Regardless of the customers you attract or the products you deliver, the foundation of every small business is its employees. Your workforce is what differentiates your company from its competitors, and, when used correctly, can be the crucial element that makes you the forerunner in your industry.
While the strength of your organization comes from its people, this also inherently sets small businesses at a disadvantage when up against bigger rivals. This is because these large companies have the resources to dispense on new personnel when workloads become too sizeable or when their customers’ needs are not being met. Small businesses rarely have the allocations or rapid growth to allow increased hiring as workloads fluctuate, which means the name of the game is optimizing your current employees’ productivity. How can you make your teams work more efficiently, without compromising the quality of your output?
The answer is simpler than it seems. Today’s small businesses exist in an age where many of the same technology solutions that larger entities are privy to include solutions for small businesses. By leveraging the right technology for your business’ workflows, you can better equip your employees for success and yield a higher return on your profits.
Here are 12 modern productivity solutions at your disposal:
Whether you struggle to keep a record of your billable expenses or are looking to better staff each project, Toggl’s time tracking software can take the guesswork out of your workflows. Toggl’s software comes with a number of features that can help ensure your team’s timesheets are as accurate as possible, including timers and automatic reminders. Toggl’s flexibility also makes this tool a great option for maximizing the productivity of your business’ work styles. While this time tracking software easily integrates with a wide array of other software, you can conversely opt for manual time entry at the end of each week.
Effective communication is key for any team dynamic to be successful. 8×8’s unified communications package updates your communication strategy while also creating a simplified approach to team collaboration. By bundling your phone, video conferencing, screen sharing and team chat messaging over the cloud, this tool helps teams collaborate both in and out of the office. This makes remote work benefits, correspondence with external contractors and any overseas relations a possibility for small businesses who would otherwise be rooted to more traditional office solutions. When you consolidate all of your communication needs under a single monthly payment, unified communications systems also help small businesses cut down on overhead costs like your business phone bill.
Social media has become an invaluable channel for small businesses to connect with their surrounding communities, target new customers and build an authoritative online brand for themselves. Hootsuite’s social media dashboard gives you all you need to juggle between all of your platforms, ensuring that no likes, messages or repostings go unnoticed. Hootsuite’s software gives you secure access to your social media accounts—meaning all you’ll need to remember is a single password. From there, you can designate roles and admin privileges to your team, approve posts before they are published, and create templated responses to make sure all of your content stays on-brand.
It’s more often the case than not that people who work for small businesses wear multiple hats. When you’re balancing between a number of projects—all within the same day or hour—email reminder services like Boomerang act as a personal assistant for better inbox management. Boomerang allows you to work with your emails in a way that works best for your busy schedule. When you have a few minutes to yourself while switching between tasks, you can use Boomerang to arrange when you’d like your emails to send or remind yourself of important correspondence that should be answered when you have another pocket of free time.
The Basecamp project management platform gives small businesses a digital platform to organize both day-to-day assignments and larger expectations. Although you may get by without a project management tool, as your business grows it will become increasingly challenging to align your team’s objectives, coordinate schedules and chart the course of each project to ensure timely delivery. Basecamp is designed to create one, simplified location for sharing documents, updating team members and creating todo lists, meaning that many business leaders who convert can cut out the cost of tools they use that may only perform one of these features.
Cloud technology has completely revitalized small business productivity by allowing SMBs to cut down on their IT maintenance costs and promote the ease of accessibility that comes with sharing your files online. Dropbox’s file hosting capabilities deliver a centralized location for all your documents, spreadsheets and slides. Because files instantly update and sync over the internet, Dropbox makes it easier than ever for SMB teams to collaborate—during business travel, with external freelancers or when you need to work a few hours from home. Dropbox subscriptions also include the benefits of their secured cloud infrastructure to keep your company information safe from information breaches and cyber attacks.
Training tools like TalentLMS’s learning management software can help small businesses transform their new hires into key players more quickly. Designed as a centralized hub for job proficiency, TalentLMS allows its users to quickly update any changes in business policy, track the progress of each employee and create a dynamic knowledge base for employees to reference while on the job. As opposed to paper training manuals, sourcing your information online ensures that everyone has access to the same information. This helps you standardize your training programs and avoid missing any crucial steps while instructing new hires on their position.
From setting up meetings with your team to arranging calls with customers, the back-and-forth caused by finding times that work for both parties is quite time-consuming. You can eliminate the need for email threads and in-person scheduling with Calendly’s automation scheduling tool. Calendly syncs with your work calendar, creating easily bookable time slots for team members or customers to populate in available spaces. Small businesses in the service industry —such as restaurants, hair stylists or nail salons—can embed Calendly right into their website, making scheduling a simple click away for customers. You can also set limits on the time duration of each appointment as well as the number of events you have each day, allowing you to create an optimal balance between meeting with others and getting your work done.
Although it’s one of the more obscure items on this list, Huddle’s workspace portals offer a host of productivity features to accomplish tasks in a team dynamic. Huddle stands apart from other online workflow solutions thanks to its government-grade security, which gives you complete control over your confidential information. Collaborating on a certain task with your client? Huddle gives you the option to share all the necessary documentation with relevant parties while keeping the rest of your business’ information locked away. Compared to emailing or faxing completed work, this digital workspace helps you organize each new version of a project and provides a more professional platform for sharing your progress with your customers.
Get rid of your post-it notes and scrap paper checklists by switching to Microsoft’s To Do list maker. This tool’s simple design makes for an intuitive, easy to learn experience for its users, helping you prioritize the personal- and work-related objectives that are on your plate. You can customize and reorient your lists by task, subtask, reminders, notes and attached files for a personalized display that best accommodates your workflow. As opposed to a paper list, which can get lost easily, To Do supplies access to your daily itinerary from your smartphone, tablet, work computer or over the web.
Larger businesses—which often have larger budgets for investing in artificial intelligence technologies—have been automating their processes for several years. Automate.io’s AI integrations work to offer smaller businesses the same benefits of automation software, on a reduced scale. Automate.io features a transparent procedure that SMB owners, who may be unfamiliar with automation tools, can easily begin using without any prior coding experience. Simply drag and drop each step of your workflow to trigger actions automatically. From filing new prospects into your CRM to sending out follow-up emails to your team, the implications of automation technology are incredibly vast and flexible to meet your small business demands.
Rounding out this list is the IFTTT connectivity platform for businesses. IFTTT is not so much a productivity tool of its own as it is a bridge between the other services you use. IFTTT lets you integrate your tools to give them functionality that they would never be able to perform on their own. Let’s say you wanted more control over your social media channels. Through IFTTT’s applets, you can sync your Instagram account’s pictures so that they are saved on your cloud storage provider. Or you could pair your Amazon Alexa with your Twitter account to send tweet using only your voice. And for better control of your social media alerts, you can use IFTTT to mute your phone as you enter and leave meetings.
What tools does your business use for a more productive workday? Share any thoughts or resources on our contact page.