Using IT to Grow Your Small Business

There’s an interesting belief about how hard work is the only thing that will help you grow your small business – but that might not be the whole truth.

In reality, there’s a bit different between working hard and working smart. Are the Bill Gates, Elon Musks and Steve Jobs of this world the smartest people? Probably not – but they’re smart enough to surround themselves with the best people, systems and tools – so their effort becomes secondary to their tactical prowess.

While as small business owners we might not have the same resources as the people I’ve just mentioned – we do have a world of IT tech within reach – and a lot of it can make incredible things happen for your business.

So, forget about working hard for the next few minutes – and instead, think about how smart your business could become with the following IT systems working for you…

Using the cloud effectively

The cloud is somewhat taken for granted now – we can store, access and share data quickly and easily – but few of us really use the cloud to its full potential.

That full potential is nothing short of incredible too – especially when it comes to small business teams and expanding what you’re doing with your business.

Crucially, it’s important to try to forget everything you think you know about teams. We’re told that the best teams work together, in the same office – and talk around the same photocopier or water fountain. In reality, this just isn’t the case – it’s now proven that the most effective teams work together online – their physical location matters very little.

So what does this online collaboration look like? Well, it’s important to understand that it’s driven by cloud working – with Office 365 and the G-Suite applications standing out as two packages that encourage the very best kind of collaboration.

These applications offer real-time file creation and editing tools, in-app messaging, voice chat, editing history – and much more. Using tools like this is shown to increase collaboration effectiveness by up to 20% – which unlocks the door to some incredible opportunities that relate to remote working, working with freelancers around the world, opening additional offices – and much more.

Getting the new site up and running – quickly

When it comes to moving or opening a new site, you might think of IT as your main hindrance, rather than a way to take big steps forward.

In many cases, this is true. Setting up new offices can be very time consuming – and that’s before you’ve considered how long it will take to make sure your new internet circuit is installed.

There are instances where moving office has represented such an enormous amount of downtime for a company that it simply has to be wiped from the to-do list – but IT tech can now bridge those gaps incredibly well.

The answer comes in the form of 4G WAN. Some specialist providers provide a rapid deployment service that can see 4G SIMs and specialist bonding routers used to create an enterprise level internet connection in your new location within a matter of days – quite an achievement when the lead time on new circuits is often measured in weeks or months.

Obviously, the benefits of such a quick connection are incredible. Would you like to put an enterprise level connection in place, so your team could work on a client site quickly? Perhaps at a show or expo? Would it be useful to set up pop-up offices or retail? Of course, how you choose to use an ultra-quick set up is entirely based around your business needs – but IT now doesn’t have to be a thorn in your side when you’re hoping to grow, expand or move.

Embracing CRM

Are you making the most of every single opportunity that comes your way? For 90% of companies, the answer is a resounding no – the customer experience varies so significantly that it’s impossible to know whether every opportunity is maximized – and, on that basis, whether or not your company is working to it’s highest potential.

The good news is, you can remove this uncertainty by implementing a good CRM (customer relationship management) application.

CRM is much, much more than just a customer database or spreadsheet. Set up correctly, it can become an invaluable part of your business. A wide-reaching study from last year looked into some of the quantifiable benefits of having a CRM system in a small business – the stats were impressive:

  • Conversion rates were increased by 300% in many cases
  • 74% of businesses reported enhanced customer satisfaction
  • 47% of businesses reported increased satisfaction relating directly to sales
  • Lead production cost dropped, on average, by 23%

There’s no one-size-fits-all with CRM, so it’s important to find a system that can be adjusted to fit your needs perfectly – but many of the best marketing offerings can do exactly this, including SalesForce, Zoho and Hubspot CRM.

A good CRM system isn’t about policing your team – it’s about giving them the knowledge to make sure they’re maximizing every business opportunity that comes their way.

Finding the right software

Software is often a big part of expanding your business. Would it be useful to expand your business offering with different services? Would supporting your customers be easier with good account management software? Does the idea of a project management tool sound like it would increase productivity?

If the answer to any of these or other software related questions is yes, you might be put off by the idea of costly licencing or upfront fees – but there are other ways.

One route to explore is the possibility that open-source software could provide exactly what you need – but without the enormous price tag – or any price tag at all for that matter.

On the other hand, if you’re convinced you’d prefer to explore offerings from the big tech companies, then buying their software on an SaaS (software as a service) basis could mean that growth isn’t hindered by enormous up-front costs.

Compsmag