If you are running a small or medium-sized business, it can often feel like there isn’t enough time in the day. Fortunately, the wonderful technological advancements that are made every day can not only save you money, but make your business more efficient and innovative and set you apart from the competition.
Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to network, especially if you have just started a business and have a family. Online networking has emerged as a great way to meet useful contacts whom you otherwise may have missed. By narrowing down who you think would add value to your contact list online, you can figure out who would be worth meeting in person, showing a return on investment for your time.
LinkedIn, apsense.com and Twitter are all great ways to build your reputation online and less time consuming than drinks after a conference. Think about it as building a brand for yourself and your firm. Consider starting a blog (but keep it updated), and try to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. It will be hard work, but it will pay dividends when new clients find you instead of you finding them.
You have heard it before, but try to maintain a professional online persona and keep a solid online presence along the same lines (maybe remove your stag/hen party photos from Facebook).
Almost anything can be done online in the modern age. Holding a conference call on Skype is slowly becoming accepted in business circles, and you should take advantage of it rather than wasting a day traveling to and from a different city.
Another great tool is Replicon, which is a web timesheet that allows you and your employees to keep track of how much time you are spending on each client. This is reliable if you bill clients by the hour/day, but even if not, it is a great way to make efficiencies when you can work out your return on investment for each customer.
The cloud is probably something you have heard a lot about but struggle to understand what value it can add to your business, yet the benefits of remote storage are great. They include:
- Giving your employees the flexibility to work from wherever they are
- Reducing electricity bills by not hosting your server in your office
- Reducing the cost of calling out expensive technicians to look after your network when it goes down
Sometimes it’s not realistic to move straight to the cloud, but take a baby step and encourage your staff to use Google Docs or Dropbox. It allows easy collaboration and increases focus on that task at hand, all of which will give you a good idea if cloud storage is the way forward for your business. Challenge the paradigm that it is only useful for big businesses and start making efficiencies!
With the emergence of GPS has come the development of tracking tools. This kind of technology is especially useful if you have staff on the road, such as sales reps, delivery personnel or even a fleet of company cars.
Companies across the world offer a range of vehicle tracking systems that can be used in a variety of vehicles. Systems such as this offer:
- Real time analysis and systems that can separate business and personal miles easily
- Reduced fuel costs by ensuring your vehicles are taking the most fuel efficient routes
- Less stress and hassle for your accountant who may be chasing vehicle expenses
Two common misconceptions about a vehicle tracking system are that it suggests that you don’t trust your staff and that it wouldn’t be valuable in a small business. However, it simply allows you to examine where productivity savings can be made, and you should be taking advantage of them.
Overall, it is important to remember that you are trying to streamline to make efficiencies. Don’t increase the amount of work your employees have to do for the sake of saving a small amount of money; it will only cost you more in the long run. These four ideas should give you an insight into the simple steps you can take to make technology work for you and your business.
Have I missed anything? If you think so, let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts.
Jonathan Dempster is an economics graduate and freelance blogger offering opinion on technology, environmental and business issues. He is currently writing on behalf of RAM, which provides vehicle tracking solutions for businesses of all sizes across the UK.