Technological breakthroughs are helping small businesses become more efficient.
The experts agree: During tough economic times – when every penny counts – it’s important for business owners to embrace any upgrades that can save time, money and manpower.
Technology can handle multiple tasks, freeing up an owner to focus on the big picture – such as growing a business. For example, one of the simplest ways to embrace technology is to use virtual files rather than clumsy, overstuffed filing cabinets. And going paperless saves costs as well as storage space.
Research shows there are five key ways that technology can help a small business be more successful:
Be productive: The use of software programs and applications allow users to eliminate paper-based files and use technology as a calendar to track information. Adding to-do lists and using project management applications that can be accessed from any laptop, tablet or mobile device with an Internet connection creates an easy way to provide information within seconds to a client. “Driven on serving clients better and faster… it reduces cost for the company and client cost,” said Jill Wheeler, general manager and vice president at Klunk & Millan.
Also, software can time-stamp e-mails and newsletters for automatic delivery, so remembering to send them no longer will be an issue.
Money matters: Track money online through invoicing services on the go. “Instantaneous reports are delivered daily, and we can look forward and backward and react to sales,” said Bill Hacker of Arbor Insurance Group. Filing taxes more efficiently online allows for tracking of all files. The use of online budget tracking could lead to reduced expenses. And sharing digital files with a bookkeeper or accountant could improve ongoing processes.
Marketing: Use software to create a marketing plan that can be edited, updated and shared anytime and anywhere. Use media sites that constantly will be available (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) to promote business, products and services. It is almost like a “portal for clients to interact with the company,” Hacker said.
Customer service: Use social media to interact with customers and set up an online help desk to handle customer issues. Allow clients to schedule appointments online so that they wouldn’t have to call in, and someone wouldn’t have to always be on hand to answer. “Online project management allows clients to be a part of the [experience],” Wheeler said. Use surveys and questionnaires online to get customer feedback to benefit the company.
Mobile working and telecommuting: Create a mobile office that allows you to work productively from anywhere, and use remote desktop applications to access files on your office computer. Provide/get a virtual phone number and fax that can travel with you.
The proper use of existing and emerging technology – and a sound understanding of applications and software – reduce the things that are not needed. And that’s the first step toward better efficiency.