Approximately two-thirds of small business owners started their business to pursue a personal passion, according to Intuit. In the beginning, many small business owners think getting their doors open for business is the most challenging aspect. Often times it isn’t until after they start getting clients through the door that they realize all of the time-consuming, administrative work it takes to keep the lights on.
Business owners frequently find that less than half of their hours each week can be dedicated to working with customers or growing their business. The rest of their time seems to get lost in administrative work such as invoicing clients, communicating with clients, managing the office and also trying to keep track of all the little things that need to be done in the office.
Getting back to your passion!
However, before you get tied down with all the “to do’s” in the office, remember why you started the business in the first place….TO FOLLOW YOUR PASSION!
Sure, you’re going to need to be involved in most things related to your business, but there are tools available to small business owners that can make the daunting and time-consuming tasks easier to manage. And I don’t mean Word, Excel or Quickbooks. I am talking about real solutions that exist that don’t just perform tasks, but help small business owners put parts of their business on auto-pilot.
Here are a few examples:
1. Customer relationship management. CRM software helps small businesses to track, manage and service prospects and customers. If you have more than 20 customers, this type of a solution can save time and improve outcomes by automating tons of tasks from marketing to sales to account management to customer service to reporting and analytics. Two of the large well-known players are Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics, but many simpler solutions exist for small businesses as well including Zoho, Highrise and SugarCRM.
2. Content management and file sharing. When it comes to content management, a small business might go with a solution that is integrated with the CRM system, or something stand alone that meets their needs. Some solutions that are good for small businesses to check out include Dropbox.com and Box.net. These solutions offer the capture, management, storing, sharing and delivery of files - making storing, sharing and collaborating all incredibly easy.
3. Billing and receivables management. All businesses need to get paid, but the laborious manual efforts that many small business owners go through to collect money is unnecessary. Cloud-based solutions make getting paid incredibly easy for the small business, as well as much more convenient for the end-customer. For example, PaySimple provides set-it-and-forget-it billing automation for the small business owner, plus the ultimate level of payment options and convenience for their end-customers, which results in both time saving and faster payments. Alternatively, other payments providers such as PayPal also include invoicing functions in their offerings.
4. Online marketing. For small businesses, continually focusing on growth is always critical. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is through an e-mail marketing program that can be faciliated by tools such as Constant Contact or MailChimp. Alternatively for small businesses with more robust marketing programs, a solution such as InfusionSoft can really give a business a leg up.
5. Internet advertising. Many businesses are aware of the possible rewards that pay-per-click advertising could provide to their business, but they lack the expertise and time to manage such programs. Tools such as Trada, which leverages crowd-sourced experts to using the automatic optimization options within Google AdWords can help small businesses attain much better results with less effort.
6. Accounting. While almost all small businesses have some form of an accounting system, many are outdated and too cumbersome for them to use. The cloud offers some really nice alternatives that are much more approachable including Xero, WaveAccounting and Kashoo.
Look to the cloud
What are the benefits of a cloud solution for small business?
- Accessible anytime from anywhere. Small business owners need the ability to manage their business from their office, their home, and on the road. Utilizing cloud-based solutions gives them the ability to do this seamlessly.
- Safe & secure. Especially when it comes to the storage of sensitive information like credit cards, it’s best to leave this to the experts and not store this type of information locally. You can remove PCI compliance headaches by using a cloud-based solution.
- Affordable. There are many cloud-based solutions that are priced with the small business in mind and that enable you to pay for just what makes sense for your business. Subscription pay-as-you-go models are also common, relieving any large up-front investment and enabling small businesses to reach ROI quickly.
- Always up to date. So many small businesses have old deprecated versions of installed accounting software out there, and just don’t have the ambition or budget to go through a painful upgrade, but yet they are left in the dark when it comes to new features and improvements. With a cloud-based solution, the version you log into is always the latest and greatest – no more worrying about versions and upgrades.
- Easily grows with your business. Most cloud solution providers provide expansive opportunities for scale and packages that grow with your business, so you can start off small and be assured that the solution will grow as your business grows.
I encourage all small business owners to empower themselves and simplify their lives by utilizing cloud-based solutions so they can get back to spending time doing what they love.