Technology and the small business
Regardless as to what type of business you run, I’d be very surprised if your business processes could not be made simpler with the inclusion and implementation of the right technology.
The right tech should:
- Save you money
- Save you time
- … save your sanity
The right technology should also give you:
- More money
- More time
- … and a reason to smile.
It is a wonder therefore, that many of the small businesses in the north east are finding that technology is more of a costly bind and a necessary evil that drains both money, time and sanity from their valued employees.
Unresponsive, broken and faulty technology tends to cost you, the business owner a lot more than you think. The current stats suggest that if you were to count the hours spent waiting for IT companies to come and repair faulty tech, or time spent waiting for underperforming software and hardware to perform its designated function then you are looking at two and a half weeks per year per employee of time spent doing nothing!
You may as well give them all a fortnight’s holiday – at least you’d boost employee morale.
This post will – like the clever IT technicians we are – look at the processes and technology decisions you are making and investigate some time and money saving alternatives, giving you, the deserving business owner a new reason to smile.
I am going to put a disclaimer right here, before we jump into to the good stuff:
Unless you are an IT expert then your best option will always be to enlist the services of a specialist IT company. Here in the North East, Munki Business IT are happy to discuss your needs and recommend the best systems to generate the most time and profit for your company.
What is the best technology choice for your small business?
This very much depends upon your business processes.
Don’t be hasty when investing in technology. Look at all your current business processes, write them down in detail. List all the people involved and what they need to have available, in what time frame to make the operation a success.
You will have quite a few business processes, some of which are best handled by people, others automated by tech and many which are a combination of the two.
I’m going to assume your small business is going to grow in size, revenue and personnel. Given that, it is also a good idea to look at your projected business operations and the processes that are implied.
If you invest in technology that is only going to satisfy your business needs today, then it is very likely that the same technology will not satisfy your business needs in a month or a year or five years from now.
Once you have your business processes then it is worth while investigating which of these can be automated.
IT automation for the small business
We find that many SME’s are initially hesitant at the thought of automation, perhaps because of the whole ‘Skynet – computers are going to replace people and take over the world’ fear. It is worth remembering that if used correctly computers and technology give your employees more time to do the jobs that they are good at (and were hired for) by taking away the hassle of otherwise boring, mundane tasks and by speeding up other processes.
With that we can say technology is not replacing the human workforce, rather it redefines the work for which they are responsible. Part of their responsibilities can include an element of IT usage and perhaps even maintenance. The best technology in the world would be of little use, after all, if your staff did not know how to use it!
It is wise therefore to invest in training, so your employees are using the tech to its best advantage.
Common business tasks that can be automated include:
This can be as part of your customer acquisition funnel for example: Not everyone will be ready with credit card in hand, ready to purchase what you have to offer. Some people will be conducting a simple product search, perhaps to compare and contrast. Others will be searching for a practical solution to a problem and want to digest the advice you have to offer. After filling in a contact form on your website or downloading an informative PDF you will want to keep these guys on file and give them appropriate incentives to help them move through your sales funnel. This will involve producing targeted emails, delivered at predefined time periods AND depending on how they respond to future emails then communication will need to be adjusted to accommodate their needs and ensure they keep spending their hard-earned pennies on you.
Can you imagine how much time and potential human error would be involved in doing this whole process manually?
A computer can do this in fractions of seconds.
Backing up your data
Have you ever been in the middle of a report only to find your computer has crashed and the hours of research you have been doing is lost. Or (as has happened to one of our clients before coming to us) past work is deleted and is unexpectedly needed for a future project.
An automated and secure data backup is worth its weight in gold!
Customer and employee communication
Emails have been covered above as a marketing tool, however efficient and quality communication is absolutely integral to the success of just about every small business in the north east (or anywhere for that matter).
The right communication will ensure you have the right ‘paper trail’ ensuring you always have the right compliance in place.
The right communication also makes sure the right people get exactly the right information at the right time.
Unless you only have one or two clients then creating invoices, sending them to the right people together with invoice reminders can be incredibly time consuming.
Many small businesses have the capacity to automatically generate and send invoices. They can also be linked to the accounting software to generate reminders for customers who don’t pay on time.
The system will also trigger perhaps a termination in services delivered till the invoice is paid.
Let’s assume you don’t pay your phone bill:
- A communication may be sent to you as a politer reminder.
- After a specified time, a further communication may be sent reminding you to pay but this time with a date by which it must be paid to avoid suspension of your phone service.
- After this date if no money is received then the phone service is suspended.
- You then pay your bill using an automated payment system
- You receive a receipt and message of thanks for your payment
- After a specified amount of time your phone is switched back on
If this has happened to you before then I apologise for the potential PTSD memories this has sparked. It does however serve as an excellent example of a specific business process from which you can model some of your own.
It would be impossible for your mobile provider to do the simple operation above without the use of technology automation.
Well, that’s about it for now. Our next post will delve into exactly what you should and could be paying for the right technology. You may well find that you are paying far too much for far too little.
If you are a north east small business owner and need help and advice on using technology to save your company time and money get in touch below and we will do what we can to help