In a recent survey by the United States Federation of Small Business (USFSB) and DYMO, they found that many small businesses are making cuts to stay afloat while their businesses feel the crunch of the tight economy. No surprise there, right? Here is a breakdown of where small businesses are making those cuts:
23% of respondents have cut their staff
36% of respondents have decreased their business travel
36% of respondents have minimized their marketing efforts
29% of respondents have put a freeze on bonuses and raises
While at the same time many small businesses, 45%, are looking for ways to increase productivity. If you are going to cut staff, it makes sense that you will have to figure out a way to make the staff that you have left more productive to pick up the slack. Many small businesses are looking to technology to help them become more efficient and productive.
What is important to remember when looking for technologies to help you be more productive, is to not over-buy on tech products that won't deliver what you need. There are so many gadgets out there that promise to make your business better, more efficient and more productive. However, if they don't fit your needs, it will do absolutely nothing for your business. Here are 4 places to look when deciding whether utilizing different technologies may be right for your business.
1. Data Storage. Some small businesses may find that their employees spend too much time searching for reports, forms or other data that they need. If this is the case, an investment in network hardware and/or software would allow employees to pull any information they need directly from the network.
2. Communications. Other business owners may find that their mobile employees could work more efficiently if they had Push To Talk technology enabled on their cell phones. Or that they could benefit from a virtual phone system that would route their calls to them on their cell phones when they are out of the office handling other tasks.
3. Overhead of Real Estate. Some small businesses may realize that their employees really don't need to be in an office setting to get their work done. Sending their employees home to telework or telecommute will require certain technologies to make that happen. For one they would need a network where employees could have access to data. Secondly, their communications system would need to be revamped. Advances in telecommunications make this relatively easy to do. They could use a hosted or virtual pbx that would allow all the calls that come into the business to be routed to the appropriate employee or department. As well, these solutions usually still allow employees to transfer calls to other extensions, have voicemail, utilize an auto attendant to direct calls, and many other features that are similar to the standard phone systems that they are used to.
4. Customer Relationship Management. Many businesses already use software like Salesforce, Act or Goldmine to keep track of clients and leads. If your business is one that needs to communicate frequently with your customers or keep track of leads that you are working on, CRM software is definitely worth the investment. This technology will enable you to save time and money by not going over ground that has already been covered, keep better track of leads and money making opportunities, as well as keep in contact with your current clients through automated processes such as email drip campaigns. All of these things will increase efficiency in your customer relations which in turns increases productivity.
Technology can allow a small business to increase their productivity by organizing data, by expanding their communications, allowing employees to work from home, and streamlining their customer relations. However, it is important to take a hard look at your business to figure out what technology is going to really help you instead of just buying the newest tech gadgets to hit the market.
Brandi Cummings is an expert author on the unique issues facing small and home based businesses. To explore using a virtual PBX to increase your productivity she recommends Freedom800.com a leading provider of virtual PBX solutions.