitasking and context switching was not working. He needed a way to make the context switching easier on the eyes. “Discovering Shift was a bit of a game-changer for me, it simplified the chaos. I no longer had to keep track of which tab corresponded to which client, it may not seem like a lot but this small change made a huge difference. I felt more organized.”
When work gets busy we all let organization fall by the wayside to our own detriment.
As a person who is not naturally organized, Chris fell into the trap of creating desktop folders and hierarchies for each client. Pretty quickly those structures would go stale and Chris would be forced to spend (in some cases) hours per week sifting through files to find what he needed to get work done. It’s a familiar cycle for most of us, regardless of whether you have one job or several, maintaining an efficient and effective level of organization is a burden. When work gets busy we all let organization fall by the wayside to our own detriment.
Organization = extra hours in the day
As Chris got busier with more clients, his method for organizing content from each team was starting to break under pressure. Enter Charli, a disorganized person’s best friend. You might be thinking “well of course he uses Charli, he works there…” so for the record, we’re sharing Chris’ story in particular because he was one of the hardest team members to win over. Chris and Charli were not a match made in heaven at first, but Chris quickly recognized that organization was the key to reducing the fatigue he felt from constantly jumping around looking for content.
“When Charli was added to the Shift marketplace, I was ecstatic, I could close another few tabs and instead keep each Charli for each of my clients in my one Shift browser. I went from having 20 tabs to just 2.”
What made life even easier? “When Charli was added to the Shift marketplace, I was ecstatic, I could close another few tabs and instead keep each Charli for each of my clients in my one Shift browser. I went from having 20 tabs to just 2.”
“Now whenever I get any content for a client I can switch to their Charli and upload information much faster. I rarely go into any of the Google Drive’s I have access to. I simply keep Charli and the various inboxes open in Shift and do 80% of my daily work in the two apps.”
Getting into the habit of using Charli also allowed Chris to become a more organized person overall. “I felt myself becoming more accountable now that I didn’t have the burden of doing the actual organizing myself. Because I could rely on Charli and trust that Charli saved my documents and links somewhere I could find them, I had no problem taking a few seconds each day to hand content over to Charli”
An organized browser and organized content is the one-two punch for a busy consultant like Chris. It allowed him to reduce the chaos of tab switching and made context switching between clients much easier.
Tips for consultants looking to keep the energy vampires at bay
So what can other consultants do to keep track of their clients expertly like Chris? Keep the energy vampires at bay by staying consistent with your process. The key to keeping the process the same for Chris boils down to three things:
🗂 Reduce tab switching
“Don’t underestimate the power of an organized screen. If your screen is chaotic you’ll feel it and when it’s neatly organized you’ll feel that sense of calm.”
⏲ Use the same time-saving tools across clients
“Back to my earlier point of keeping a consistent process for yourself with each client, it’s also ideal if you can keep the same tools. For example Shift, Charli, and Gmail are common across all of my clients except one. Keeping your Charli app open in each client’s shift workspace is a great way to stay organized and on top of things.”
💪 Stay accountable
“Be consistent and keep yourself accountable. I like to get my inbox to zero and move as much content into Charli as it comes in. Then I schedule time at the end of each month to close it out.”
His ultimate advice? It’s always easier to start out with a process in mind, starting off organized will always pay off in the long run. “Start early, even if you only have one or two clients, you want to be ready when things start to scale. It’s always easier if you can build processes early.”
What is Chris’s MVP feature in Charli? “Find. It saves me so much time every day.”
Most loved feature in Charli? “Expense management. Again it helps keep things consistent in terms of process. It’s not right for everyone, but for the smaller companies I work with it is an easy way to manage expense reporting for the entire team.”
What are you excited about with the future of Charli? “One word… integrations. I am very excited for the next step of Charli whereby I will be able to integrate directly with some of my other tools, e.g. Quickbooks, Xero, etc.”.