Starting a business is never easy and in the early days you’ll probably have to work harder than you ever have before. The good news is that in this day and age there are some great tech tools that can help take the pressure off. Here are some of our favourites.
Online tools can help you to keep tabs on your to do list and how it is progressing. Our favourite, Kanban Flow, has a simple visual interface which works well whether you’re working alone or collaborating as part of a team. It also integrates a pomodoro time-management tool to help you time-track tasks and measure interruptions.
IFTTT and Zapier are services that link web based apps together to deliver a smooth process. Smart use of those services can save a huge amount of time. IFTTT stands for ‘If this then that’ and that’s exactly the logic underpinning those services. You set up ‘recipes’ or ‘zapps’ that make those connections. For example a popular ‘recipe’ is that when you post a new blog on WordPress, the headline automatically posts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Laurence Watkins of Great Black Speakers managed to automate what had been a full-time admin post by using Zapier. It meant linking his web enquiry form to his CRM system and quote system, then through to Google spreadsheets and email. His input is now down to 15 minutes checking each day.
Payroll and HR
It makes sense to outsource any tasks which someone else can do better than you can as soon as you are able to. After all, your time is always better spent focusing on what you do best.
By the time you are managing staff you will probably want to have outsourced the core back office functions of finance and HR. Many accountants and bookkeepers those days use online software and train their clients how to use it. In fact, now that HMRC requires ‘Real Time Information’ (RTI) for payroll – and following the Chancellor’s announcement that he’ll be abolishing the annual tax return – even the smallest businesses should aim to get to grips with an online accounting package. Before long we’ll all need to report to HMRC, online, every month; having your finances running on a finance system like Quickbooks or Sage Accounting will make it much easier.
Leading online payroll providers integrate HR functions too and can provide their services for a princely sum. With minimal effort you’ll be able to set up the payroll in a digital format – and let advanced programs do the rest.
Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing. Social media takes it so much further than we could ever have imagined just ten years ago.
At the same time, if you get it wrong social media can be a huge time waster! The starting point should be the same as for any marketing plan: where do your customers hang out? If you’re targeting teenagers, that may be snapchat, or for older women at the moment I’d say Facebook. But don’t take our word for it: ask them! Then keep asking and communicating.
Social media will magnify your message to a much wider audience. Automation helps cut down the workload, but make sure to mix it with some real-time responses. After all, it is ‘social’ media. Keep it real!
You can transform your business with the smart use of tech tools. But never forget that at the end of the day, you are in the people business. Get the balance wrong and technology can strip your business of personality and soul. Get it right and your company will bloom and boom.