As a small business owner, it’s easy to get bogged down in mundane everyday tasks and lose track of the bigger picture: how to grow your business and win new customers.
Fortunately, technology can be a big help, freeing you up to work away from the office and concentrate on what really matters for your business.
These five tech updates can help you make bigger things happen for your business in 2018.
If you’re still calculating your GST on spreadsheets and stashing receipts in your desk drawer until tax time, it’s time to upgrade to cloud accounting.
Cloud accounting systems such as Xero, MYOB or Quickbooks can save you hours a month by automating most of your accounting functions. These programs take a daily feed from your business bank account, making reconciling expenses and payments as easy as clicking a button. This will allow you to keep track of cash flow and see which clients have and haven’t paid your invoices.
Because they’re in the cloud, you can check payments or send out invoices anywhere and anytime from your mobile phone or tablet. For example, you could create and send an instant invoice to a client the moment you’ve finished a job, while you’re still on their premises.
Another great thing about these programs is their analytic and reporting functions, which will help you to track the performance of your business. Check this year’s profits compared to last year’s, which clients are the most profitable, or how your expenses are tracking – it’s all there at your fingertips.
Point of sale systems
Think a point of sale (POS) system is just a way of collecting payment from your customers? Think again.
POS systems typically use payment terminals, touch screens, cash registers or barcode readers to collect payments. Modern POS systems, however, also incorporate software that can give you a ton of useful information if your business is in the retail or hospitality industries.
They can help with inventory management by letting you know how much of each product has been sold and automatically adjusting inventory records. Additionally, they can identify top selling items and customer buying habits. Many POS systems incorporate customer relationship management functions, allowing you to capture data about your customers and manage loyalty schemes.
Another important feature of modern POS systems is they can move the POS functionality away from the cash register and into the hands of employees. Salespeople or waiters can move around your shop or restaurant, taking the service to where your customers are and creating a smoother and more mobile payment process.
Whatever functionality you want out of your POS system, remember that its primary job is to process sales and needs to provide customers with a fast and seamless purchasing experience.
There’s a whole range of apps designed to help small business owners make the best use of their time.
Time tracking apps let you track how long you spend on each task. Identify if you’re spending too much time on low value or administrative tasks, instead of those which earn you money or grow your business. You can track your employees’ time too, and if you bill clients by the hour, you can incorporate time tracking apps into your accounting software for easy invoicing.
Project management apps will keep you on top of projects that are on the go, and manage your and your team’s workflow. You can assign tasks, schedule deadlines and milestones, and gather all the relevant documents and resources you need for a project in the one place.
In 2018, there’s no reason why you or your team need to be tied to the office.
Cloud technology lets you do just about anything you can do in your office from anywhere, if you have a laptop or tablet fitted out with the right apps. Now you can send an invoice, check on the day’s sales figures, sign off on the week’s timesheets, or collaborate with a colleague without having to be at your desk.
With a tablet under your arm, you can make better use of downtime, such as when you’re waiting for a flight or at a café between meetings. Being able to keep an eye on your business without having to head into the office is a huge timesaver.
You can also offer your employee’s the opportunity to work a day or two a week at home, which will help to improve staff retention as more people place an emphasis on work/life balance.
To realise these benefits, it’s important to equip yourself and your team with up-to-date and efficient laptops and tablets, ensuring they have enough battery life, memory, and processing power to help you work to maximum efficiency.
Virtual private network
While working remotely can benefit productivity, it can make your business vulnerable to hackers who can access data sent over less secure internet connections.
A solution is to use a virtual private network (VPN), a group of private computers that are networked together over a public network such as the internet. This is essentially a virtual version of a secure physical network that links computers via cables. VPNs work by sending your internet traffic through another server via an encrypted connection.
The advantage of a VPN is that it allows you and your employees to access business resources such as files, financial data, apps and printers while out of office. You won’t be compromising on security, even if you are using less secure connections, such as such as those in hotels or shopping centres.
While you could set up your own VPN, there’s little reason to do so seeing as many commercial providers provide access to a VPN from as little as $10 per month.
When choosing a VPN, ensure you select one that has adequate security and enough data capacity to meet your business’s needs.
B2BEXPO Naming Sponsor: Officeworks