By Zach Taiji
Being an entrepreneur and growing your startup can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences, but the road to success is never easy. It’s a demanding and often times 24/7 job, requiring an effective work-life balance in order to be successful (and happy).
Thankfully, the little rectangular devices that live inside our pockets for most of the day contain powerful features that can help entrepreneurs manage their day-to-day routines and inspire success.
You might be thinking, why would I have time to use these apps when I’ve got a million other things to do? Good news: many apps are designed with busy people in mind, and require only a few minutes of your attention each day. Below are five apps that help make a busy entrepreneur’s day easier:
Checking and writing email is necessary part of any entrepreneur’s daily routine, albeit time consuming. CloudMagic is an email app for iOS and Android that features full push notification support, a unified inbox and connections to your other productivity apps like Evernote and Salesforce with “Cards”.
Todoist is a cloud-based todo list app that syncs tasks across almost every mobile or desktop device imaginable. Busy users can take advantage of colored labels, filters, recurring tasks and notifications to make sure you don’t miss anything important. Gmail users can even add their emails as tasks.
For iOS, Android and desktop devices, 1Password helps manage all of your passwords, payment card information, software licenses and more. The iOS version features Touch ID support and the app syncs passwords securely across multiple devices. A must-have for busy entrepreneurs who have several online accounts. $9 and up gets you additional features.
Audvisor is an app for iOS and Android devices that features quick three minute audio tips from 100+ experts, including Seth Godin and Guy Kawaski. There are currently over 1,000 audio clips covering over a dozen topics, ranging from entrepreneurship to marketing.
Signing and sending contracts is never a fun task, especially if you don’t have a scanner or computer in front of you while on the go. SignEasy allows you to securely sign and collect signatures on iOS, Android and BlackBerry. One of the most affordable signing app options, the first 3 documents are free and 10 additional documents are $5 each.
Zach works as a freelance writer/photographer by night and a public relations professional by day. He has over 4 years of writing experience in general technology trends, marketing/PR, social media and web design – and has helped place articles in various publications including Wired, PC Mag and 9to5mac.
How do you think you would feel if you operated a small mom & pop shop then suddenly one of those massive retail giants sets down in your area? You’d feel dread because you already know they have the branding and pricing that will attract the local crowd. The future for your business may look bleak.
However, small shops can do more than offer some flashy marketing campaign and dirt cheap prices (for dirt cheap quality products). A small mom & pop shop has character; it’s a place where when you walk in they know you by name which keeps people coming back and improves the lifetime value of the customer.
Even though you have these going for you it still means you’re in an uphill battle to keep the locals coming to your shop. Using outdated systems, marketing campaigns, and sticking to the small business mentality may actually be what ends up closing the shop.
Here are some of the ways to modernize your small business so that you may take on the retail giants trying to scoop your piece of the pie:
Point-of-Sale systems are becoming common place in small businesses because it allows the shop owners to accept all kinds of payments with nominal fees.
Using modern POS systems also come with backends which allow the business to collect user data, sales reports, analytics, and keep a purchase history. The information the POS system collects can be used to create a business newsletter where you could send out promotional offers to keep people coming through the door, encourage them to follow on social media, or share their experience through reviews.
All of these bonuses lead to great marketing for a small business that doesn’t have the kind of budget as the big retailers.
Unique Stand-outs and Designs
Though a large retail business has the power to swoop in and take over a small town, what they lack is personality because all of them feel sterile and similar. You walk around them and they feel no different than the one in the next town.
As a small business owner you are in a great position to create an eclectic feel to your store. By creating customer-centric in-store cardboard display stands you can cater these designs to the feel and branding of your shop so each nook and cranny feels homey and inviting.
These displays are perfect for the end-cap where much of the attention shifts to as people wander the shop. They are also perfect at the counter during checkout to catch those last minute, impulse purchases which could quickly raise your bottom line.
The big retail shops like to claim they are doing great for the community but let’s be honest and admit that although they’re donating it’s still driving down the viability for small shop owners to exist. When the mom & pop shops shut down there’s a certain “soul” that is lost within the area.
Operating a small shop gives you that ability to give back to the community where the retail giants couldn’t because of all the procedures and legality from corporate. For example:
· If you want to sponsor a little league team you can
· If you want to have a workshop you can
· If you want to hold a party at your location you can
These small gestures makes your business feel like it’s truly part of the community, which the retail giants could never achieve no matter their budgets. By creating this love for the community the community will love you back. You become a staple and people will go out of their way to do business with you rather than save a couple bucks throwing it at some corporation.
Do you own a small shop? What do you do differently than the big retailers that are keeping people coming through the doors?
Share your story with our team @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Outsourcing can improve productivity and competitiveness 10- to 100-fold, states Michael Corbett in his book “The Outsourcing Revolution.” Those are big numbers, so it is not a surprise that around 90 percent of companies surveyed for the book viewed outsourcing as crucial to their business success.
Outsourcing allows you to draw on the skill sets you need without having to set up a designated department in your own company. The overhead of employing a full-time staff member, according to Drexel University, is about 30 percent above their standard salary. Therefore, for many companies, it makes sense to outsource functions that require more specialized skills.
The trick is knowing what functions to outsource and which to keep in-house. Consider the type of maintenance required and also give a thought to costs in terms of updating skills at a later stage. An independent contractor will make it their business to keep their skills up to date whereas if you employ someone, it becomes your responsibility to train him or her.
If you’re still struggling to know what business functions to outsource, here are three commonly outsourced tasks:
IT can be a specialized field that needs to be outsourced. According to a 2006 report by Aberdeen Group, 63 percent of survey respondents cite cost reductions as their top reason for outsourcing IT. However, you need to carefully vet these companies before you give them access to secure and confidential information so you don’t end up in a bad position with your clients or customers.
Many companies decide to outsource their accounting departments to avoid the hassle and stress. However, paying a professional accounting firm can be expensive, especially if they capture all the data. The problem is that getting the books right is essential. Especially when you are starting out, you need to know whether you are earning a profit or not.
Fortunately, there is a middle-ground between doing it yourself and hiring an accounting firm. Find an online accounting program that makes invoicing and tracking payments easy. It also should sort your entries into the correct financial accounts to help make your year-end tax returns as simple as calling up the necessary reports. Systems like Sage One offer online accounting software solutions that allow you to find the perfect balance between a cost-effective solution and the professional skills needed to get your financial accounts into order.
Typing and Transcription Work
There are many companies that provide transcription or typing services for reasonable prices. Outsourcing this kind of work can be very cost-effective because it requires few special skills and may not be worth paying a full-time staff member. Beyond the financial reasons, outsourcing can be beneficial by offering your documents in the cloud and improving report accuracy and turnaround times. If your staff is rushing to complete this extra task, costly mistakes can be made.
Services like Transcription Outsourcing complete medical, law enforcement, legal, academic and financial transcription. This company ensures quality control with designated account managers and transcription teams for customized work.
Outsourcing routine business tasks can greatly benefit your business. In addition to saving you money on a full-time employee and training, outsourcing can be more efficient and accurate for your business in the long run. So, take a look at your IT, accounting and transcription positions in your company and decide whether it’s beneficial to outsource them or not.
Automating business is nothing new, but many business owners and managers aren’t sold on the idea. They predict
a job where everything has been automated and they have nothing to do.
The truth is that automation can keep you from having to expend energy on menial tasks so you can take care of tasks that require hands-on activity.
Below is a list of the top six reasons you should automate your business today:
1. Great Customer Service
By giving your customers a quick response that acknowledges them, you let them know that their message was received. Also, automated appointment reminders will make sure that you and your staff never miss an important phone call or meeting.
2. Cost Reduction
By streamlining activities and preventing your team from needing to do small, time-consuming tasks, you can reduce overall expenses. For example, keeping your administrative assistant working on important presentations instead of reminding the sales team about appointments will make you more money.
3.Reduce Over ordering or Quick Orders
Automating things like repeat supply orders can prevent human error that leads to over-ordering or urgent orders. Items like factory supplies, fuel, paper supplies and toiletries can all be automated. Very often, they are used up at a predictable rate.
4. Improve Internal Communications
Notifications to your staff regarding new projects, sales, etc. can all be automated. This allows every member of your team to get a message regarding new items that might need to be done.
5. Decrease Time Spent on Simple Tasks
Very simple tasks like sorting and responding to emails and booking appointments can be done automatically. Once an appointment is made you can use an appointment reminder software to make sure that the right people are there for the appointment.
6. Improve Customer Response Rate
One of the most frequent customer complaints is that they don’t know what is going on with their order or project. Remember the last time you placed an order on Amazon: You got confirmation of the order, the shipment, the delivery and even a follow up email to make sure you were happy. All of that was automatic. That’s what your business should be doing for its customers.
Automating a business is not difficult. The key point about automating is that by using the right systems, you can ensure that every customer touch, both internal and external, is on time and on point.
You don’t need to be a corporation on scale with Apple or Google in order to provide stellar customer service and enjoy an ongoing increase in sales. In fact, for many small businesses, the advantage is with the people they hire. Forbes reports that 50 percent of all Americans work for a small business and prefer it over a larger company. So how can you make hiring decisions that help you stand above the competition? And how can you earn increased business at the same time?
Here are four tips to success:
1. Be a Match, Not a Company
Some of the best strategies to wooing customers are the same often used to attract the opposite sex. Entrepreneur claims that it’s always best to treat your customers as you would a first date in an ad campaign: be honest and upfront about the product, while demonstrating the customer’s specific needs. Like a first date, furthermore, provide a bit of intrigue to keep them coming back.
2. Offer Security and Peace of Mind
If you sell your products online, some degree of customer hesitation may come with the territory. E-theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, with millions affected each year. To better increase the chances of making or keeping a sale, ensure that your customers know that their data is protected. A service like Lifelock allows your company to maintain a tight hold on your sales data and offers security solutions in the event of a breach. Customers who know that they are in good hands are more likely to return time and time again.
3. Create a Personal Connection
Many companies use some sort of automated response system for their contact method, and the majority of customers dislike it. Small Business Trends puts the individual response high up on their list of advice for new small business owners, recommending that all interactions with customers be done with a personal connection rather than relying on “press 5 for…”. Hire customer service representatives who take this philosophy to heart in order to get better word-of-mouth from consumers. Superior rates of return from your existing market share will follow.
4. Make Sales Mobile
A point-of-sale solution can be the best thing to ever happen to a business. By removing the constraints of the brick-and-mortar store and allowing for mobile sales, companies can bring the product directly to the customer. Entrepreneur notes that a mobile sale can save a small business as much as $10,000 right away while providing a variety of other tangible benefits during its lifecycle. Since it requires little or no training, a point-of-sale solution for your company can effectively turn any employee into a sales agent and further boost the numbers.
Apply these four helpful strategies to your business plan, and cultivate a team of employees who is on board with your company’s goals and the path to get there.