Long ago, small businesses had to shell out significant funds to experts who knew how to handle anything from accounting to legal issues. Technology has dramatically reduced that trend. There are still times when you need a live expert to assist (serious legal issues spring to mind). But, just as often, there is at least one software or online alternative that knows all the rules so that you don’t have to. You can look like an expert without actually being one.
Here’s how to identify the areas where technology can make you operate as efficiently as a larger business, how to select the right solutions, and how to know when you have made the right choice.
The Four Basic Steps Toward Selecting the Right Options
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an office-cleaning robot? A comprehensive solution is not available just yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time before it appears on the market, and it will become more affordable over time. If you maintain a clear process for identifying needs and finding the technological assists that meet your requirements, you’ll be a step ahead of the game when the Jetson’s Rosie appears on the market.
Step 1: Identify the areas of your business that require professional help
Sure, you can lament the fact that your small business can’t possibly afford to pay people to handle all needed accounting, payroll, or regulatory compliance activities. You might even have smaller, practical needs — like needing costly or space-eating equipment to perform basic functions. Rather than assuming that you can’t afford these things, write a wish list that contains enough detail to keep your needs identifiable at a glance.
Once you have a wish list of the things that hamper your ability to compete with the big guys, you’ll be in a better position to find ways to level the playing field.
Step 2: Determine when the right technology is all you need
There are times when you absolutely need to contact real people like lawyers (such as if you want to win a contract dispute in court). But, these days, the right online or locally-installed software often provides the benefits of bringing professional knowledge in-house. In fact, legal websites often offer software-based solutions for do-it-yourself contracts and more.
Go online, and try some searches to see what non-human assists are available. Once you know what choices are possible, you’re in shape to do some serious research.
Step 3: Do online research to locate possible software and online sources
Just because technological options exist, not all software or online services are necessarily right for you. Before you try to guess at the right choice, you need to compare the available options.
Sometimes, you’ll have to painstakingly read the applicable sites, but you can often find comparison sites that do the work for you. Let’s say that you know you would prefer to use an online fax service rather than spend money on a physical fax machine, which has many associated supplies, maintenance, and repair costs. If you use a comparison service like FaxCompare, you can see a side-by-side analysis of the features, prices, and special deals offered by popular fax brands. If you want to learn more, reviews and websites are just a click away.
Step 4: Make the right choice with free trials, when appropriate
One great thing about online services is that they often provide free trials, typically for a month. Since there are few setup requirements for something like a fax service, taking advantage of a free trial is a no-brainer; it offers real-life experience that ensures that a product is easy to use and reliable.
Of course, many products require you to enter detailed information before using them. For example, you might believe that trials for complex systems like payroll or accounting are not worth the effort. Rather than entering every employee or accounting transaction record, just select a representative variety of samples that can identify how the system will work for you.
Your Business Does Not Have to be Big to be Impressive
Your small business may not have the funds and resources to operate like giant companies, but technology definitely makes it possible to accomplish much more than you expect. New tech options appear on the market very frequently. Watch for them, and you can increase your output and efficiency in surprising ways. You might even realize that your company doesn’t have to be big to act like it.