4 Technologies That Allow You to Get Far More Done with Your Business

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A lot gets written and said about technology these days. Of course, this is hardly surprising when you consider that we live in the most technologically advanced age that the world has ever known, and that the repercussions of this are immense – both in terms of how we live our lives – and in terms of how we conduct our work.

Of course, there are certain reasons to be wary of some technologies and technological innovations. For example, the fact that we now store so much of our data online, means it is pretty much inevitable that we are infinitely more vulnerable to cyber attack, and data breaches, than ever before.

That being said, it is also the case that recent technological innovations allow us an unprecedented level of productivity, and opportunity, to the extent that these technologies can make or break our careers in many cases.

Of course, as the old saying goes “money is time”, and those who are able to get more done, in less time, and to a more exacting standard, are all but inevitably bound to prevail over the competition.

So, bearing that in mind, here are some examples of technologies that may allow you to get far more done with your business – and consequently improve your chances of success.

Virtual answering services

In all professions (more or less), answering calls in a professional and timely manner is an important skill and consideration.

Often, if you fail to answer a call from a would-be important client, they will take this as a sign of unprofessionalism, and will react accordingly by deciding to not use your services after all. Of course, even in the cases in which your prospective client has not immediately come to this conclusion, they may well decide that they can’t afford to wait around for an answer, and will therefore go elsewhere in the meantime.

In certain professions, however, the ability to take calls quickly and professionally is far more “make or break,” or even “life-and-death.” For example, in the legal profession.

These days, however, the Internet and the various high-speed communications technologies which we now enjoy have created a situation where third-party phone answering services are more effective and accessible than ever before.

What’s more, these services will often be aimed specifically at particular industries. So, for example, you will find an answering service for law firms can provide you a certain degree of quality, and a certain “phone style”, that is perfectly tailored to the norms and expectations of the industry.

Communication software (including virtual numbers)

If you’re a small business owner, or the type of solo entrepreneur who works out of their bedroom, you will undoubtedly want to present yourself in the most professional light possible – while also doing whatever you can to maintain an appropriate level of division between your personal and professional lives.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is highly likely that you will need to take client calls on a fairly regular basis, and to leave a phone number on job applications, business cards, and so on.

Of course, giving out your own private phone number might be a bit jarring, and disconcerting. Not least of all when prospective clients phone up without warning on the weekend or evenings, and you answer the phone in an all too relaxed, and all too unprepared manner.

Fortunately, modern communication technologies mean that it is now possible to have a “work number”, and the “private number”, without having multiple phones, and having to try and keep track of them at once.

This can be as simple as creating a Skype number, and leave yourself signed into your Skype account during the day. You can then buy Skype credit, set your number for the country of your choice, and have at it.

Of course, short of actual calls, there are many other tools that can be used for workplace communication – including Gmail’s inbuilt “chat” function, and services such as Trello’s chat function.

Task and project management tools

A lot of things can go wrong when you’re trying to figure out how to organize, and execute your plans for a business venture.

You might, for example, be tricked into wasting an exorbitant amount of time on a given path of action, without first doing your due diligence and ensuring that it will actually yield dividends.

Then again, you may simply never come to the point of being able to reasonably identify what the “most important” next action is for any given project.

Many project and task management systems have been developed over time, in order to address the specific issue. The famous Getting Things Done system, created by David Allen, is one of the leading productivity systems in use in business. It rests entirely on the fundamental premise that the human mind isn’t very good at organizing things – only generating new ideas.

These days, there are a wide variety of task and project management tools available in digital format, that are powerful and nuanced enough to change your professional life. These range from the basic and “free” – such as Microsoft To Do, which is built on the premise of helping you to track your projects and to-dos in one central location, and then identify the tasks that you should execute on, on any given day – to the more complex, such as Trello, which are targeted specifically at team project management.

In any event, the key is that you find a task and project management tool that you can use comfortably, and which allows you to filter out redundant actions, and identify the most important “next step” to take.

Time management tools and software

It’s been said before, and it bears saying again, that “time is money.” No matter how well-off you may be in terms of your material resources, a business (or for that matter an individual) that doesn’t have a good grasp of time management, is in a deep rut, and is unlikely to thrive as a result.

Money can be earned and lost, but time is allocated in daily batches, and can never be regained once it’s been spent

All serious professionals – and just anyone who wants to enjoy the highest quality-of-life possible, for that matter – have to be very mindful of how they spend their time. In the case of entrepreneurs, though, time management is a truly fundamental necessity.

If you run your own business, and especially if that business is a start-up, you will have a dozen, or a hundred, different balls to juggle at once. Your ability to be efficient, and to allocate your time as effectively and carefully as you possibly can, is essentially equivalent to your ability to be successful in your business endeavors.

Fortunately, time management tools and software are among some of the most prevalent technological innovations in business. If you want to ensure that your team is wasting as little time as possible, you could use a service such as Time Doctor, in order to “keep an eye on them”, and automate “nudges” to remind them to stay on task.

Then again, if your time management issues are of a more personal nature, you could sign up to a subscription with Rescue Time – a service which monitors how you spend your time at your computer, and uses learning algorithms to assess how “productive” or “unproductive” your days have been.

Then again, there are more basic systems available, which can be used for tracking the amount of time spent on a given project. Toggl, for example, allows you to monitor the amount of time that you spend on an individual project.

If You’re Not Outsourcing These Tasks, You’ve Got It All Wrong

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Unless you’re in a creative industry, the chances are that your job involves doing a series of individual tasks. You may be living under the illusion that you have to perform all of these tasks yourself, but the chances are that you’re wrong.

Today there are lots of tools that you can use to remove a lot of the donkey work from your daily grind, some of which will surprise you.

Taking Reservations

You might think that taking reservations is a classical secretarial task. And, you’d be right: secretaries have been doing this for years. But what if you don’t want an expensive secretary? Most people will just choose to do the task themselves, but it turns out that technology offers a solution. Scheduling apps, for instance, can be embedded on your website and then linked to your Google calendar so that both you and your clients can see exactly when you’re free. These apps usually don’t cost much each month –  far less than the cost of a secretary – and they negate the need to actively keep a diary. You merely check what appointments you have for the day, and your schedule is decided for you.

Answering The Phone

Science shows that working people are not good at dealing with distractions. Distractions take people out of their workflow, forcing their mind to switch to another task, reducing the quality of their work.

And what’s the biggest interrupter of all? Your telephone. The good news is that you can outsource picking up the phone to a third party operator. These “virtual secretaries” take calls as if they are you, but filter them out depending on whether they feel that they are essential or not. What’s great about these services is that you only pay for the secretarial services you use, rather than having to shell out a full-time wage.

IT Systems

If you’ve got a laptop and an internet connection, you’ve already got all the tools you need to conduct your work, no matter how sophisticated your IT needs. Managed IT services make it possible for people working from home to have complicated software stacks, provided through the cloud, without any need for at-home implementation. Not only does it reduce costs, but it also helps to simplify your workday: you’re never actively involved in the management of your systems.

Research

Research sounds like something that you’d have to do yourself. But it turns out that there are dozens of people out there, all offering research services online. Researchers can help you find out anything, and do it in far less time than it would take you as an amateur. You can find researchers for a fee on sites like Fiverr and Elance.

Making Freshly Cooked Food

Cooking is vital for your health and productivity. But it also takes up a lot of time – something that isn’t helpful when you’re trying to progress your career. Now though, busy people trying to boost their incomes can use meal-delivery services to provide freshly-made, “home-cooked” meals to their doors.

Outsourcing 101: Everything You Need to Know

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An increasing number of businesses are choosing to outsource today. As businesses grow, owners delegate certain tasks to external professionals to help them get ahead. If you are at this stage at your business, you may be searching for a bit more information about the outsourcing process and what to outsource. This post reveals everything you need to know.

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing is a rather broad term. In general, it means assigning a task that would typically be performed in-house to a firm or individual outside your own office. Outsourcing can take many different forms, including the following:

  • Using online services for one-off tasks
  • Using work-from-home contractors and virtual assistants
  • Working with an agency to help you locate the best outsource contractors
  • Contracting with outsourcing firms that provide a wide selection of services
  • Hiring speciality independent contractors to perform tasks that your current staff do not cover

There are no restrictions regarding the tasks that can be outsourced. Everything from social media marketing and technical support to human resources (HR) and accounting can be outsourced.

What are the benefits of outsourcing?

There are many benefits associated with outsourcing, so long as you go about it in the correct manner. This includes the following:

  • Cost savings – One of the main reasons why a lot of business owners outsource is to save money. This is because you pay for what you need when outsourcing, which can sometimes be cheaper than the cost of taking on new staff or training your existing employees.
  • A specialist service – You can take advantage of expert knowledge to ensure a task is carried out to the highest standard. If you run a pet store, for example, it makes sense to outsource your marketing to a firm or individual that has the specialist skills to give your pet store greater visibility and attract more customers.
  • Develop internal staff – Rather than your staff focusing on tasks that do not fall within their specialism, they can focus on skills that will benefit your business and your bottom line.
  • Risk management – Inconsistency and uncertainty can occur when there are periods of high employee turnover. Outsourcing can help to bring a level of continuity to your business while reducing the risk that would occur due to a substandard level of operation.
  • Staffing flexibility – You can easily adapt to cyclical or seasonal demands thanks to outsourcing, as you can bring in added resources as and when you need them.
  • Focus on core activities – Focus on what your business does best! By outsourcing important business activities that are not your main area of specialism, your team can re-focus without sacrificing service or quality in the back-office.

How do you decide what to outsource?

The key question… should you outsource that or is it better to continue handling it in-house? There are a number of key questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you should outsource something.

  • Will you save money by outsourcing? The first thing you need to do is spend a bit of time working out your finances. You need to determine what is the most cost-efficient route to go down. It is important to consider costs as a whole; don’t merely look at the startup costs. Outsourcing can often be a bit more costly to begin with, yet it is usually cheaper in the long run. This is why it is a good idea to calculate the costs over a period of a year when comparing the two so that you can get a good understanding of the true cost of both options.
  • Is it distracting your employees? Are your employees spending more time on the task in question that they should be? If you find that your core activities are suffering because your employees’ attention is elsewhere, it is time to start thinking about outsourcing. This will enable your staff to focus on doing what they do best.
  • Do you need a one-off service or will it be on going? This is one of the important questions you need to ask yourself. Does this part of your business require constant attention? Is it a one-off task? Or will you only require people during certain months of the year? This will help you to determine whether outsourcing is right for you. If it is a one-off task you are dealing with, outsourcing is often best. For example, if you require legal services for a case that has been made against your business, this isn’t something that happens every day, and so it is certainly better to enlist the help of professionals. This site explains more about seeking outside expertise for such incidents. On the other hand, if this is an on-going task, for example, bookkeeping or accounting, you may want to consider keeping it in-house. This is so long as it is not distracting your employees, as per the former point.
  • Does the task demand specialist skills? You need to discover whether specialist skills are required for the task. For instance, if you are going to start a marketing campaign, and your team does not have any training or experience in this area, you may want to consider outsourcing. After all, the success of your service or product will heavily rely on how it is marketed, and so it is important to get it right. You don’t want to risk your product being a flop because of an amateur marketing campaign.

Before you get started…

Before you get started, make sure you carry out the following steps…

  • Make sure you put together thorough mock-ups – People are going to be fives times more likely to respond to you if you are clear about your requirements. Of course, your requirements may change over time, and this is completely fine. However, you do need to be clear about what is necessary so that you and the professionals you are conversing with are on the same page.
  • Know your budget – The next thing you need to do is determine how much you can afford. You will be able to narrow down your search more effectively if you know your budget.
  • When do you want to start – In most cases, the answer to this question will be ‘yesterday!’ However, it is important to have a good think about when you do really need to start the project. Service providers will often pitch to you depending on the availability of talent within their teams.
  • Deadline – It is also important to determine when the tasks need to be completed by. Do not enforce a strict deadline for the sake of it, as you could end up alienating some of the best candidates. However, if you do have a strict deadline and you cannot budge, make sure you are upfront from the very beginning.
  • Your necessities – You should make a list of any of the necessities you have, i.e. those qualities that you simply won’t budge on. For instance, you may require specific experience or you may want a service provider that is local.
  • Understand your priorities – Last but not least, you need to understand your priorities. Figure out what is important to you, be it scalability, security, budget, timeline or something else.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding the process that is entailed when outsourcing, as well as how to decide what areas of your business to outsource. You can now start looking for the best service providers for the tasks you have ready to be completed.