The right tech tools at your disposal can help your small business punch well above its weight.
It’s tempting to think of the business world as the big end of town, but 85% of Australian businesses have fewer than five employees, and plenty of these businesses are sole operators.
Technology can act as a significant force multiplier for small businesses fending off larger competitors.
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Cloud services are one of the best weapons in the arsenal of small business, because they give you easy access to enterprise-grade software and services which in the past would have required a significant upfront investment.
Taking advantage of Software as a Service makes it quick and easy for any business to get up and running with office, accounting, point of sale, inventory, customer relationship management and business intelligence tools. In the past such tools were beyond the reach of small businesses, often leaving them to rely on consumer-grade alternatives or to simply do without.
Meanwhile, subscription software models such as Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite let businesses turn a significant upfront capital expenditure into an ongoing operational expense. This frees up precious cash to invest in other parts of the business. Subscription software models are also designed to easily scale, making them a good fit for growing businesses or those which tend to fluctuate in size.
Big businesses use an in-house PBX switchboard to divert calls around the building. A cloud-based switchboard and voice over IP let small business enjoy big business PBX features, whether staff are in the same office or oceans apart.
A cloud-based switchboard lets you add new phones and redirect calls with a few mouse clicks. You can also take advantage of enterprise-grade features such as interactive voice response (IVR) menus to direct incoming calls to the correct department.
You can also use geographic routing to send incoming calls to your nearest staff member. Other features such as ‘hunt groups’ can direct incoming calls to the first available team member to reduce wait times. The result is a more professional-looking business which can quickly respond to customers’ needs.
Technology can also help you work more effectively while you’re away from your desk, or even let you abandon the desk completely and work wherever it suits you best. Notebooks, smartphones and tablets make it easy to work on the run while staying in touch with the world. Cloud-based tools let you sit down anywhere, in front of any device, and pick up working where you left off.
The collaboration aspect of cloud services also makes it easier for your staff to work as a team, whether they’re on the other side of the office or the other side of the world. Such flexibility lets you work across time zones, plus it offers your staff greater flexibility – which can help you retain talent when valuable team members need to change their hours in pursuit of a better work-life balance.
Along with a productivity boost, cloud services can also offer an important business continuity option should disaster strike. If fire, flood or theft claims your workspace, it’s easy to keep working elsewhere while you get back on your feet.
Whether you’re a dedicated small team or a one-man band, investing in the right tech can help you stand toe-to-toe with your bigger rivals.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.