New technology can be a scary thing. Especially for small business owners who have stuck to the same blue-collar business practices for decades. In their mind, if it’s not broke than why fix it?
The problem is that in today’s competitive market, business owners can’t afford to think like that anymore. Technology has infiltrated almost every industry and every level of running a business. You’ll be left in the dust if your company doesn’t adapt.
Incorporating even some of following technologies can help your small business to work more efficiently and trim excess off your budget. Welcome to the Digital Age.
“Cloud”y with a Chance of Data Sharing
The days of hanging folders and rolodexes are numbered. A cloud is a network storage system that allows for all your work data – contact lists, documents, files, etc. – to be accessed remotely.
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There are several cloud storage services that can share your information across multiple platforms. Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, Microsoft Skydrive and Amazon Cloud Drive are only some of the competing cloud systems. Some have certain unique features (Skydrive boasts the largest storage space at 7GB), but not one application stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Cloud systems are especially beneficial for small business owners. They can help you to save on infrastructure costs by reducing your daily paper output. They have the same functionality as some advanced software, but clouds are easy enough to manage that you don’t require the help of an IT professional.
Thanks to cloud computing, never again will you have to race home for the important file you forgot on your kitchen table. Efficiencies like cloud sharing can help your company to expand before you know it.
Time Flies, But Where Does it Go?
After a seemingly productive workday, do you often ask yourself: where did the time go? Time and attendance software tells you exactly where that time went, and helps identify areas for improvement.
Time-tracking systems serve as real-time calendars for the workplace. You simply plug in your day’s tasks or projects, and the application will track how long each one takes. Popular tools like SlimTimer, Invoicera and Dovico are web-based, and other programs like Manic Time, Klok and RescueTime were built for specific platforms.
As a small business owner, time tracking and management software helps to make your life easier. Most systems can track everything from your employees’ projects to customer invoices and expenses. They can run reports on employee hours, including overtime, vacation and sick leave.
Time tracking software will provide your staff with the necessary motivation to increase productivity. It’ll also help alleviate the administrative burden so you can focus on growing your small business.
“Fleeting “ Distribution is here to Stay
Nowadays, many distribution companies use trucking companies to warehouse and ship their product. It’s often an effective and more convenient alternative to transporting everything in-house.
Fleet management companies use the latest technology to make sure your deliveries go as smoothly as possible. They use GPS tracking for all of their trucks to provide real-time visibility of their clients’ shipments. Trucking fleets use advanced 2-way communication technology between all drivers to ensure supervision and safety.
As a small business owner, you don’t have to worry about handing control of the shipment over to a private fleet. They can brand their trailers and drivers in such a way that they become a temporary extension of your company.
Outsourced transportation also saves you the astronomical costs of hosting and running an in-house fleet. Luckily, fleet experts take care of all the freight logistics so you don’t have to.
The Internet: A World Wide Boardroom
Online telecommunications services, like Skype, are already hugely popular for personal use. People use them all the time to connect with their loved ones halfway across the world. And the corporate world is not far behind.
Businesses have finally caught on to the cost-saving benefits of Internet calling. Online companies offer significantly cheaper rates than big-name telecom companies – for example, Skype offers $3/month for unlimited long distance and Bell’s rate is $30/month. You do the math.
Videoconferencing has improved drastically since the early days of Skype. It’s gone from being slow and pixilated, to real-time with crystal clear picture. And it can instantly connect you with your business colleagues on the other side of the world.
Internet telecommunications will help you save on phone bills, which is a fairly large part of your business’ overhead. It also helps to remove the need for infrastructure like an abundance of pens and paper.
Taking Notes Became a Whole Lot Easier
Taking detailed notes at a long meeting is a painful process. Writing notes by hand is especially arduous. Thankfully, there are now several electronic note-taking helpers that can get the job done.
Tablets are both recreational and professional tools for the workplace. For example, the recently released Samsung Galaxy Note comes with the “S pen,” a pen accessory that allows you to take notes electronically using the “S Memo” application.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, you can opt for technology that only functions as a note-taking helper. The LiveScribe Smart Pen records what you hear, say and write, while linking up to 800 hours of audio recordings to your notes.
SoundNote has similar functions to the LiveScribe Pen, but it’s made for an iPad. It tracks what you type and draw while recording audio so you never miss a beat. With either note-taking technology, you’ll never have to use loose-leaf paper again.
There’s a wide variety of other note taking applications. The Google Keep app allows you to take notes on the go and sync it to your Google Drive or Android device. Note-taking software like Microsoft’s OneNote can be used in conjunction with other information management programs like Microsoft Word and Excel.