By Andy Sowards
Many small businesses are failing to utilise some of the most important tools and services that are available to them. This includes cloud services, outsourcing and smart social media advertising. As a small company with a shorter reach, it’s difficult for a startup business to appeal to the same audience as a big corporation unless they manage to target a niche and utilise money-saving tricks to stretch their budget as far as possible.
For example, large businesses can get away with hiring entire teams to handle specific tasks such as human resources, marketing and IT maintenance. However, a small business cannot afford to hire such specialised teams in their business when they’ve only got a dozen or so staff in employment. As a result, the employees that are hired by a small business must be flexible.
Here are some examples of the most useful resources and services that a small business can utilise. In general, these things can be applied to almost any business, regardless if you run a bakery or a design company—they’re universal tips that can be applied in some way to every business.
Portability with smart devices and laptops
When assigning an employee to a variety of tasks it’s inevitable that they will have to be in several places at once. Be it attending meetings, scouting out locations, speaking with clients—they’re on the go most of the time. Because of this, it’s vital that you equip them with the necessary tools to carry out their work on the go. This includes a laptop, a smartphone or perhaps a tablet. Ensure that these are company-bought expenses and install the relevant software on them, and run your employee through a training course if needed.
Managing a business is much easier when you have less to worry about. Hardware failures, networked storage and finances are some of the few things that many startup owners dread.
When a business’s hardware fails and they lose vital information such as customer data and sales records, it can be a disaster. There’s no excuse even if it happens due to a natural disaster, a hacker attack or a freak accidental fire—you are responsible for keeping that data safe. But by using Dropbox as a backup solution, you can store your information in the cloud and keep it ready to access no matter what damage your storage solution suffers. While you’re repairing or replacing your server hardware, you and your employees can continue working without a hitch.
In addition to cloud storage, we also see regular use of cloud applications among small businesses. One of the most common examples is the use of bookkeeping software. Typically a business will hire a professional to keep track of finances, estimate sales and pay employees. But with the help of online bookkeeping and finance tracking software, you’re able to punch in a couple of numbers into a computer and have the system do the work for you. They usually cost a low monthly fee, but it’s far cheaper than hiring a specialised member of staff to do the job.
Lastly, we have cloud applications that offer collaboration opportunities. One of the main issues with software on a computer is that there’s very little support for two or more people working on the same document at once. Most of the time, only a single person is allowed to make changes to documents, but with the help of cloud applications such as Google Docs an entire team can collaborate, edit and make suggestions on a single document. This is incredibly helpful for multi-use spreadsheets with lots of complex calculations or information.
Much like cloud services, outsourcing removes the need of hiring a dedicated team member for specific tasks. For example, if you’d like someone to manage your finances for you but don’t want to use a cloud application, then you have the option of outsourcing your bookkeeping needs to a third party business that specialises in it. Outsourcing services are usually far cheaper than hiring an employee because you don’t need to worry about recruitment, benefits, pensions and salary. You hire the individual professional on a contract basis (much like a freelancer) and they do the job that you need and get paid for it.
Outsourcing is popular because it allows a small business to thrive with professional help at affordable prices. Many startups outsource design tasks such as website design, logo creation and advertisement design. They also might outsource the initial hardware setup to get computers, servers and networks built to their specification.