Innovations to watch in the next year
Even in a challenging economy, small business ownership has never been more exciting: the technology and organizational resources available to small business owners is unmatched in history, giving them the ability to reach a global audience and compete with heavy hitters. Here are a few of the biggest innovations that will change the way your small business operates in 2013.
1. Cloud-based storage and team management
Especially if you have remote workers, you can’t afford to integrate your business via email attachment: duplicated effort, miscommunication, and scheduling conflicts are inevitable. You can seriously tighten up your operation by sharing files, schedules, and goals in the cloud.
If you’re looking for stress-free, small-scale cloud storage, Dropbox is the obvious choice, with a simple drag-and-drop interface and automatic syncing. However, if 2 GB of free storage doesn’t sound like much room to you, you might want to look elsewhere; Dropbox’s paid plans aren’t cheap. If you’re comfortable with a slightly less user-friendly interface, Google Drive is your best bet.
2. VoIP service
Internal calls can be a serious waste of money, especially if you have mobile workers or telecommuters reporting in frequently. Get all your employees signed up for Skype Mobile or a similar VoIP provider, so all your internal calls are free.
Video teleconferencing also makes it easier to hire and manage remote workers, which gives your business the freedom to hire from a much broader talent pool. One-on-one video chat is generally free, while video conferencing goes for about $5 a month.
3. Mobile payment
If you do any face-to-face business, you can’t afford to stay cash-only. Not only does accepting credit cards demonstrate professionalism and security, but it also allows you to strike while the iron is hot with your customers, instead of waiting for them to run to an ATM or dig up a checkbook.
Most mobile credit card processing services will send you a card reader and mobile app free with your merchant account, and then simply deduct their processing fee (around 2.75%) from the sale price. Giving your team the green light to accept secure payments on-site will increase your sales and reduce customer headaches.
4. Cheap tablet computers
If you do any kind of pitch for clients or prospective customers, a brief interactive Prezi on a tablet can do wonders to impress and persuade. A presentation that your customers can actually play around with and flip through themselves puts forth an air of professionalism and authority—and with less expensive tablets finally falling below $100, it’s a tool you might be able to provide for your entire team.
Tablets are also a solid medium for delivering invoices and estimates, taking inventory, or filling out requests and applications—you no longer risk misplacing loose papers, and you can post information directly to your database without a data-entry middleman.
Shawna Davies is a staff writer for Going Cellular. She has a talent for organization and helping people navigate new technology. She’s a confessed gadget freak, but when she gets out of the house, she loves spending time at the lake with her husband and young son. They live in Beaumont, Texas.