Software & Tech

How Your Software Impacts Your Business' Ecosystem with Melanie Richards

Mel Richards shares with us how her choice of software has helped her scale her company, increase profits, and deliver better results for her clients.

Susan Boles
August 18, 2020
Quote: "Because the tools are now able to do so much at every step of the way – even automating client communication – I feel like the project manager is the last role and I just don't feel the urgency as much anymore." - Melanie Richards

Software is the lifeblood of any modern business.

Software keeps projects on track and helps clients pay you.

Software is how we communicate with each other.

Software allows you to operate leaner and smaller than ever before.

And every piece of software involved in your business has a role to play—an integral part of your business’ ecosystem. It has a job description and it's a core member of your team, just like any human. That’s why it’s even more important that you have the right tool, doing the right job, at the right price.

Choosing the right software tool, particularly when it comes to your choice of project or task management, can impact how well your team communicates, how well-informed your clients are, and how they feel about your service as a whole. Your financial software choices can also affect how quickly you can send an invoice, how quickly clients pay you, and ultimately, how healthy your cash flow is.

And that's what we're talking about today with Melanie Richards, owner of Modern Traction, a boutique web design agency. Mel is an award-winning web designer and brand strategist with over two decades of experience. Her turnkey approach is designed to save you time, ensures your brand and messaging is on point, and that your website is built to drive growth. Mel’s on a mission to create efficient marketing solutions that support busy entrepreneurs to gain faster traction and multiply their impact.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How the right choice of software has helped Mel scale her company, increase profits, and deliver better results for her clients
  • How the right software tools make your team more effective and how ClickUp helps Mel’s team know what to do next
  • All the tools that have been essential for Mel’s business
  • Lower costs, less complication, more opportunities for automation

Learn more about Melanie Richards:

Episode Transcript

Melanie Richards (00:00):

How can we innovate to create something that is like worth a lot, but yet can be delivered very affordably? That's been kind of my motivation too, to figure out new ways of doing things and so in the end that my clients win.

Susan Boles (00:22):

Software is the lifeblood of any modern business. Software keeps projects on track and helps clients pay. Software is how we communicate with each other, and software allows you to operate leaner and smaller than ever before. Your choices about which software you need in your business, determine just how resilient you can be. I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (00:55):

This month, we're talking about how your business operates like an ecosystem. Every decision you make in one area of your business will affect all the other areas of your business. Ashley Gartland, and I talked about some of these impacts in our conversation about default decisions. Tamra Kemper, and I geeked out on process and documentation, and how your process affects not just how your workflow runs, but it also affects how effective your team is, how automated you can make your process and what software tools will work best for your business.

Susan Boles (01:29):

While your process and business model influence what software you should choose to implement, that choice of software also affects the rest of your business. It's all cyclical. Choosing the right software tool, particularly when it comes to your choice of project or task management can impact how well your team communicates, how well informed your clients are, how they feel about your service as a whole. Your financial software choices can affect how quickly you can send invoices, how quickly clients pay you and ultimately how healthy your cashflow is.

Susan Boles (02:00):

Each piece of software in your stack has a role to play. It has a job description. It's a core member of your team, just like any human, and you need to make sure that you have the right tool doing the right job at the right price. When that all comes together, software technology can allow you to stay lean and small and be way more profitable. But when you don't have the right tools in place, your software can become this hurdle that you have to get over or a bottleneck that keeps you from being able to work effectively, and that's what we're talking about today. The impact your choice of software has on the rest of your business ecosystem.

Susan Boles (02:38):

Meet Melanie Richards, the owner of Modern Traction, which is a boutique web design agency, and she's a fellow ClickUp. We're going to talk about how ClickUp helps her team know what to do next, what other software tools have been essential for her and her agency, and how the right choice of software has helped her scale, her company increase her profits and deliver better results for her clients. Hey Mel, thanks for being on the show.

Melanie Richards (03:05):

Thanks for having me. I'm super excited.

Susan Boles (03:07):

So to start off with, tell me a little bit about your team. How big are you, what kind of structure, what are you operating with in terms of team resources?

Melanie Richards (03:19):

Well, I work with contractors basically because it lets me be a little bit more nimble and flexible. So I built kind of like a collective of people that are my go to but right now I'm basically looking to bring on a full time designer. So I'm in the process of hiring to completely replace me. Essentially that is the crux for me. It's just finding someone who's at that design level, I have pretty high standards in terms of design and then training them on the tools I use over time but I've been working with many of these contractors for a year, so I consider them as part of my team. I have copywriters that I work with, I have designers, I have developers and SEO people as well.

Melanie Richards (04:21):

Because it really comes to, it depends on the client and the needs and therefore I bring them in on a as needed basis. So that's typically how I've been working so far and everybody's remote as well.

Susan Boles (04:37):

On average, when you think about your team, how big, how many people do you actually have that you kind of pull in and out for different projects?

Melanie Richards (04:50):

Well, typically I'll have three people. So a designer is an assistant who's doing more like integration, fixing up things like dealing on smaller tasks. My designer, who is kind of running with the design aspect of the website and then a copywriter for doing the copy, then a copywriter and then myself in terms of managing the clients and providing strategy and consulting with the clients. So that's pretty much the average.

Susan Boles (05:29):

So tell me a little bit about some of the software that you are currently using to run your agency.

Melanie Richards (05:37):

Well, given that we're a web design agency, of course, I build everything on WordPress. WordPress has been my go to tool for many, many years. And for the last, probably five years, I've been using Beaver Builder, which is a page builder that lives on top of WordPress which is really flexible, very intuitive and very easy for clients to work with. So when it comes to building out to version optimized like websites, definitely I've done a lot of the research in terms of finding the best plugins and tools. So I've got my own recipe of all of the best solutions to build an awesome WordPress site. So basically that is a lot of my go to tools given what I do. And then in terms of running the business, I use ClickUp which we are both super fans.

Susan Boles (06:35):


Melanie Richards (06:35):

ClickUp, it's interesting actually because I am definitely a geek to heart. So every time was some new app or something comes on my radar, I'm like, "Oh God, I got to look into this." But being a creative and a visionary and very visual, and being that designer I've had trouble finding the right tool that could help me project manage the business. So I've tried everything, it feels like I've tried everything when it comes to project management app. I would say over the years, I probably tried like, like I dedicated myself to maybe three to four different apps and would move because I'm like, "This just isn't working for me." There's so many key features and then finally I was able to find all the key features that I really need in ClickUp. So that's where I've been finally like, "Oh, okay. I can let this rest."

Melanie Richards (07:48):

I'm now building out all of... because it's one of those things that having the right app for project management, I think is so crucial to running a streamlined, efficient process, because you're able to put in your SOPs into the app itself. So every step of the project, the links to my Loom trainings for my team to go, okay, this is how I do it, it all lives within it. So to commit to a tool, you got to feel like it's the right tool so that you are actually implementing all of those things into the tool because otherwise when you do move, oh my goodness. So I'm just really finally feeling content with ClickUp and I'm so impressed with the level of innovation and features that they keep. I've never seen a piece of software get updated so often and they just keep blowing my mind. So I'm at the point where I'm like, "I got to buy stocks in this company." But anyhow, so I'm very happy with that and my team really find it a great to work with and it's so customizable. It's a bit of a, as you know-

Susan Boles (09:07):

It's definitely a learning curve.

Melanie Richards (09:09):

Yeah, exactly. But it's simple, but yet so powerful because you can customize it to however you feel you work best, but having the different views, whether it be like the swim lanes kind of like Trello or a list, I'm just a list person so I just liked that view. But everybody on the team can pick their own kind of style in terms of seeing things and I just found it's been so easy now to manage my projects because I can create dashboards that I see everything in one view that I need to be looking at.

Melanie Richards (09:47):

Now I've even integrated my CRM. I've been shopping for a CRM for a long time and then one day I said, "Why am I trying to add yet another app into my stock when I don't really need to." Because ClickUp basically can just... I'm still working on setting it up to my heart's content, but again consolidating everything in one app just simplifies so much. You don't need to jump around all over the place. So now I've got my CRM that I'm building out, within ClickUp. So yeah, everything I feel is coming together in that realm.

Susan Boles (10:31):

So you've got your WordPress stack, you've got ClickUp. Are there other kind of core pieces of software that you're using to manage primarily like the backend of your business? Is everything living ClickUp? Are you using an accounting software? What else do you have going on?

Melanie Richards (10:52):

Well, I've been using Xero for a long time for my accounting but-

Susan Boles (10:56):

I'm so happy.

Melanie Richards (10:57):

Well, you won't be happy now in a second.

Susan Boles (10:59):


Melanie Richards (11:00):

Because I switched to QuickBooks Online, but it's one of those things that I've never, again, the designer thing, it's just the interface. I always found that it was not built for an end user like myself. It's more for an accountant and there are certain views and certain things. I don't know if it's also the fact that I'm in Canada, but there's certain features that are not really built into Xero and it's just much better in QuickBooks. So I've been in the middle of transitioning, which has been a bit painful.

Susan Boles (11:32):

That is so interesting because almost everybody I talked to has the opposite reaction where QuickBooks is built for accountants and Xero is book built for small businesses. So I'm curious about what it was that you were trying to do that you found you could do in QuickBooks that you couldn't do in Xero? What was the deciding feature for you?

Melanie Richards (11:55):

Well, right off the bat is seeing how much sales tax I owe. With every invoice I create, it just shows me at the top. It's like so far you've collected this much sales tax and this is what you owe, and then it actually within Xero it's like you had to create these journal entries and it just doesn't really show you like this specific, there was a little bit of hacking to do to get the right numbers or the right report. But in QuickBooks, it's just like, here it is, here's what you need to file, here are the numbers.

Melanie Richards (12:29):

The interface and the design is actually like dummy proof in a way where it's like, here are the numbers you need to plug in and here's what you owe and that's it. Whereas I had to consult with my bookkeepers with Xero to go, "What are all the numbers and what do I owe?" So that's just an example.

Susan Boles (12:52):

And the sales tax report inside Xero just didn't get it done?

Melanie Richards (12:57):

Nope. I think if I recall it had to do with the fact that I'm in Canada, it's not designed out of the box to work for sale taxes for Canada.

Susan Boles (13:10):

Hmm, that could be.

Melanie Richards (13:11):

So I think that's what it was. But in general the only problem, maybe at some point I could pick your brain on this, but it's just the integration with Stripe is a little bit of a tricky one. It's just, there's still some manual work to be done in terms of, if you want to be able to track this payment that came from this client, you have to kind of manually match up the invoice with the transaction. I know there's third party apps.

Susan Boles (13:40):

[inaudible 00:13:40] like it doesn't Xero.

Melanie Richards (13:42):

Well, I could never get that to work in Xero either. Is that possible?

Susan Boles (13:47):

Oh yeah, sure. So now there's a direct integration with Stripe and Xero. So if you actually connect your Stripe bank feed it automatically recognizes and it'll break out your fee and automatically reconcile the payment that comes into the invoice that's outstanding, and then you can set up a bank roll to automatically classify the Stripe fees.

Melanie Richards (14:14):

So really it can find this is a payment from this client and matches it to that invoice.

Susan Boles (14:20):

Yep. It has a hierarchy. So it goes off of amounts first.

Melanie Richards (14:26):

Oh, I see.

Susan Boles (14:28):

So the way the matching and Xero works is it bases it off of the date and the amount of the transaction and that's how the matching kind of automate. Yeah, that's that's how it matches the transactions. So if you have a bunch of client payments that all were for the same amount on the same day, you would probably have some like manual matching to do. But unless it's all the same amounts and all on the same day, it does a pretty good job of automatically recognizing it and I don't think QuickBooks does the same.

Melanie Richards (15:12):

Yeah. I'll have to see, but I'm just like diving in. So we'll see but it's one of those things that I'm just right now doing it myself, just so I can at least wrap my head around it, but it's not something I want to keep doing ongoing.

Susan Boles (15:23):

Yeah, that's interesting because you're probably the only person I've ever talked to that went back the other way. So that's why I was really interested about, what was it that was the trigger for you?

Melanie Richards (15:38):

Yeah. Well, I've actually heard from a few other people who've done the same actually.

Susan Boles (15:43):

Is it specific to Canadian?

Melanie Richards (15:47):

It might be. Because the software also ties in, it's like Intuit owns it and Intuit also runs TurboTax, which is our main income tax. So it's kind of an all in one solution in that sense.

Susan Boles (16:00):


Melanie Richards (16:02):

But I think it is definitely more Canadian friendly. Well, in terms of another tool that I use is I'm sure a lot of people do is Loom. Loom is just so useful with my team. Sometimes they'll have a question about something they'll shoot me a Loom, my clients have questions, how do I do this? I send a Loom, but also every time a client is asking me a question, I just add that to my vault of how to do X. So I'm adding continuously to my own tutorials basically. So my clients can have a DIY support solution, and they can refer back to it whenever they want. So that's been great.

Melanie Richards (16:51):

I'm actually going to be using Loom to start doing some sales outreach. So introducing myself and using that as a tool to start conversations with prospects or people that I would love to work with. So I'm going to be incorporating that into my sales process, I really think video-

Susan Boles (17:13):

I'm interested to see how that works.

Melanie Richards (17:16):

Oh, yeah.

Susan Boles (17:17):

You've tried it for a while I bet it would convert pretty well.

Melanie Richards (17:20):

Yeah. The only thing is I'd love to get Loom Pro and I think they're working on getting some integrations so that you can track who's seeing the video and who's watching, which is interesting. But have you ever heard of BombBomb?

Susan Boles (17:33):


Melanie Richards (17:34):

So I was looking at BombBomb for a while. But again, trying to be careful not to add too much to the stack. So I've settled on doing it with that and excited to see how that goes. Other than that, well Spotify, does that count? Having some good tunes while you're working is pretty essential in my world.

Susan Boles (18:02):

It's very important. So talk to me a little bit about how you kind of approach the role that software plays in your business. What is the job description that you give to the software that runs your business?

Melanie Richards (18:19):

Well, I know we've talked about this in the past and I was probably saying, "Oh, I'm looking to hire someone to be a project manager." I even had one of my mentors she's a business coach and she's amazing, really she's awesome. But she was suggesting that I hire a project manager sooner than I'm feeling the need for it to invest in that. But then when I'm looking at tools like ClickUp and the automations that are possible in ClickUp now, it takes care of a lot of the things that now I'm like, "Well, it's actually saving me so much time that I'd rather be investing in hiring a designer."

Melanie Richards (19:04):

Because that's really where I'm really looking at it like, what do I procrastinate on? Or in terms of being stuck in the weeds, where do I need to get myself out to be completely in the CEO role? So that's basically where I feel like the project manager is the last role because the tools are now able to do so much. Even automating client communication, every step of the way and all of these things, I just don't feel the urgency as much anymore. So yeah, that's kind of like the approach I'm going with right now anyhow.

Susan Boles (19:53):

Now what? That's the question I hear from a lot of service based business owners, maybe you've been asking yourself now what too. You built your business from the ground up and your business works, but maybe it's not growing. You keep bumping into a ceiling on how many clients you can take on and maybe how much money you can make, and maybe now you're even wondering if your business has staying power. You might be keenly aware of how small challenges could easily balloon into big problems as the market and the economy change.

Susan Boles (20:27):

I help entrepreneurs decide how to take action so they can build more resilient business that's primed for growth. I combined strategic thinking with a background in business finance, data and operations, to see the patterns that have your business bumping against a growth ceiling. I'll show you exactly what you can do to break and make more money all while making sure the foundation under your business is strong. I have a few new client openings for my quarterly or monthly advisory packages. When you work with me, I'll examine your financial reports to spot opportunities. We'll talk about where are feeling friction and discover ways you can reclaim your time and attention.

Susan Boles (21:09):

We'll dig into how to scale your operations without sacrificing quality so you can increase your capacity and make more money, and each action you take will be informed by strategic financial insight and data-driven operational planning. The result you'll feel wildly capable and in control and you'll finally break through that ceiling. Ready to learn more about working with me as your business advisor? Go to

Susan Boles (21:41):

So talking a little bit about ClickUp and how you're using that. How has implementing that tool kind of just impacted your business from a workflow standpoint, from a process standpoint? You mentioned that it's kind of eliminating the need for a project manager position at least for a while. What other kinds of impacts have you seen from kind of going all in on a tool like ClickUp?

Melanie Richards (22:09):

Well, I think everybody feels a little less scattered. Everybody knows what's going on and who's responsible for what, and we're able to throw the ball at each other very easily in terms of different statuses, means it gets assigned to different people and basically I can keep track of also my schedule in terms of my... For example, just having my CRM, like my pipeline, what's in the pipeline in terms of potential projects and what would the potential start dates be?

Melanie Richards (22:49):

I'm able to have that like birds eye view to see, okay, well, I've got all these current projects that are scheduled and here the openings I have in my calendar. So that is something I really struggled with in terms of all the other apps to really have that bird's eye view it to go, "Well, what is my capacity right now? What can I take on and when?" Because when I'm on a sales call, people are always like telling me, oh, I needed this for yesterday.

Melanie Richards (23:17):

So that's where I'm like, okay, well there's always some urgency and I try and fit in people as soon as I can, but not being able to have that visual of like what's happening at the high level, when is very difficult for me to just tell him right off the bat on a sales call, but now I can. So I feel a lot more comfortable in that way, and then clients just love the responsiveness and I'm also currently building out a client dashboard so that everything I have in terms of the homework and the to do's, if I need things from clients is going to be living in ClickUp.

Melanie Richards (23:56):

I haven't officially brought in my clients into ClickUp yet. That is something that I'm still debating on because there's still a couple of features in terms of the permissions that aren't quite what I need, and that would require me to completely tweak how I've set up my projects in ClickUp. But I know it's just a matter of time before it's going to be a feature, they'll probably launch it this week.

Susan Boles (24:25):

Every time I'm like, man, I really just want this feature as long as you just a little patient, it will show up.

Melanie Richards (24:32):

Yeah. I know. Well, I'm really good at giving feedback and that's one of the things is about software with the way companies are developing apps now, they really listen to their audience and I actually take the time to give them feedback and put in the requests because you actually see this thing that you're like praying for show up and you're like, "Wow, they really listen." So over the years I've seen so many of my requests actually show up. So definitely I would like encourage anybody to always get feedback because it's so worth it.

Susan Boles (25:11):

ClickUp is at least in my experience, one of the most responsive software companies. Every time I put in feedback they send a response and they're like, "Hey, we're fixing it." Oh, and closing the loop. "Hey, we released this." And asking for feedback on stuff that they're thinking about implementing. They're just so tied into what their customers are asking for.

Melanie Richards (25:41):

Yeah. I agree. Another piece of feedback, sorry, not feedback, but another app I use, which is actually a plugin that I put on WordPress sites is called WP FeedBack, which lets my clients and my team and myself add comments on a web page directly. So it's like change this, whatever needs to be fixed or change it's right there as a comment, as a task on the site. I think if they're looking at doing like, there's some integration that can happen, but I haven't felt the need to integrate it within ClickUp. So it's just more of a granular kind of task that lives on the site but it's been very easy for clients to point things out in terms of fixing, so that's been really clients love that.

Melanie Richards (26:35):

So that's been an awesome tool, but I'll admit I'm still struggling in terms of until I onboard, I bring in my clients into ClickUp, the communication piece is still the big question mark for me in terms of having everything living in Gmail and going through email versus through ClickUp, because part of me does not want to impose the app that we use onto my clients. But if I do bring them into ClickUp just so that I can at least send them the message on a specific task, they get it by email and they can still reply by email. So they never have to really log in. But that has been something that I've been hesitant to do, and well, maybe you can coax me on that.

Susan Boles (27:25):

I have mixed feelings on the client portal in ClickUp thing and I think it's really dependent on your relationship with your clients and the length of your project. So when I was doing big scale software implementation, I would invite them as guests to ClickUp so that they could see really easily where the project was, they knew what they needed to do. Like you were saying, they could interact with it via email, but they had a good overview. So I didn't have to be sending like those weekly updates that were like, here's what we did this week, and here's what we have left to do. They just knew it's there, it's live, go see how the progress is going.

Susan Boles (28:10):

But I stopped doing it when I started doing smaller productized type services, because there just wasn't, like the length and scope of the project just wasn't as big. So I go back and forth and I know people that have done a really good job creating a client portal in ClickUp and some that, yeah, it's just, it's not worth it. So I think it really depends on what that relationship with your client is.

Susan Boles (28:39):

But I think now with like being able to share dashboards publicly and lists publicly and allow them to interact via email, I think there's a lot of opportunity there in a way that you can facilitate communication with your clients, like you have already done internally that you've seen the results from, of having your whole team on ClickUp because a really well executed project management system with good communication tools that are part of it, like ClickUp has or a lot of the project management tools are now doing like chat widgets and threaded comments and that kind of thing.

Susan Boles (29:18):

It really facilitates the communication so that everybody can see what's going on. Everybody knows what needs to happen next, and it really eliminates the need for other kinds of communication, like updates or status meetings or losing the thread of what's happening in an email. When you do the long emails of here's 42 comments of things that I would like to do when it happens inside the project management tool it's happening in the task that it applies to and it keeps the communication tighter.

Susan Boles (29:55):

So I think there's a lot of opportunity to do that with clients in the same way that you kind of see the results of that with your internal team. But I think it's very nuanced the decision on how you configure that and what kinds of views you do and permissions and like the devil is really in the details on that in terms of execution.

Melanie Richards (30:23):

Absolutely. Also, like I said, you can customize how you use the tool based on what makes sense with your brain. But then right now is just, it's not working with the permissions in terms of how I want it to work. So that's why I put it off for now. But man, it's just I just keep thinking long term is like, if I do want to have more a structure with pods as I scale with my team, so that whoever's the pod leader is taking care of certain clients, they will need to communicate and there needs to be a central communication point in the sense that I can oversee, I can check in, and we can have internal conversations on specific threads without the clients seeing it.

Melanie Richards (31:09):

So outside of having a help desk, like a ticket support system, I don't see any way of going around it right now besides going that route. So that's why I've just kind of stuck to Gmail for now. But in terms of your question also in terms of what's impacted the business, Beaver Builder, it's one of those things that having a tool like that come into our industry has actually allowed many, many web designers and just for myself to think outside the box of how we would typically go about building a site so that we're able to deliver things so much faster and with that creates a different client experience, a much better client experience because we're able to turn around things so much easier.

Melanie Richards (32:12):

I'm actually building out a collection of my own WordPress themes that are going to be proprietary of course, for my clients and everything. But it's just allowed me to scale faster. Because nowadays websites, there are certain principles that we understand in terms of what works in terms of getting results and growth driven marketing tools. So having a proper website there are certain principles to follow and having a lot of these baked into the process in terms of the copy, because I also do copywriting for clients.

Melanie Richards (32:56):

So I've been able to incorporate what we would do normally outside of the website, we do the copy and we work in Google docs and go back and forth and comment. Now I've incorporated like all of my... I've created what I call copy guides, where I have very specific questions. It's kind of like, I either interview the client or have them answer this and then answer it. So I set up a prototype of the website. So based on our strategic session, I will actually set up the site based on their needs. So whatever pages or the navigation, all of that. And then I insert my copy guys and then the client goes in and starts answering all of these questions directly in the site, on the pages themselves.

Melanie Richards (33:46):

Then basically we have all of these blocks after, that my copywriter, and this is where I've been training my copywriters to go in and use Beaver Builder so that they can take these blocks and now rearrange them and move them to create the structure of the page that actually makes sense from a marketing standpoint and then the rewrite directly in the site. So now we skipped over the whole Google Docs thing. So now we've got a working prototype and the client can now, like I was saying with WP Feedback just directly put there, change this or change that or edit it themselves.

Melanie Richards (34:20):

So we get to a point where we're like, okay, this is like ready to rock and roll, now let's design. So now we've got everything we need already integrated. The structure's there and now we just start applying the design and making everything look awesome and connecting everything as we should. And then the design, we've also skipped Photoshop where everything used to be created in Photoshop as a mock up, then you send it to the developer, the developer takes stock and converts it all into web format.

Melanie Richards (34:52):

Now we just are only creating graphics, background images and stuff like that in Photoshop. That's it. Because everything else is already designed. We design straight in the web browser. So I'm now able to deliver sites so much faster, and my clients kind of see, "Oh, this is what I'm going to get." I can actually click through and see this is how the website is working and the client experience is just completely changed and it's allowed me to be able to take on way more capacity because I've been able to eliminate so many steps.

Melanie Richards (35:30):

So just being able to think and creatively to see how I can innovate on this traditional way of doing things? Just because a piece of tech tool came in the market now allowing us to think, "Hey, I think there's actually a better, easier, simpler way of doing this." So that for me has been game changing, like so game changing.

Susan Boles (35:55):

So basically you have consolidated your stack, but those specific software choices have allowed you to eliminate some positions like project manager. Do you still need to work with a developer or this allows you to eliminate having a developer do that kind of creation process?

Melanie Richards (36:25):

Right. Well, the developers that I do work with right now are strictly to build out my own IP. Like I was saying my own themes, and actually, yes, besides I have some very custom more advanced type of WordPress sites that I'll build, sometimes like multi-sites and things. That's where I may need to have a developer come in to do some customization. But now, you make me realize that it's a rare occasion that that happens.

Melanie Richards (36:56):

So for example, lately I built a platform for running virtual summits and it's all built on WordPress and everything, and that was definitely more advanced. So I needed some development help there, but if I'm building out a typical project, which is a marketing focus website, I actually do not need a developer.

Susan Boles (37:20):

So technology has allowed you to scale your business, keep your team small, eliminate positions that traditionally were needed, but you've also kind of combined that unique use of technology with... So it sounds like some pretty clear behind the scenes process in terms of productizing how you're delivering these projects-

Melanie Richards (37:44):


Susan Boles (37:45):

And using the combination of the two of those to enable you to keep your agency team, your overhead really super lean.

Melanie Richards (37:55):

Yeah, exactly. For that, for all those reasons, that's allowed me to have a bit of a great position in my market because I'm able to deliver super high end websites that look amazing, but I don't need to charge the big agency rates. I could if I wanted to, but my heart's really set on helping those who are still in the growth phase have the right tools that will actually help them grow their business and provide a lot of value there for what they're getting.

Melanie Richards (38:33):

So that's where I've been kind of motivated in the sense of how can we innovate to create something that is worth a lot but yet can be delivered affordably. So that's been kind of my motivation to figure out new ways of doing things. So in the end my clients win.

Susan Boles (38:59):

Yeah. They get a better experience at a much better rate.

Melanie Richards (39:03):


Susan Boles (39:04):

You still maintain high levels of profit because you're so efficient behind the scenes.

Melanie Richards (39:09):


Susan Boles (39:10):

So favorite software tool that you use in your business? The thing that I would have to pry out of your cold, dead hands. What is your number favorite thing?

Melanie Richards (39:22):

Well, there's certain essentials like just Zoom, being able to see people across the world that are pretty freaking amazing and how we do business now. I live in Canada and all of my clients are in the States or around the world, and that's just amazing to be able to feel like you do have a super personalized relationship with clients just because of tools like that. But I'm still a bit of an addict in terms of using my calendar to block out my time. I work on a Mac and I use BusyCal. BusyCal lets you create these custom views and you can just click a button and it just instantly changes to different views. I have my weekly, my monthly. So that is kind of, I can't live without that. And then I have all the color codes, all my sales calls are green.

Susan Boles (40:20):

Yeah. I do the same thing. I have everything color coded.

Melanie Richards (40:23):

Oh yeah, it's essential. Then well having acuity, of course having a tool to have your clients book in time with you, and then that just shows up on my calendar. So there's the essentials like that, that I definitely could not live without. Then I use Google Drive for everything in terms of cloud hosting, all files and everything. There's these essentials but I definitely in terms of love working with is going to be able to definitely ClickUp the winner and and Beaver Builder in terms of building awesome WordPress sites.

Susan Boles (41:06):

Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about what you do?

Melanie Richards (41:12):

Well, they can find me on or the best way to reach me is Mel I'm still working on the new brand and the new website, which I'm focused on building my products right now so I can scale. But anyways, they can check some of my work I've done there and see some of the results we've gotten for some amazing clients.

Susan Boles (41:45):

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here.

Melanie Richards (41:48):

Well, thanks for having me. This was awesome to geek out on all the tools.

Susan Boles (41:55):

As Mel mentioned, finding the right software tools for her agency has allowed her to scale without a project manager, deliver better results for clients, document her processes and become more profitable. Those results wouldn't be possible without a solid process and the right technology. A different tool might not have gotten the same results. A less defined process would have meant that she couldn't use ClickUp as effectively. Both your process and your software are key pieces of your business ecosystem.

Susan Boles (42:28):

Next week, I'm talking to Emily Thompson from Being Boss about the third piece, your team and how having the right people in the right positions with the right mix of skills makes your business more efficient, effective, and profitable. So hit subscribe on your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media, our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode is edited by Marty Seefeldt with production assistance by Kristen Runvik.


Software & Tech