As a small business owner you constantly find yourself wearing too many hats. Fortunately, many tasks can be minimized. By leveraging software you can manage time more effectively, stay connected on the go and improve your bottom line.
Here are eight steps to making your business more efficient with technology:
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all” — Peter Drucker
Are there functions within your business that could be completely automated? A good way to find areas for improvement is to write down your daily, monthly and annual business activities. Go through them individually to determine whether you can automate or improve the efficiency of those activities. For example, sending customers a happy birthday email on their birthday is a mindless task that can easily be automated with email marketing software.
Where operations cannot be automated they may be streamlined. For example, you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Salesforce to manage contacts. You can decrease time spent retrieving client information by linking an IP communications system to your CRM software so that a customer contact record automatically pops up when they call, providing valuable details. Not only will this save time, it will lead to better customer service.
3. Move to the Cloud
Transferring core business activities such as bookkeeping and word processing to cloud or web-based applications can substantially reduce the amount of money spent on in-house software and hardware. You can use Google Docs rather than Excel and consider Freshbooks in place of Quickbooks.
4. Make Your Work Portable
You and your employees should be able to access important information anywhere at any time. Consider using VPNs (virtual private networks) to grant your employees secure access to the company network from remote locations. Increasing ease of access will minimize project delays, missed opportunities and lost revenues.
You want to make it as convenient as possible to share and communicate ideas throughout your company. Using project management tools such as Basecamp allows for easier collaboration between employees.
6. Reduce Travel Time
You can increase productivity by reducing the amount of time you and your employees spend travelling. When possible, use online conferencing software such as Go To Meeting to video conference. Reducing time spent travelling also saves money.
If using commercial software to meet your business needs feels like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, you may want to consider a custom solution tailored to your business practices. You may even be able to develop a custom solution that integrates the functionalities of several applications to further increase efficiency and reduce time spent keeping track of multiple applications and repeatedly entering the same data.
At least once a year you should take a step back to evaluate whether or not your business fully and effectively utilizes technology. New software and applications hit the market every day and service providers develop better products and new plans. It is important to ensure you’re using the most up-to-date version of all of your business software. Developing a long-term technology plan will help your company grow.