Running a business can be challenging especially when we are often having to manage all the business functions ourselves. I’ve been reminiscing back to when I first started work and I’ll be sharing ideas as to how you can be just as organised in your business using technology running a small business as the structured corporates are today by using technology as your weapon!
Back in 1989 when I first started work, it was common place for employees to smoke inside and with it being a factory, health and safety was a new buzz word much like cloud computing is today. I remember having my own desk, with my own filing cabinet, “in” and “out” trays and a pot of pens! I was working for a corporate so there were many departments and each person had unique responsibilities. I was being sponsored by the company which was a bathroom manufacturer in Staffordshire to do a business studies degree on a day release basis. I didn’t have a computer back then so all my hand written notes would be gratefully presented to the company’s typing pool and the lovely lady there would moan and groan as she tried to decipher my scrawly hand writing!
At that time I was working in the “Personnel” department and responsible for commuicating and training the workforce. I remember on a monthly basis we had a team briefing system geared around communicating company information throughout the whole organisation within 24 hours. It started from the Managing Director and the aim was that this information would be disseminated down the ranks and at each stage the relevant manager would add their bit to it until it reached the shop floor. Once there questions would be raised and the idea was to get them backup the tree and answered within 3 days. The whole briefing process didn’t involve emails, texts, tweets and Facebook updates; no it was good old A4 sheets being typed up, photocopied and distributed to pigeon wholes throughout the company. As for the sites accross the country, well there was good old fax to handle the information. The system was great and did enable all employees to feel involved with the business. The only downside was when a director decided he wanted to pull or change his briefing halfway through the day, this meant retrieving any ones that had been distributed, informing managers to reschedule their briefings and standing over the copier creating the new ones!
Back then and the same is true within large organisations today, there are people and departments with specific responsibilities to spread the workload of a company. Now I run my own business, I am all those departments and functions and they all reside within my body! I have become the marketing, sales, project and finance manager, not to mention the IT support guy (which was the whole point of going into business in the first place). So I am always looking for better ways to organise myself to ensure I can keep the sales coming in and maintain my existing client base.
So without that “team Briefing” structure I described earlier, how can we as busines owners become more organised, happy with what we are doing, peaceful and productive? Nowadays there are a multitude of different ways of communicating information, asking questions, ordering things, organising tasks and getting things done. My morning ritual involves checking emails, my online calendar, run through project lists, read everyone else’s tweets, update my own, see what friends are saying on Facebook, switch Skype on and…and…and….the list goes on and I’m sure you will be familiar with where I am going with this!
I see technology has the answer to this problem and now more than ever we can chose the right type of hardware, software, device or application which fits our own individual way of working. Its not as limited as the oil industry whereby I only have two choices of fuel namely unleaded and diesel; instead there are technological solutions that are always on and dont burn out!
I have just taken delivery of my first iPad and sure tablet technologies are not new to me, but I am still amazed at how much information is packed into these things and how much can be done in the palm of our hand. But just how can I use it to my advantage?
I feel the keys to getting organised are in simplifying what we do so it becomes easier and more enjoyable and automating as much as we can. 20 years ago technology was feared because it would take away jobs, reduce our working week etc. But what if technology can help us to work smarter and focus on the things we want to do, rather than being burdened by the things we despise?
I’ve listed below a few ways that incorporating readily available technologies that can simplify and automate your business life so you can start to become more organised.
Fully embrace the technical revolution and purchase a smart phone (iPhone, Android or Blackbery) or tablet computer (iPad or Android). If only to rest your tired fingers from your computer keyboard and sit on the train to read your emails or catch up on your favourite TV shows away from the office! I find that I can very quickly clear my inbox by the time I get back to the office ready for the new stuff that lands instead of having to deal with the old.
Empty your inbox by the end of the day! Most of you will find this a crazy idea, but just imagine if all that you find in your inbox when you wake up in the morning are new emails. The old ones if they are unimportant, delete and the ones you can’t deal with today, file in a folder for future action. To understand how this works Efficient Thinking run some great programs and there is always David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.
Use an electronic diary, so that you don’t have to manually enter reoccurring meetings and birthdays. Plus assuming you follow the next point, all your appointments will be backed up.
Stop plugging in wires to update your iPhone, android mobile, blackberry and iPad with your computer. Use a service like Google Apps for Business to hold all your emails, calendar and contacts securely online.That way when you make a change on any of your devices it will wirelessly update all the others automatically. The new person you met at a networking event this morning that you entered on your iPhone will now be on your computer when you get home.
Stop collaborating by email. If you are working on a document with someone else, and getting confused about where the most recent version is; instead use one of the many online file sharing services like Egnyte Cloud File Server. You can both install the software locally on your computers and collaborate on the same document achieving quicker results.
Update social networks once. If you regularly update LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, rather than doing so separately, use an online services like Hootsuite, which allows you to create one update and chose which social network to send it to.
Throw away the external hard drive you use to backup your important files (if you remember to backup!). Instead subscribe as in point 3 to an online file storage service, install it on your computer and only save to that area. Works great if you have an iPhone or android mobile, because you can install an app on there too and it will synchronise changes you have made to documents where ever you are.
Move to an online invoicing application. There are many online invoicing applications that you can pre define your products and select from, calculate overdue charges and email clients automatically. All you have to do is check your bank account when clients pay you! I use Zoho Invoice and there is even an app for the iPhone.
Automate your to-do lists. To do lists are everyone’s favourite, but how do you manage to move tasks scheduled for today from one page of your paper diary to the next? What about if the task becomes unimportant, where do you store it? TeuxDeux is a great online to do list that simply allows you to create tasks and if you dont complete them today, they roll over to tomorrow.
Jot down your thoughts and inspirations. Capturing brainwaves can be challenging because we are so clued to our inboxes. If you are able to clear your inbox regularly, you may want to use that as a dumping ground for your mind. If not I recommend Evernote which you can install on all mobile devices and computers and it literally is a walking sponge for your thoughts
I will be honest, if you are technophobe then none of the above will work for you. Having said this, you live in a technological era and your customers, family and friends will be using the latest gadgets and ways of communicating; so why not join them and have a freer life?