Whether its Google Docs for easily sharing documents with colleagues, Yammer for keeping the office conversation flowing, or Captio for saving a second each time he emails himself, Jamie Sutherland makes a habit of keeping up with the latest apps that make running a business easier. As president of Xero U.S., the cloud-based accounting platform for small businesses, Sutherland says he has seen how technology can transform an operation. Most of Xero’s 370,000 customers are service-industry businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and the Xero platform offers them integrated access to apps from more than 350 software providers.
Considering that the fourth quarter is a time when many businesses are evaluating their performance and making plans for 2015, Sutherland says it’s a good time to also review the opportunities for implementing software solutions to improve your productivity, save costs, or generate more revenues. He points to 5 signs that your business could be helped by a technological upgrade, and suggests software for checking out.
1. Your work life and home life have merged. There’s no clocking in and out for small business owners. But that doesn’t mean you must make a choice between business success and a personal life. If you find yourself tethered to your office phone at all hours, Sutherland suggests trying an Internet-based phone system that lets you route calls to your business number to your personal smartphone. RingCentral is a VOIP service that lets you to use your mobile device to make and receive calls to your business number, send and receive faxes and texts, setup and join conference calls, configure phone system settings, notifications and voicemail.
2. You save receipts in a shoebox. If you spend tax season sorting through thousands of receipts that you’ve been stashing in a box or folder all year, Sutherland says it’s time to consider switching to a cloud-based accounting solution. Even if you manage your finances with a multi-tabbed excel sheet, you could do better. Keeping your accounting system online makes taxes a breeze and lets you view and manage your financial data anywhere. One such app for scanning and storing receipts is aptly called Shoeboxed.
3. Your many hats are weighing you down. Chances are, you didn’t start your business because you’re an expert marketer, you love HR management, or accounting is your favorite pastime. When you find yourself spread thin and spending too much time on such tasks, consider easy-to-use tools from outfits includingCampaigner Email Marketing, Xero, andElance that can streamline those processes. Then you can focus on what you are actually good at.
4. Your business is out-growing your software. Let’s hope your small business is among the 81 percent that experienced revenue growth this year and the 90 percent that forecast additional revenue increases for 2015. Is your software scaling at the same rate? Sutherland recommends reevaluating your existing software to make sure its capabilities align with your company’s trajectory. Xero is a resource for finding tech experts who can guide you in choosing the right software for your business.
5. Your social media presence is a nightmare. Monitoring your mentions on social media might be at the bottom of your priority list. But if you’re receiving negative comments or bad reviews on social media, it’s time to switch things up. Social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck let you easily monitor, track, and respond to customers. You can carry on with your day-to-day priorities with a streamlined view of social conversations around your business.
For more free help selecting software for your small business, check out the educational materials at Xero U as well as Xero’s Small Business Guides that cover topics such as cloud accounting, invoices, bookkeeping, business management and more.