Ask Steph is a monthly column where I answer all of your tricky business questions! Get ready to tackle everything from setting up better software & systems, to organizing your work day, to planning out your business content, to establishing better boundaries with your clients. Have a question for me? Ask away, right here. See archives here.
How Do I Use The Appothecary?
“Hey Steph, I’ve been having a bit of trouble lately. My business feels so manual, like nothing can be done unless I’m physically at my computer doing it myself. How do I change this? What system would you recommend for XYZ problem?”
“Hey Steph, The Appothecary looks so cool but I don’t really understand what it does! Can you give me a tour of it? What makes it different?”
In Search of Systems
Having great business systems is a dream come true.
I’m tackling this double-whammy of a question today! As you probably know by now, I’m really passionate about getting better systems set up in your business, to help you spend less time on the tedious things and more time on the parts that you really love and are best at.
Once you understand and embrace how much time and energy you could save by using a particular kind of tool or technology, the next challenge becomes: Which one should you use? How do you set it up properly? What happens if you invest a lot of time into a tool only to realize that it actually doesn’t meet all your needs?
Most business owners are too busy in the day-to-day running of their businesses to spend endless hours researching better tools and establishing better systems for themselves and their teams. Does that sound like you? What if there was a list of tools right at your fingertips, curated by someone you trust?
Enter The Appothecary
I created The Appothecary to help you streamline the process of finding better technologies to implement in your business. Essentially, it’s a glorified spreadsheet (aka Airtable base!) full of categorized options for every aspect of your business life. It’s set up simply, without a lot of bells and whistles, to allow you to find things quickly and easily and get on with your day.
To further answer the question, let’s go over some of the different ways you can use The Appothecary in your own business.
How to Use The Appothecary
1. Fill a Specific Gap
The most obvious use of the program is also the simplest: get a curated recommendation for a specific gap you need to fill in your business. Do you know you need help invoicing clients & gathering intake forms? Check the list of CRM options listed. Are you fairly sure that there must be a better way to manage your tasks than a scrap of paper? Please go find a Project Management tool, I beg of you!
The database is set up so that you can sort or filter all the listings by a specific category in a couple of clicks, so it makes it easy to narrow things down quickly. And to further support you, I also list the tool’s pricing, URL and any other relevant notes right alongside my rating so it’s easy to click through and explore your options seamlessly.
2. Discover New Things
One unexpected side effect for many of the members of The Appothecary is the discovery of brand-new categories of tools that they didn’t even know existed! If you’ve never used Loom before, you probably had no idea that you needed a super-lightweight browser extension that would allow you to record quick screencast tutorials. But now that you know, it might come in handy more than you think.
To discover new things in The Appothecary, don’t filter for a specific category. Just browse through everything listed. Seeing everything mixed in together tends to spark curiosity and a sense of possibility. Before you know it, implementing tools in your business seems like a fun treat, rather than a dull slog.
3. Upgrade Your Systems
The third way I’ve seen clients use The Appothecary is to find a more robust version of a tool that they already use and love. For most businesses, there comes a time when the system we’re using is no longer meeting our needs. Maybe you’re looking for another email tool after your list has grown, since Mailchimp changed its pricing plans! Or maybe you are sick of Dropbox and need a better, faster way to collaborate with your team.
Finding upgrades should be easy, but it isn’t always, especially if you’re used to the way that things have been done up until now. My goal is to make The Appothecary as simple and streamlined as possible, so that you can explore the options that make sense for you and get back to the work that you love the most.
4. See How Things Work
One fun addition to The Appothecary is that I try to include (where possible) examples of the tools in action. It’s one thing to see the shiny marketing photos on an app’s website, but it’s quite another to see it in action! That’s why it can be really helpful to see how it’ll behave “in real life” when you’re trying to sell a product or deliver an email marketing campaign.
I love finding case studies of people using different tools, and find them so inspiring. It’s fascinating to see how someone is making use of a tool in an entirely different way. More often than not, these examples can inspire you to try new things and make your systems more tailored to the needs of your customers.
Want to See How It Works?
It can be hard to visualize things like this in your mind’s eye! Here’s a little walkthrough of The Appothecary to show you how it’s laid out and how you can manipulate the data to see it in different views. The Appothecary is built on Airtable, which makes it super easy to see the same information in new ways. In this video I’ll show you how to change the display size, sort and filter by different attributes, demo how to access the real-world applications and guides, and give you a sneak peek of some of the tools inside! Know, too that I recorded this video when I first launched The Appothecary, so there are more tools inside since then 😉
- Add The Appothecary to your Airtable account: Once you’re a member of The Appothecary, you can email me to ask me to invite you to the base directly, so that you can add it to your Airtable account! If you use Airtable regularly, this means you’ll see The Appothecary as a base shared with you, and can access it more quickly every time you sign in
- Bookmark the page: If you find yourself forgetting to check in with the database, try adding it to your bookmarks bar or saved websites so that you can access it with the click of a button
- Gift The Appothecary to your business bestie: I was excited to keep The Appothecary at an accessible price point, which I think makes it perfect for gifting! It’s super simple to give it as a digital gift: just add your friend’s name and email, choose a delivery date, and add a custom message.
I see it as my mission to clear away the obstacles & stresses that are preventing small business owners from making as big of a difference as they want to make in this world. That’s why it’s no surprise that setting up better systems is one of my passions. They make things easy, limit repetitive tasks, and clear up more mental energy to spend creating all the beautiful things you are inspired to create.
The Appothecary is just one way to explore systems. Even though I’m adding to it constantly and always accepting new recommendations, it’s true that I’m only one person! If I’m missing something, there are lots of other places you can look for tool suggestions. A few of my favourites for this are: The Sweet Setup, AlternativeTo, and Versus.
Do you have a suggestion for The Appothecary? What tools do you love best? I would love to know! Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett.
PS. If you have a business question you need help tackling, I’d love to answer it next month! Click here to submit your question.