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For small business owners, the phrase ‘time is money’ holds more meaning that it does for most. It’s all too easy to spend lots of time on tasks that fall outside your core business activities: staff meetings, updating customer records, bookkeeping, resolving IT issues and so on. If this sounds familiar, you could be finding that your costs are going up whilst your profits take a nosedive.

But here’s the good news. Putting the right technology and IT systems in place offers countless opportunities to run your business more efficiently – or in other words, save time. With your business operating efficiently, you’ll maximise your team’s productivity and spend more time on running your business and boosting sales.

Finding the right systems for your business will depend on various factors such as your company size, industry sector and number of locations. You could start by looking at technologies that other businesses in your sector are using, and identifying what might work for you. Here are a few areas to consider:

Online data and file management:

Think about how your documents and client data are managed. Are files well-organised and easy to find? Does everyone have centralised access to the files they need, or are documents stored on individual workstations? Ideally, you want your core business data to be securely stored and accessible from any location – which means putting it in the Cloud using a file sharing system such as DropBox, Google Drive etc.

Don’t forget to consider data security and backup processes as well. Think about how easy it would be to retrieve and restore your data in the event of a systems failure or cyber-attack; and how much it might cost if you couldnt. Put a robust backup process in place, such as backing up to the internet or external hard drives, as well as storing documents in the Cloud.

Customer relationship management:

Many a small business owner has started out using basic systems such as Microsoft Excel and Access to capture and store customer details, and track contacts and sales. Information can end up scattered across different types of software, which don’t integrate with each other. This can make it time-consuming to find and update customer details and activity.

Investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system could revolutionise how you run your business. Workflow automation is a key feature of most CRM systems, eliminating the need for performing many tasks manually. To give just a few examples, you could use a CRM system to automatically generate follow-up reminders; send emails to clients who haven’t bought from you recently, or whose service is about to expire; or trigger a retention phone call if a client indicates that they may close their account.

A CRM system could add huge value to your business – not least because it will integrate with your communication systems, streamlining your processes and saving your team a great deal of time and repetition.

Automated back office processes:

It’s not just your frontline customer-facing systems that can benefit from automation. The right technologies can simplify many of your administrative and back office procedures as well. Take accounting for example. A traditional system might involve customer and supplier invoices being manually entered into your accounting software, followed by a manual bank reconciliation and individual payments to suppliers and staff.

Switching to an online, integrated system such as Xero will change all that. Many of the steps traditionally involved in processes such as payroll, invoice production and stock  control can be removed – freeing up your accounts staff for other work, like chasing unpaid bills!

 Cloud-based working environment:

Leading on from online data and file management, you can go one step further and put your entire working environment into the Cloud. As well as documents and customer details, your emails and applications can also be stored in the Cloud, and accessed virtually and on-demand over the internet using a computer, smart phone or tablet.

At the press of a button, your staff can access essential business resources and stay in touch with each other from any location with an internet connection. Your phone and IT systems will be completely integrated, enabling high quality audio and video conferencing which in turn will save time and cut your travel costs. This is great news for staff who work remotely, or who need the flexibility to work at home due to care commitments.

Cloud computing is great for collaborative working, too. Your team can come together to work on all manner of projects and presentations in real time, again from any location. Everyone gets the chance to give their input and bounce ideas off each other, whilst the work gets done in half the time it might have taken to get everyone together in the same room.

Smarter marketing tools:

Another area to consider is how technology could help you communicate better with your customers and prospects from a marketing viewpoint. This offers multiple benefits, from enhancing your company image and reputation to reducing the number of unnecessary customer enquiries.

The steps you could take here could be as simple as enhancing your company website to include an FAQ page, or a short video showcasing exactly what you do and who it’s aimed at. You could also look at your social media accounts and how these could be linked and automated, using tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer. Investing in ‘social listening’ technology such as Brand24 will tell you who’s talking about your company and what they’re saying – giving you unique opportunities to directly contact people who are interested in your brand.

Not sure where to start?

If you need a little help with identifying how technology could streamline your business,

Jalapeno are always on hand. Get in touch today for an informal chat about your requirements.