Business ventures new and old can fail for many reasons and small businesses are especially vulnerable to all manner of threats. Even outrageous good fortune can kill a business, when customer demand far outpaces the ability to effectively fulfill the demand. Fortunately, some challenges can be overcome through sound business practices that are aided by technology hardware or software that are not terribly costly. Here are areas where technology can help Freelancers and small business owners get arms around common business stumbling blocks. There are also sales forecasting and business analysis tools available, typically by contract through a business services company. Are you ready to trade-up from your Excel spreadsheet?
1. Operational efficiencies Efforts to deliver core products or services can fall short in under-staffed, under-capitalized organizations, especially when the CEO is inexperienced and overwhelmed. Orders can be incomplete, late or lost altogether. Payments to suppliers or sub-contractors could be late. Invoices may not be sent at the agreed-upon time and as a result cash flow will be diminished, which leads to all manner of problems, including the inability to make payroll, purchase inventory and other vital supplies, or meet work space rent or utilities payments. There can be quality control issues with the products and services. Customer service can be tone-deaf or unresponsive. Employee skills and time may be inappropriately utilized, resulting in burn-out or wasted time. Fear not, for there are readily available and typically affordable solutions. Billing software can generate professional looking invoices quickly and accurately as well as manage common bookkeeping functions easily. Other business management tools can help the CEO to analyze key performance indicators that identify seasonal peaks and valleys that can be used to plan staffing needs, inventory and supplies purchases, or other necessities to meet increased or decreased demand.
2. Mobile workforce Mobility is a must in today’s business world. Not having access to client information while you’re on the road, perhaps while meeting with the client, is inexcusable and makes it impossible to uphold the quality of your brand. Invest in a tablet computer or notebook computer that along with your smart phone will be loaded with apps and software that allow you to demonstrate that you are able to service client needs and answer questions wherever and whenever. Mobile friendly business management tools allow you and your team to be equally effective in or out of the office. Also, make sure that your website is converted to a responsive design format, so that it can be easily viewed from a smart phone or tablet.
3. Manage growth Growth is always the goal, but it’s sometimes like drinking from the fire hose for a Freelancer or small business owner. Serendipitous growth sounds like the answer to our prayers, when the orders just fall into our laps, but the concomitant follow-through can trip us up and burn us out as it rolls through like a tsunami. Resource utilization— time, talent, staffing, money— all change as the business grows. The best growth is planned, which allows for budgeting and incorporation of the right technological tools, staffing, product or service delivery systems, quality control measures and customer service procedures that make us look like a pro and live up to the brand promise.
If you choose a business management platform that will allow you to perform forecasting and analysis, be careful of the organization that you choose to work with. Avoid long-term contracts and look for flexibility that allows you to get into and out of management platforms relatively quickly and inexpensively.
Thanks for reading,