While there are lots of ways that things are getting harder for small business there are many new advances in technology that are making life significantly easier and also opening up a whole range of new business opportunities for the smart entrepreneur. While many of these technologies are internet based I have not included the internet itself as one of the technologies.
Here are 10 ways that technology has made life significantly easier for small business operators.
Back in the old days accountants and accounting staff would need to write out journals on pieces of paper, get that journal authorised by the next person up the chain of authority and give that journal to a data processing person to enter the journal into the accounting system. They would then be able to get a physical printout of their general ledger and P&L to make adjustments, make decisions, reconcile bank accounts etc. The whole process used to take an age and it was not uncommon for management to need to wait 3 or 4 weeks before they got their results for the month. For a startup or high growth business, a wait of 3 to 4 weeks could have a serious impact on the direction that the business was actually heading.
Fortunately, in the current environment accounting packages have evolved and can now be available online. With modern accounting packages like Xero and MYOB you can do your accounting anywhere. You can also get your financial reports in a whole range of formats and on a whole range of technology platforms. What this means is that you can have an offsite bookkeeper completing your accounts in another city/state/country and you can be looking at your reports from on your laptop/phone or desktop computer.
In addition, the modern accounting service also links seamlessly with many banks, financial institutions and website CMSâ€™s. What this means is that you can get a feed direct into your accounting system without having to do any rekeying. All your bookkeeper has to do is put through some of the more manual entries like depreciation at the end of the month.
There are a number of file sharing platforms out there on the internet today and they all solve a basic fundamental computing problem. Transferring large files from one person to another. These files could be image files, publishing files, contracts or backups. Back in the old days you would need to transfer these files to a portable storage device like an external drive or a USB drive and then you would need to either physically take them to someone or you would need to courier them to the person that needs them. One of the big issues with this is that you would then need to get that storage device back. If it was an external hard drive then it could end up costing quite a bit of money.
Those days are no more now that we have file sharing platforms. One of the most popular platforms is Dropbox. When you set up Dropbox it looks very much like a separate drive on your desktop. You can then transfer files to that drive and give other people access to the drive. You can also email people access to that specific file or drive.
With many of the file sharing platforms you can get some free storage before you actually have to pay. This gives you the opportunity to test drive the service before you have to commit.
A decade ago, if you wanted to put together a project that involved a number of different people from different disciplines and a number of different locations you would need to have a fairly significant travel budget. You would need to put together a schedule, get all of those people to book flights and accommodation, get them all in the same meeting room and show them Powerpoint presentations.
Fortunately things have changed significantly for the better. These days your project can be run online and the different participants can view shared presentations, work on documents or files together and get instant updates in terms of where everything is at. Not only do online project management platforms make life significantly easier they also help you to get your project out quicker and more efficiently.
Now that so much of our work is online and we have ways to jointly complete projects online we need to be able to bring people in quickly and efficiently to actually manage that work.
There are a number of great sites out there for getting people to carry out projects, 2 of the bigger ones are Freelancer and Fiverr.
With all of these sites it is probably best to start off with a small relatively simple project to try to figure out the capabilities of the freelancers that you are recruiting however once you find yourself a good one you will be able to ramp up the tasks and save yourself a lot of time.
Given that you have started your small business because you are particularly good at what you do it doesnâ€™t make a lot of sense for you to try to do everything including all the basic admin and sales admin work.
Why not get yourself a remote virtual assistant to help take the burden off you and leave you to focus on building your small business. You can hire virtual assistants through freelancer sites like Freelancer.com however if you are looking for someone who is more local you could look at sites like RubyReceptionist.com.au.
Once you have your virtual staff members operating out of different virtual locations you will need a way to manage what they are up to. Fortunately there are a whole range of remote management packages out there that will let you keep up to date with what your people are up to.
The way these packages work is that they load software onto your staff members computer and then they take screen shots of what that person is up to at different times during the day. This gives you the opportunity to see that they are not spending the day on social media or emailing their friends.
7) Virtual Offices
A virtual office can provide you with many of the benefits of a physical office, like a prestige address and high tech meeting rooms without having to pay out all of that rent or pay all of those bonds. For a small startup a virtual office makes a lot of sense because it enables you to go national quickly and at an affordable rate.
Check out www.VirtualOffice.Melbourne if you would like to find out more about virtual offices.
Rather than fly to the other side of the world to have a meeting with a counterpart you can now simply get onto a package like Skype and have a video conference with that person instead.
Sometimes it makes more sense to be able to look someone in the eye when you are discussing something. Maybe it is a supplier or one of your direct reports. Packages like Skype are really well priced and make a lot of sense for the busy executive.
A virtual receptionist is a remote telephonist who answers your incoming calls. The virtual receptionist can be located anywhere and is works via the internet. The receptionist answers your incoming calls using a greeting that you have agreed and using your companies name.
Once the receptionist has answered your call they will deliver the message to you via email or SMS. It is usually very efficient and makes good business sense.
If you are interested in checking out Virtual Receptionist services you should take a look at Virtual Reception if you are Australia based and Virtual Headquarters if you are in the USA.
When I first started work many years ago one of my duties was to look after the backups of the accounting system. What this involved was loading cartridges into a backup device that then worked through all of the files on the accounting computer and copied them on to the cartridge. The whole process would generally take about an hour if nothing went wrong and after it was over I would then need to store the backup in a fireproof safe (as well as an offsite version).
With automated backup services life has changed significantly. For a start, everything can happen remotely and be stored in several locations. Secondly, the smart backups of today will happen really quickly as many of the services will actually only backup the item that has changed. This saves a significant amount of time and can also mean that backups can be taken every hour or half hour if you want.