We all know time is money, and nowhere is that truer than in small businesses. One of the simplest ways to increase your business’s efficiency is by implementing technology solutions that take over and/or streamline some of the tasks on your to-do list.
Of course, technology solutions can cost big money — money you may not want to spend when you’re just starting out, doing as much as you can for as little money as possible. Some of the small-business technology out there is free though, and others are very affordable. When it comes to automating busywork, the expense can end up saving you more than you spend.
Here are some digital solutions that can help you accomplish more with less time and energy.
Tracking Tasks Digitally
Few tasks are one and done. Most work consists of multiple steps, collaboration and regular check-ins with staff, partners and clients. Tracking all of that can bombard your inbox and take a huge amount of time from your day.
Technology can take on a lot of that work for you. You’ll find software and online platforms that track tasks, calendars and workflow. They consolidate information about assigned staff, steps, progress, document changes and deadlines, moving the task conversation into a dedicated space that everyone on your team can access.
Digital task tracking enables greater efficiency and instant team communication, and it all but eliminates the need for regular check-ins via phone or email. You can see exactly what’s been done, by whom, and what’s left, simply by glancing at the workflow.
Group Training And Communication
An increasing number of small businesses have off-site staff and contractors. The trend can save you money on overhead, but it can cost you time and money when it comes to training and group work: Travel is expensive, and getting remote people up to speed on what happened in today’s office meeting can require hours of summarizing, delivering and ensuring comprehension.
Web conferences, online group training and group messaging can streamline that process. They allow easy, real-time collaboration with dedicated chats, group meetings and education. As a bonus, they can help integrate off-site personnel into the team, improving teamwork and morale.
For most businesses, email newsletters and social-media presences are not optional; they’re standard marketing procedures these days. They’re also extremely time-consuming if you do them “by hand.”
You can dramatically reduce your social-marketing time investment with social media and email management products. They offer various functionalities and easily adjust to your business’s specific needs, automating tasks like client emails and social-media posting. Some product functionalities include:
• viewing content and user analytics in real-time and across platforms
• scheduling tweets and posts to publish at specific future times
• coordinating postings on multiple social media platforms
• scheduling newsletters to go out both to clients and social media outlets at particular times
When it comes to storing information, the cloud is taking over. The cloud stores your data in off-site servers, and it offers several big benefits. One of the big ones is security — it farms out the stress of protecting your data from intrusion and loss.
But it also enables efficiency and mobility: If you and/or your staff are on the road a lot for work, cloud storage can dramatically increase efficiency. Instead of downloading and/or setting up VPN access so you can access secure data, you just get on wifi and grab it from the cloud.
More Technology Shortcuts
Other tasks you can automate or streamline with technology include:
• Scheduling meetings: Finding a time that works for all involved parties can require a 10-message email stream. With digital scheduling, you send out a link to your schedule and the receiver picks an open time slot. Done.
• Getting signatures: Instead of mailing contracts and chasing down clients or hires who haven’t signed them, put the paperwork online. With digital-signature technology, you can send a link to the paperwork and have the receiver sign electronically; systems will also alert you when paperwork is complete and send reminders to people who haven’t completed it in a timely fashion.
• Dictation and transcription: Instead of writing everything down or else transcribing digital recordings, you can have technology do it for you. Especially on the road, audio recording and transcription can save you a lot of time and prevent you from losing a great idea when it hits.
There are many more small-business technology solutions out there. Which ones will work best for you depends on a lot of factors, including the nature of your product/service and your work style. But whichever technologies suit your needs, they won’t just save you time; they could save you a salary, especially in areas like social marketing and task tracking. Implementing these types of technologies in your business can help you achieve the lean, efficient operations that facilitate business success and growth.