When you’re running a business, there’s never enough time in the day to finish everything that’s important to you. Many business owners find that they’re constantly managing small problems that interfere with broader growth-oriented strategies.
If hiring a new employee isn’t in the budget right now, your best option is to automate and streamline the work you have to do by getting smart about your business’s technology use. Not sure where to start? Try one of the five solutions ahead.
1. Stop Answering the Phone
If your phone is ringing off the hook with new clients and opportunities, that’s a great problem to have! However, if you find yourself losing focus and interrupting important projects to sit on a call with every client, you may discover that short-term success comes at a long-term cost, and customer queries that come in after work hours can be disruptive to the downtime you need to be productive the next day.
You might shudder at the cost of hiring a full-time executive assistant or receptionist. Fortunately, you can solve your problems much more cost-effectively with a virtual answering service that handles incoming calls around the clock, so you can spend less time on the phone trying to figure out what clients want and more time providing solutions.
2. Become a Project Manager
No matter how big your business is, long-term projects with multiple dependencies, milestones, and contributors are challenging to manage. Without a good organizational solution, you’ll find yourself waiting for vendors, contractors, or clients; trying to figure out where all your project assets are; or rescheduling ship dates to accommodate missed deadlines. Project management isn’t just for big business! Tools like Trello, Asana, and Airtable help you coordinate with everyone involved, make Gantt charts to express timelines and dependencies, and link important files to the tasks for which they’re needed.
3. Automate Your Social Media
Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies benefit from social media marketing. Even if you’re not selling products or services directly to customers, your company can still network with potential clients and other businesses in your niche online, and businesses in all market segments are expected to have at least some social media presence.
Still, maintaining multiple profiles and updating frequently with fresh, relevant content can quickly become time-consuming, particularly if you’re doing all the work yourself. Social media schedulers and content planners can help lighten the load, but be sure to choose a scheduler that works with all of the platforms your customers use most.
4. Track Your Time Commitments
Time is a nonrenewable and finite resource, which means that to stay competitive, you and your business need to waste as little of it as possible. Furthermore, if you provide services that are billed hourly or rely on scheduled appointments, your bottom line is directly tied to your time management.
Time tracking solutions can help you and your team keep an eye on which projects and clients are demanding most of your time. Software like Harvest can even automatically generate invoices from the time you’ve tracked, making the billing process much easier.
For service businesses that need to manage appointments, a clear, accessible digital calendar is crucial for success. Calendly and similar appointment management systems streamline the process of figuring out who’s available when so you can make appointments easily and avoid double-booking.
5. Keep Communication Lines Open
There are dozens of software-as-a-service options for connecting at work. Zoom and Slack, which facilitate videoconferencing and chatting respectively, are some of the biggest names in the segment. However, if you’re already using Microsoft Office, you may want to consider Microsoft Teams, which integrates with all your existing Office software and allows you to make appointments and start video calls while in the app in addition to sharing files and chatting with team members. Particularly if your company already uses Microsoft tools to get things done, it’s a worthy alternative to flashier — and sometimes pricier — options like premium versions of Slack.
When managing your business’s operations starts to interfere with your ability to focus on strategic growth, it’s time to make changes to the way you do things. Software solutions can be a surprisingly low-cost way to take some of the pressure off you when work commitments become overwhelming.