It’s impossible to be a competitive business owner without taking advantage of today’s technology. Even if you think you can run a business doing everything the way you’ve always done it before, your competitors may be eager to use new software, services and devices. In the race to be the best business in your niche, it’s pretty important to operate with maximum efficiency, and it’s technology that helps you do that.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top technologies available to small business owners today.
1. Time-Tracking Software
Time-tracking programs are perfect for monitoring how much time you spend on a set task or group of tasks. Armed with this information, you can more easily determine which of the services you provide are the most profitable. If you come across any services that are not profitable, you’ll know it’s time to streamline your business or consider outsourcing to someone better equipped to handle the task.
2. Bookkeeping Software
Some business owners think that because they hire an accountant or bookkeeper they don’t need financial software, too. Not true. Accounting programs make recording your financial information much simpler, but they also make it easier for business owners to establish a budget and track spending. With the right program, you can monitor profits and losses and make budget changes before it’s too late.
Just about everyone has an email account these days, but are you using it effectively? You might find it’s easier and more efficient to respond to emails by directing them to different accounts — even if you’re the only one responding to clients’ questions. For example you could set up firstname.lastname@example.org for all pre-sales questions, email@example.com for supporting current clients having trouble with your products, and firstname.lastname@example.org for suggestions and testimonials. By dividing emails in this way, you can avoid spending extra time sorting email before you reply.
4. Mobile Internet
If you don’t already have a smartphone or other mobile device, you really should consider purchasing one. This is especially true if you are a solo-preneur. Phones with Internet access and email aren’t just trendy; they are infinitely helpful for keeping in touch with important contacts while you’re working on the go. By the time you get back to the office to answer an email or check your messages, your potential client may have already moved on.
5. Cloud Services
From event calendars to CRMs, the Cloud gives you access to your business from anywhere, provided you have an Internet connection. There are many reasons to use the Cloud in your small business. It saves you the headache of software and hardware installs and updates, as all of your information is securely stored and backed up by the service provider you choose. In addition, cloud services can save small business owners money because most of them feature scalable pricing. This means you can expand services only when you need them.
Remember, taking advantage of new technologies doesn’t mean you have to be an early adopter. It’s probably very wise to wait a few months for developers to work the kinks out of the newest products. And always ask for free trials whenever they are available. That way, if you discover a product doesn’t work for your small business, you can walk away without wasting any money.
What technologies do you use daily in your small business? Are they any technologies you wish you had?
I think one of main issues for small business operators today is when they want to start to have an internet presence that they start out smart. What I mean by this is that they realize upfront that just having a website or blog and Facebook business page is not enough, there has to be a marketing plan. It is well worth the money to employ a social media contractor to develop the plan and, probably, implement it and manage it. It is like having an accountant.
If you are a small/micro business operator and for financial reasons you have to or want to manage it all yourself you are best to look for a company that has a step by step action plan and all the tools in one place. I spent many thousands of dollars finding this out by hard and costly experience. Keyword focused content pages strategy plus social media options build in is the best solution. Believing that if you build a website or Facebook business page that the customers will come is a false belief. Believing that technology can save a struggling business is a false belief. It may make a business more efficient, but having a financial and marketing plan is the foundation on which most successful businesses rest and succeed from. Just ask someone from Instagram!
What do other members think?
Thanks for your comment, John. I absolutely agree. Technology, marketing, operations are all part of the whole that creates a successful, well-rounded business. The problem I see most often with small business owners is that they are scared to try something new — whether it’s something technology-related or a new marketing idea — and they’re often scared because they haven’t started at the very beginning. They don’t have a business plan, a marketing plan or a business budget, so they just don’t know what their options are, where they should be focusing their attention, or even on the most productive ways to spend their time.
I think one thing to note is that when picking a tool, do a bit of research, and then just pick a tool and stick with it. It is awesome that most web based tools these days will offer a bit for free (trials or a certain amount of use) but early on I found I spent a lot of time jumping from trial to trial to try to find the “best” tools to use. I’d pick one and then find out about another new cool tool. They all work pretty much the same for whatever you are doing with pros and cons about them. Find the one that fits you the best and move on with your business. Tools are essential but don’t get caught up with them.
The one category I would add is some sort of action list program. You need some way to keep track of what you need to do to move forward with your business. Some people will do this in their email, or with paper to-do and project lists, but you need some sort of process. I often use paper for the day to day but technology helps me to keep track of everything I need to work on to complete a project.
Very helpful article, and right on the money. If you’re like me, and your small business is REALLY small and new (mine is under one year) then you probably don’t have the resources for big technological purchases – but, there are a lot of inexpensive and even FREE apps for your smartphone (owning one really is a must – I do SO much of my business on-the-go). I use an app called Weave on my iPhone for basic Income/Expense and time-tracking purposes and it’s proved extremely helpful. I’m sure there are many other similarly helpful apps and technologies out there that are as useful as they are cost-effective.
Thanks for this great article.