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The New Tech Helping Small Businesses Beat Age-Old Productivity Challenges

The ups and downs of running a small business can sometimes feel isolating, but whatever challenge you’re currently facing, you’re not alone. Whether it’s getting bogged down by outdated processes or struggling to keep everyone aligned, chances are that other business owners have been there, done that, and figured out a smart solution. Let’s look at how three successful small businesses are using technology to overcome common productivity hurdles, and how you can too.

Swap Inefficient Processes for Today’s Digital Tools

Efficiency is the lifeblood of any thriving small business. Yet, many still struggle with outdated methods that eat up time and leave room for errors – think stacks of paperwork, manual entry, and thousands upon thousands of emails. Streamlining these processes with digital tools to automate routine tasks can cut down on hours of work each week, freeing you up to focus on growing your business.

Australian cloud software company Stax, spun off from Versent Group, was determined to opt for a better, more efficient way to work from the start. “We were not using email with Versent,” says James Coxon, Stax’s chief product officer and one of Versent’s founders. That’s why it just made sense for Stax to set up operations on Slack 

Today, with about 50 employees in Australia, Europe, and North America, Stax developers use Slack channels to trade ideas and provide direction to colleagues asynchronously, rather than wasting time trying to coordinate meetings across timezones.   

“Slack was our collaboration tool of choice. So when we branched out with Stax, we knew we’d spend all day, every day in Slack. Slack has to be a core part of your company toolbox if you want to do business these days. I don’t know what we’d do without it,” says Coxon.

Break Down Siloed Systems with Integrations

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Many small business owners start with what’s at hand – a mix of apps and makeshift systems – instead of what’s optimal. Over time, this can lead to a fragmented setup where vital information gets siloed. Adopting integrated systems that sync seamlessly reduces the hassle of managing multiple tools and provides you with a holistic view of your operations. This unified approach means less time hunting for information and more time making informed decisions.

One way that businesses can unify fragmented operations is with integrations. X-Team, a remote team of developers, was founded in Melbourne on a mix of Skype and in-house collaboration apps, but it knew it needed something more to unite its team.  

X-Team decided to make Slack the centre of its business, undergoing the “fastest transition ever” to introduce Slack as the glue connecting its teams with the tools they love. Hundreds of integrations, from invoicing to HR to issue resolution, mean all work happens in one place and the team doesn’t waste time jumping between apps.  

“At a high level, Slack is the home of workflow. By pumping data from integrated apps into Slack, you can open up views of all kinds of information,” says Brad Giblen, X-Team COO.  

And for CEO Ryan Chartrand, Slack integrations are a secret weapon for the business. “The amount of features and API power that Slack has given us to create experiences for our community has been pretty phenomenal.”

Speed Up Decision-Making with Data Transparency

Decision-making can be slow in small businesses due to unclear processes or delayed information sharing. Implementing a more flat organisational structure where decisions are made closer to the action can significantly speed things up. Tools that provide real-time data help your team to make informed decisions, quickly, adapting to customer needs and market changes with agility. 

Work moves fast at McLeod Cranes, a New Zealand-based crane, hiab, and transport company, but its pen-and-paper processes and communication workarounds weren’t keeping up. In 2023, McLeod moved to a Slack-first way of working, integrating everything from site inspections to asset maintenance to health and safety reporting.

Overnight, Slack channels improved team collaboration and provided visibility into daily operations. Management can see problems emerging and react to them faster, all with fewer meetings. This more transparent way of working is helping McLeod make better decisions about resourcing and the direction of the business‌.

“With Slack, what used to take 3-4 days to understand and resolve now takes me a minute,” says Scott McLeod, Managing Director at McLeod Cranes.

Aligned Teams are Productive Ones

All of these challenges often boil down to a fundamental issue: lack of alignment. When systems, processes, and teams are not aligned, productivity suffers. By providing your team with the right tools and technologies for communication and collaboration, you can make sure that everyone is in sync and that work gets pushed forward efficiently. 

Interested in how AI and automation can remove productivity roadblocks in your small business? Join the upcoming workshop, ‘How Slack and AI Helps Businesses Do More with Less’, at Commbank Smallbiz Week to explore how you can tackle common operational challenges head-on. 

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