Running a small enterprise means managing a lean, mean operation. Often, it’s just the business owner and a couple of staff members. Enterprise technology can be expensive and many small businesses rightly believe that some solutions are beyond their budget.
However, there’s a wide range of free or relatively affordable tools that can improve efficiency and enhance productivity. Here are a few practical ways technology can grow and help organize small businesses.
The scale of websites is just as varied as the size of physical buildings. In the same way that there are small one-story buildings on the one hand and massive structures with over one hundred floors on the other hand, there’s an ideal website for every size of business.
A website can be a particularly low cost yet valuable investment for smaller organizations. A web presence ensures the business is visible on search engines, a crucial consideration given that many people now turn to the web first when searching for a product or service.
Social media is perhaps just as if not more effective than a website. What’s more, it’s free at least as far as setting up an account is concerned. The biggest platforms such as Facebook have functionality that makes it possible for businesses to sell their products on the platform directly.
Small businesses can also use social media to respond to enquiries, solicit feedback, share product information and provide insights that position them as subject matter experts in their field.
In its initial years, the cell phone was simply viewed as a replacement of fixed line phones where its primary role was making calls but with the additional benefit of SMS. Whereas feature phones allowed internet access, this was basic and could be used for only the simplest browsing.
With the advent of smartphones, cell phones have moved from being just phones to becoming pocket minicomputers. This is a huge advantage for small businesses that not only ensures they remain in constant touch with their customers but also allows access to a broad array of useful apps.
Like large enterprises, small businesses must find effective ways of invoicing clients and track expenses. This is vital since small enterprises are often at greater risk of cash flow challenges that could grind operations to a halt.
Free or low cost online tools such as FreshBooks would come in handy in this regard. They are not only accessible from anywhere as long as one has an internet connection but also have an intuitive interface. Since they are web-based, they do not require investment in additional hardware such as dedicated servers.
When you have to manage meetings, projects, documents and targets on behalf of clients or employees, keeping all relevant documentation centralized and organized is crucial. A project management system such as the freely available Basecamp can be a powerful tool to bring all these different elements together.
If you are looking for something more lightweight though, then a calendar system such as the one available with Gmail or Outlook could serve the same purpose. Either way, these tools allow all project team members to access and share updates on one dashboard.
Nearly all businesses have certain roles in common. For instance, there’ll always be an accounting role, a sales and marketing role, and a human resources role. This role could be executed by one person or an entire department.
On the other hand, some processes are industry specific and require industry-specific technology solutions. A business that sells cigarettes or other tobacco-related product would benefit from technology that minimizes its likelihood of paying fines for selling tobacco to minors.
Email was one of the primary reasons for the invention and spread of the internet. Whereas its relevance has come under increasing competition from social media networks, instant messaging apps and SMS, it’s still a vital tool for staying in touch with customers.
People may not check their email as often as they do their social media accounts but when they do, they are likely to spend time reading messages that appeal to them. Regularly sending out an email newsletter can help small businesses connect with and grow their customer base.
Meetings can be a drain on both time and resources. Think about what it takes to move from your desk or office building to the site of the meeting. There’s plenty of waste in there when you especially when consider the sheer breadth of teleconferencing options available today.
Small businesses can cut these unnecessary costs and save plenty of precious time by making use of online tools such as Skype to bring together meeting attendees irrespective of their geographical location.
The internet and technology has given small businesses tremendous advantages and leverage that wasn’t available to similar businesses in decades passed. This gives small businesses the ability to enjoy many of the technological benefits large corporations otherwise pay expensively for. Go ahead and make the most of these opportunities today.
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