Office workers spend about 28 percent of their time on the job checking email, according to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report. People often refer back to find contact information, check schedules, chat with co-workers or see the status on a particular project. In a large office setting, there may be enough labor hours available to accommodate that much screen time, but for a startup, it represents time spent away from creative planning and customer outreach.
According to Allie Siarto of Loudpixel, a central Kanban board — essentially a white board — divided into four sections: "to-do, doing, done and do later," can save time spent in the search window. Below are five more small business tools that improve productivity and foster growth. Here are a few more suggestions for tools that can boost your small business success.
In the past, it was a rare thing if you didn't see a budding entrepreneur with a BlackBerry cell phone. That has changed with the introduction of other smartphones, but Blackberry will always be a phone that caters to business owners. You can check and respond to emails, view presentations and in newer models even share screens and participate in video conferencing. Entrepreneurs often have to travel, work from home or work non-conventional hours — a business-oriented phone makes a mobile office a reality.
An E-Book Library
Small business owners must be their own bosses and MBA professors. To stay on top of business trends and management techniques, keep a few resources on your phone or reader. You can start with the classics like "The Four-Hour Workweek" and "The Dilbert Principle." Both speak to inefficiencies in the traditional office setting. Scan business blogs and articles for more current additions.
Keeping all important business information on a single PC suggests great trust in that hardware and your own abilities. In the likely event of your computer eventually crashing, it's practical to store information online. Storage is secure and inexpensive. Cubby, OpenDrive and Mozy are all options besides the commonly used starter system Dropbox.
The digitally expanded version of the physical Kanban board, Evernote is a free indexing program that will collect and sort information online into folders. Use it to upload audio, PDFs and images for brainstorming, travel planning and client profiles. Use one notebook for tracking competitors and another to research new markets. More creative types may also want to create a professional Pinterest page. The website works on a similar format but has a social media aspect that allows people to see the things you like and "pin" for later. Get inspiration for new photography settings or grab and share catering recipes.
Harvest and Formstack
Marketing and research may get people in the door, but small businesses depend on reliable payments and the ensuing paperwork. Hourly contractors such as designers or consultants can use Harvest to track their time and show concrete data in their invoices. Use Formstack when collecting both initial prospect information and final payments. By leaving logistics to a specifically designed, cost-effective computer program, you can free up time and energy for the tasks that require creativity and individual talent.Guest post by Megan Peterson, an Internet consultant from Chandler, AZ.