Managing a workforce from afar can be challenging. Here are strategies to help you manage your small business remotely.
You’re probably already taking calls from your car and answering messages at home and on the road. But chances are you’re not taking full advantage of all the mobile and digital business tools that are right at your fingertips. If you’re not thinking beyond video calls and late-night emails, it’s time to start. Countless mobile apps allow small business owners and staff to handle banking and company finances remotely, collaborate virtually on key projects, and manage employee schedules and travel online. Not only can these apps make your team more nimble and efficient, giving your employees the flexibility to work remotely from time to time can greatly boost morale.
Below are 13 suggestions for increasing your use of today’s digital business tools to better manage your business on the go.
Determine which tasks and processes you’ll handle virtually. Not sure which mobile apps to begin with? See what apps and subscription services others in your industry use to keep them agile from any location, at any time. Browse your field’s leading publications for ideas and ask other small business owners online and at industry events for their recommendations. Before you invest time and resources too heavily in any new tool, assess whether the financial costs and employee adoption rates make sense for your company.
Champion flexible, remote work. Re-orient yourself from the notion that all employees must sit at a desk where you can see them 100% of the time. Employees can only succeed at working virtually with support and encouragement of remote, flexible work hours from management. Set an example for your staff by carrying work with you when on the go—along with installing the relevant apps on your devices. That way, you don’t lose valuable work time while you’re not in the office.
Manage payments and deposits via mobile device. Why spend time logging into your desktop or visiting your bank branch when you can safely manage your business banking from your smartphone or tablet? Many banks now offer mobile banking, so you can manage your account no matter where you are. For example, you can stay on top of monthly bills and better control cash flow by making ACH payments when it’s most convenient for you. Switching from check to electronic payments gives you far more control over when your vendors get paid and your bank account gets debited. Mobile apps also let you access images of deposited checks any time, manage recurring payments, and get same-day processing and reporting of electronic payments, checks, and money orders. Getting your books settled doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore anymore.
Monitor spending and account balances. Eliminating second-guessing and costly delays from cash flow management can free up your time to focus on other areas of your business. Mobile banking apps let you use your smartphone to check business and personal bank accounts and credit balances no matter where you are. This goes for your employees’ corporate cards and expense spending, too. Set spending controls on employee cards to limit rogue charges and payments, and review monthly statements directly on your smartphone. Some mobile banking apps even let you securely track account balances without logging in. All this is much more efficient than receiving an alert in your inbox each time a new credit charge arises.
Accept mobile payments. You can eliminate costly payment hardware by accepting point of sale payments via smartphone or tablet. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a trade show exhibition or your client’s office—you’ll still be able to accept payment. In addition to taking payments, some mobile POS systems let you track funds and compare your daily sales rate against those of your competitors—all from your mobile device.
Embrace virtual meetings. Conversations with out-of-town partners and vendors aren’t the only virtual meetings you could be conducting. Consider handling one-on-ones with direct reports and team-wide or company-wide meetings digitally, too. Web conferencing tools like GoToMeeting, join.me, and Skype for Business make leading and participating in online meetings a cinch. Many offer free trials you can use to test drive their app, so take the time to discover which tool and feature set works best for you. Remember, it may take a meeting or two for your people to get used to the new interface, so don’t write off a tool if there are a few fumbles in the beginning. Factor in a few extra minutes at the start of your first few online assemblages in the event of tech glitches.
Collaborate remotely. Instant chat tools like Slack and Yammer make it easy for employees across departments and time zones to ping one another instantly when urgent matters arise. Whether you’re working on a client pitch or finalizing a quarterly report, use these tools to quickly resolve questions, share opinions, and make decisions about a project’s progress in real time. Doing so can spare you from calling yet another meeting each time a workflow issue crops up. Even if there’s not an urgent issue, chat tools can make teams more efficient—you won’t have to pick up the phone every time you have a question for your co-workers.
Make use of digital scheduling tools. If you’re still emailing back and forth with staff, partners, and customers to set up meetings, you’re wasting hours that could be spent on more important business goals. Tools like Meekan can help you set up meetings with internal team members, while apps like Appointlet make it easy for clients and customers to schedule time with you. And HR apps like WhenIWork make it easy to manage employee schedules and days off.
Manage travel online. If you or your employees do a lot of traveling, you may be spending time calling hotels, comparing flights, and going through a lot of back and forth to book a simple trip. Travel organizers like TripIt and TripCase make it simple to book flights, lodging, and car rentals and store those itineraries as well as your important travel documents on your mobile device. What’s more, tools like Expensify and Zoho Expense make filing and approving expense reports a snap, complete with uploading receipts.
Update and practice presentations. There’s no reason you can’t start, polish, or proofread that big presentation you need to give at the end of the month if you’re away from the office. Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and Google Slides all offer the same robust functionality for your phone or tablet that you’re accustomed to using on a larger screen.
Access databases remotely. It doesn’t matter if you use Salesforce, Insightly, or HubSpot to track your customer leads. You don’t have to sit at your desk to check where your hottest prospects are in the sales pipeline. Prep for your upcoming investor or board of directors call about next quarter’s revenue predictions—and how your sales team’s latest efforts play into those figures—from the convenience of your smartphone.
Access your desktop remotely. Secure cloud-based storage tools like Dropbox and Box let you access important documents left on your desktop computer from your smartphone or tablet. Being able to see the same documents on your mobile device or tablet that you would on your desktop eliminates the need to take hard copies of important files with you on the road—and gives you better security for these documents.
Store passwords safely. Doing more remote work at all hours of the day or night means you might be doing more work from your mobile phone or tablet. Apps like LastPass and 1Password let you store one secure password that unlocks all your password-protected websites outside your corporate enterprise. Not having to remember multiple passwords or worry about password safety can give you peace of mind when managing finances, travel plans, and projects on the run.
As a small business owner, sometimes it feels like you can’t keep up with the tasks you’re juggling, especially running to and from meetings and appointments. With mobile solutions becoming more and more accessible, you can manage your tasks no matter if you’re in the office or on the way to your next meeting, without compromising on quality. Take advantage of the opportunities the digital world has given us and try out some mobile solutions to optimize your current processes.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. Readers should consult their own financial advisers, attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article.
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