The time it takes to grow a business from one employee to half a dozen isn’t much longer than it takes to turn a profit after opening a snack-food store across the street from a dispensary in a state that has legalized marijuana. Yes, that’s said tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that small businesses filling a niche and operating smartly can grow like … well, weeds.
With that growth comes challenges. The one-man operation doing landscaping in the summer months and plowing snow in the winter may be able to handle all aspects of the business just fine in the early days. And an accountant doing the books for a few small businesses also doesn’t need much more than a laptop computer and voicemail to keep operations organized.
But what happens when the list of homes being serviced by the landscaper grows too large for one person to handle and then he or she starts adding commercial clients, too? And how does the accountant manage when word of mouth spreads and suddenly there isn’t enough time in the day to maintain all the new accounts let alone keep up with tax laws?
Well, both take on new employees. But with that comes challenges in the form of communication and coordination. Someone needs to be scheduling routes, sending out invoices, paying bills, recruiting new customers and exploring technology like system security or mailing automation. In the seeming blink of an eye, the one-man operation is a fledgling business with six employees.
Keeping the business running smoothly and prospering requires technology. And in this era of unprecedented innovation and ingenuity, the technology doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. In that spirit, here are three ideas for software that can make the job that much easier.
The need for computers is a given. The operating system and the hardware platform upon which it sits are typically a matter of personal preference. But whether you’re a Mac or PC person, you’ll need software. Microsoft Office was the original 800-pound gorilla that so many people grew up with, but there are other options.
Google’s G Suite is a robust solution that suits the basic needs and goes beyond. Word processing, spreadsheets, form and survey creation, website content development, calendars and email are all part of the package.
Security in the cloud-computing era is understandably a concern for any business owner, and Google certainly has experience and expertise in that area. On the local level, secure release printing is a separate add-on worth considering.
The feature is exactly what it sounds like: Users are required to authenticate themselves at the printer with a pin code, a smart card or some sort of similar mechanism before the job can be printed and collected. Aside from the privacy aspect that is especially critical in financial matters, the feature is a proven way of cutting down waste caused by documents being printed and then forgotten or accidentally being printed multiple times.
The right hand has to know what the left hand is doing. That wasn’t an issue when it was a one-man business and a staff meeting consisted of talking to himself while driving from customer to customer. But we now live in the era of distributed networks in which employees might not even work in the same time zone let alone the same office.
That is why Slack’s instant messaging platform has enjoyed rapid growth as the communication tool of choice. The app works seamlessly between phones and laptops and the team’s conversations can be separated into public or private channels on a platform that’s scalable. Drag-and-drop technology makes for the easy sharing of images and documents that you’re probably already sharing through services such as OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox.
Someone has to follow the money, and QuickBooks has become the preferred method for many businesses because of its versatility in handling accounts payable, accounts receivable, budget tracking and tax issues. Payroll processing is a popular add-on.
There’s a learning curve associated with getting QuickBooks up and running, but the benefits are substantial, especially if you’re outsourcing your tax reporting since that entity is almost certainly using the same software.
Publish Date: February 26, 2020 12:37 AM