5 Tech-Based Time Savers for Small Businesses
“If only I had an assistant, or could clone myself, I could do so much more.” Running a small business is never easy, but when these words run through your head, ask yourself if technology could fill the gap, and take the place of another pair of hands (or brainpower) around the office.
The first step is finding those weak points in the way a business runs. Do certain recurring processes, like payroll or billing, cause equally recurring headaches and stress? Is collaboration difficult, or moving forward with projects a challenge? What aspects of the business do you find important, but just don’t have the time to concentrate on as much as you’d like? What piles up or keeps you up at night?
After identifying areas of your business that need improvement, the next step is pinpointing the right technology to help solve these often all-too-common pain points. Cloud-based software especially has opened up a brave new world for business owners. Secure and available anywhere, web-based solutions allow businesses to collect, share, sync and process critical company data, from balance sheets to timesheets, in more ways, from more places.
When researching and deciding on the solution that might work best for you, remember the learning curve. Technology can save time and money while boosting the overall level of accuracy and insight gained through a business process, but there’s always a getting-to-know-you phase. Factor this in for you, managers and employees. Test drive different solutions before deciding on your final pick, and then decide on exactly how you want to onboard the new system with the rest of your staff, and in your daily routine, before making it a real go.
- Document and file sharing. If you’re still passing around word docs run through with the red marks of confusing text edits, or overburdening the inboxes of your team members with important photos or large files, consider the cloud instead. Google Drive, DropBox and other document and file sharing programs make it easy to upload and share even large media files securely. For collaboration, programs like the Google Drive allow team members to leave notes on documents and see past drafts, so company-wide edits are easy to see, make and even take back.
- Social media and DIY websites. How’s your web presence? From Twitter to Facebook to blog posts, keeping your customers engaged and consistently in the loop is key to brand building and long-term success. But how do you stay on top of it all in the social realm? First, define your strategy, sign up on the sites you think will help reach your audience, then consider social media management programs like Buffer and HootSuite. From these central sites, you can plan out and post in multiple venues at once, and see comparative analytics of post performance, so social media turns into less random musings, and more planned and measurable marketing impact. Websites, an essential for companies of any size, aren’t just for programmers anymore. The non tech-savvy can learn to build and manage a versatile website using anything from WordPress to SquareSpace to Weebly. Or a business can hire a designer to do basic set-up, then get a tutorial on how to post blogs and updates on their own.
- Project management. From free and simple list-maker apps to full-scale project management systems that reach across multiple employees or locations and perform a wide range of tasks, a number of tech-related options exist when it comes to keeping track of to-dos. There’s a lot to think about when deciding on a project management system, so perhaps consult with other businesses in your industry on what they use to stay on top of it all. Take note of what they love and what they’d change about each system, and then decide on what makes the most sense for the way you want to manage your projects.
- Customer service. Even a small business can appear to be backed by a support staff of champions using the right technology, such as Zendesk. Customers are four times more likely to use self-service systems rather than call in. So help desk solutions can give customers a range of options for how they interact with a company. Support staff can field inquiries from email, phone calls, live chat and even social media from one central system. Some helpdesk software solutions allow customers to vote on different features they want to see, and interact with other customers on a dedicated help site.
- Timesheets and payroll. If the end of each pay period becomes bottlenecked with stress and handwritten or incomplete timesheets, it’s time to think of another way of making payday pay off. Time tracking solutions like TSheets can save 2% or more on total payroll costs by collecting employee data from anywhere and everywhere, with mobile apps, GPS stamping, job code tracking and more. When deciding on an online time card solution, think about the different ways employees might want to use it, then what that employee data needs to do, from payroll to billing to reporting. If you have an existing accounting program like QuickBooks Online, try to find a time tracking solution that syncs data automatically.
Technology may seem intimidating at first, but the right match can become a real business partner, and an essential member of your team.
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