Technology and the Small Business
Being a small business can raise problems that larger companies do not have. Larger companies have staff to deal with specific tasks such as invoicing and purchasing. For a sole trader, all this has to be done by one person. Traditionally, the business has an office where the paperwork is done. If a supplier wants a purchase order or a customer requests an invoice, it has to be done in the office. How many times have we been told by someone "I will do that when I get back to the office"? In these days of instant communications, it doesn't give the impression of a slick, efficient business. Fortunately technology is giving the small business the opportunity to level the playing field with the bigger competitors.
Time Costs Money
Time costs money is an old expression but it as true today as it ever was. For a small business this can be more obvious. For a sole trader, time spent on paperwork is time lost which could have been used for billable work. Anything that we can do to minimise the time on paperwork is going to increase sales and profit.
A New World with New Possibilities
In the old days we used to keep paper records and later we used software installed on a computer. Both of which satisfied the needs of someone working in an office but did little to add convenience to the life of a mobile worker. The internet and mobile technology is opening up a world of new possibilities for working on the go. You may have heard of phrases such as "Cloud Technology" or "Software as a Service (SAAS)" being bandied about but how many people actually understand what they means? It means we are no longer tied to an office. We can store our account ledgers, customer database, etc. on the internet and then access them from a mobile phone or tablet. Of course it can still be accessed from the office on the old faithful PC.
Living Life in Real-time
Have you ever had to say to a customer, "Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question, I will have to find Fred and ask him. I will phone you back."? Although you usually find Fred and get the answer for the customer, it is still a waste of your time and the customers. Having your business's information stored on-line and accessed by multiple employees, regardless of location, is invaluable. You know instantly the results of an engineers visit so when the customer phones ten minutes after the engineer left, you have the full picture.
Is it Secure On-line?
No matter how you store information used by your company, you have security risks. If you run a traditional office with paper and filing cabinets, you have locks on the doors and cabinets to keep unauthorised people out. Even with locked doors, people can still break in and steel or damage that vital paperwork.
The problems don't go away with technology. All that changes is how someone tries to "break in". You still need to employee electronic equivalents to the lock on the office door. Don't let the news of security breaches put off taking advantage of the solutions technology offers. Take sensible precautions in the same manner as you do with a physical office and you will minimise the risks.
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