The Definitive Startup Toolbox

Alika Graham
Feb 1, 2017 · 10 min read

Our organization is focused on the application of best practices for startups in order to maximize effectiveness. We believe that the best ideas win, and that in order for an organization to come out ahead, it must constantly seek out ways to maximize efficiency.

Given the fact that we are also a startup, we’re constantly exposed to the challenges of managing and balancing our commitments to ourselves (our mission and vision), to each other, and to our clients. At the onset of our venture, we had no idea how to address these issues. We were so caught up with the excitement of being our own employers, fulfilling our own vision and calling ourselves entrepreneurs that we, initially, neglected the importance of structure: the type of structure most people get by NOT working for themselves but for a larger organization with managers and hard expectations.

After several months of having effectively made zero profit and having realized none of our initial ambitions, we decided we desperately needed to change things or else we would be thrown right back into the 9–5 job market that drove us to self employment to begin with. While working from home and keeping our own hours was fun, we had become complacent. In order get back (and stay) on track, we drafted the Execution Method, the document that to this day serves as the constitution of sorts for our organization. In it, we defined our basic guidelines; the organizational rules by which all members are expected to abide.

Among those rules include:

  1. Our Mission and (both short and long term) Vision Statements — the broader goals of the organization
  2. Communication — details on platforms and timeliness
  3. Task management — how to select tasks and run meetings
  4. Plan-Do-Measure (PDM) goals — those focused on personal growth and accountability

This article describes the specific internal standards that we defined in that original document and outlines the tools and best practices we developed in order to continue to uphold them.

Our Mission and Vision(s)

Best Practice

  • Make sure every member of your team is involved in the process of defining these statements and make sure they can easily communicate them to people outside of your organization as well.

Communication

Slack

Best Practices

  • Turn alerts off. This is especially important if you follow multiple channels. Instead, set the tagging expectations, where a person is only expected to see a message relevant to them when their username is mentioned in the conversation.
  • Set response time expectations for you and your team. For example, we have a maximum response time of 1 hour for all tagged messages between the hours of 9am and 7pm.
  • Avoid excessive exchanges by designating a channel for casual conversation. In our case, we have a ‘socialize’ channel.

Gmail

Google Drive

Best Practices

  • Make sure your file labels are clear and start with the highest possible level. In our case, every file can be placed in one of nine categories of our business’s operation.
  • Number your files for easy organization/sorting

Google Calendar

Best Practices

  • Share all your calendars across all of your accounts. In other words, if you run multiple organizations like us, make sure every account is subscribed to the other with “Make changes AND manage sharing” on so that you can schedule things from and on behalf of any account.
  • Also share calendars with each member of your team. You can easily manage permissions for third party calendar sharers so that, for example, personal calendars don’t display specifics to your colleagues.

Google Sheets

Google Docs

Best Practices

  • Have a standard naming convention for all your documents. Our preferred method uses the date format YYYY-MM-DD before the title. This makes it easy to organize and keep track of more recent versions of a particular file without having to delete older ones.
  • Because written items tend to be passed along and go through multiple iterations, always put the goal of each document at the top in the header.

UberConference

Task Management

Asana

Best Practices

  • Set up a ‘Core Dashboard’, that is, a project whose sole purpose is for keeping track of everything each team member is planning to work on in a given week. This let’s you — and everyone else — get a big picture view of all your work streams.
  • Categorize tasks as ‘Today’, ‘Backlog’, and ‘Completed’ etc so you can get a good grasp on the Past, Present, and Future status and intentions of all your team members.

Trello

Plan-Do-Measure

Evolution 2 (E2)

  1. Habit trackers — define the necessary daily sub goals that get you closer to your big picture ones and record whether or not they were completed each day. Observe progress visually over 7, 30, 60 and 90 days.
  2. Issue logs — a diagnostic tool when habits are missed that allows for inspection of root causes and fixes.
  3. Sharing and Leaderboard implementation- creates competition and added accountability to and from peers.

If you’re interested in being one of our first users, click here.

Best Practices

  • Accountability is a very important factor for ensuring you actually accomplish all of your habits. With that in mind, we’ve enabled sharing of your habit building stats. We recommend doing this with at least one other E2 user who can push you on goals that you’re failing to accomplish.
  • Make use of the Issue Log. The point of it is to recognize — and ultimately remove — any roadblocks preventing progress on your habits.

Other Useful Tools

Evernote

The Most Dangerous Writing App

Upwork

Adobe Creative Suite

Mailchimp

Streak

The standards and expectations in place that dictate how we use the above listed tools are defined separately the impakt Labs Execution Method document here. Without it, our organization would be incomplete.

Have questions about our tools and guidelines or curious about how we address specific problems? Just ask us at questions@impaktlabs.com.

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