By now, most of you reading this understand that growth in most industries requires automation to succeed. Coca Cola wouldn’t have the global reach it does if its employees had to make every bottle, put a label on it, fill it with soda, and then seal and box it, right?
In modern business, much of the automation that’s necessary to streamline a business, while growing it as big as possible comes in the form of helpful software solutions. If you’re in need of some easy-to-implement technology to streamline your business operations, to free up more time and money for expanding the company, you’ve come to the right place!
All the big businesses have done away with hard-line phone systems in the office, and you should too. There’s really no logical reason not to adopt a “soft” system that uses VOIP technology over an Internet connection to handle incoming calls.
Not only do these services typically cost less than the traditional service offered by your local phone company (like 40% in some cases), they allow you to easily customize auto-answering, call routing, hold music, call forwarding, and remote logins to the system using a laptop or home computer.
As SalesForce proudly states on their website, 3 out of 4 customers claim they spend more money with a company because they were given a positive experience. Customer Relationship Management software puts customer data at your fingertips whenever you need it, such as when a client you haven’t talked to in a while calls you, and you need to recall important details about them.
CRMs also automate a lot of tasks, such as birthday reminders and other important events and obligations that bring you and your clients together. All customer data is stored in a single and safe location, so analytics and reporting become a breeze. Best, service never wanes from one employee to the next, because client information is right there at everyone’s fingertips at all times.
It would be easier to make a list of things a virtual assistant can’t do for most companies, rather than listing all the tasks you can automate with a remote employee. There’s a virtual assistant available in almost every career category, from phone answering to cold calling; content writing to research assistants; and data entry to medical billing, and much more.
Best, if you use a reputable service, VAs aren’t legally considered your employee, meaning there are no headaches about letting someone go if they can’t get the job done. Virtual assistants are just as viable for getting menial tasks like data entry and email filtering are done as it is for the more complex like web admin and accounting.
Not only streamlining business operations, but you can also use virtual services to enhance your brand. You can have your business headquartered in top business locations by using virtual office solutions. Such solutions offer you business addresses, receptionist services, and more – at a fraction of the conventional costs.
With flextime and remote employees being the norm rather than the exception these days, it’s important to have a centralized time and expense tracking software solution in place. Hourly and per-project employees need to be able to “punch in” to ensure they’re paid for the time they put in. Salary and contract-based employees need to accurately track their time for client billing.
Then comes expenses. If you’re not tracking them, your accountant or bookkeeper will need to allot time to chase employees down, getting receipts and other details about the purchases they’ve made on the company dime. The list of options is many including accounting solutions like Zoho, Quickbooks, and a slew of other established and emerging software options.
Cloud-based solutions, mainly storage for everything from file sharing to system backup, are playing an increasingly important role in a small business' tech arsenal. The idea of getting everyone in the company – wherever they are, whenever they want – to access and make use of the storage that's residing redundantly in some of the most secure servers in the world is very much appealing.
There are some caveats that you should be aware of before embracing the cloud. One of them is reliability. While the cloud is typically very reliable, expect outages – even data breach – to happen on an infrequent occasion. That said, you should consider using a “hybrid” solution – keep your data on-site while using the cloud as your backup.
Indeed, cloud solutions offer stellar productivity booster and a strong return on your investment – if you adopt them right, that is.
Last, don’t waste precious time contacting, scheduling, rescheduling, and sitting across a desk from prospective employees in a traditional interview scenario. That’s so old school and so much time and effort are wasted using most of the common HR tactics that many small businesses out there are still using. Take your HR online or outsource the entire process to a third-party provider (who also takes on many of the risks associated with a bad hire).
If you prefer the former, set up a screening portal with resume submission function on your website, and even offer a quick online test to filter for the traits, skills, and availability that’s important to the company, before you sit down with prospective hires. Video conferencing software, complete with whiteboards and screen-sharing mean you can have the employee set a time for a virtual interview that works for the both of you, and little, if any time gets wasted messing with the logistics of in-person interviews.
Technology is a real game changer for any business, big or small. There are many free solutions to the software recommended above, so there’s no reason budget should get between you and the ability to streamline all but the most highly personal requirements of your business.