Superfast Business Wales digital adviser Emma Goode explains how software can help take the pressure off and provide extra resource.
How many hats can one business owner wear? HR, Marketing, IT support, Accountant? Oh and yes, some time left to actually deliver your services/sell your products. Small business owners have to wear multiple hats, and this can be a real barrier to success and progress. It’s a difficulty that many of the businesses we talk to struggle with especially at the moment when resources are scarce, uncertainty abounds, and times are generally difficult. It’s also a common plight of the start-up.
Mostly we look to extra resource as people to help, extra hands to pitch in but this is not always viable when money for salaries is tight and time for training means its ‘quicker to do it myself’ or the business is just at the stage where it’s not ready for staff yet. How do you move forward and overcome these barriers to greater growth and success or to just get back to where you were before?
Increasingly we can deploy technology and more specifically software to help take the pressure off and provide additional resource. Software can provide opportunities to automate processes & manage customers; to save more, to sell more, to provide solutions to problems.
Sounds good? Yep, but I don’t really know what you mean and where to start. Let’s focus on some common problems that businesses we work with have and see how software can help increase resource and save time.
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Business one - Tourism business with self-catering accommodation
Problem: I have a website which takes online bookings, but I rely on OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) e.g. AirBnB, Booking.com, to advertise and provide bookings. I have a presence on four of them, each with their own availability calendar. When I take a booking on one, I have to manually update the other three and my website to ensure I don’t double book. This is hugely time consuming.
Solution: Consider an online booking system that includes a channel manager. This software allows you to sell your accommodation on all your online travel agents at the same time. It will automatically update your availability on all the sites including your own website giving you huge time savings by massively reducing administration.
Business two – Management Consultant
Problem: I used to work from a serviced office but now I work from home full time. My IT skills are limited, and I have 2 staff members who are also home working. I have adopted lots of apps to work with clients and communicate with colleagues, however they are all over the place and we spend a lot of time looking for things. I am also worried about security and if I have set things up correctly. We are losing time and I don’t feel organised.
Solution: Multiple apps may work well for some businesses, but it may be time to take your home office set-up up a notch. Consider the benefits and efficiencies of ditching all these fragmented apps and investing in one productivity platform. This will allow you to work and collaborate with colleagues and clients, with files, calendars and comms in one place, so preventing worries about whether it’s all secure. Invest a bit more and you can access support for when setting things up is beyond you or you have problems that need to be resolved. Quite often you can build on the functionality as the business grows and you need to scale up too.
Business three – Beauty Therapist
Problem: I am based from a high street treatment room. I have a growing customer base. I get some cancellations/no-shows and I am struggling to keep track of the treatments my customers have had and are due to have. Some weeks are very quiet, yet I still have fixed overheads to pay for.
Solution: Consider software that helps you both manage your customers and provide a superior customer service such as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software). Hairdressers have been using CRMs successfully for years, they just call it Salon Management. You can record all your customers’ details, treatments, allergies, appointments, send reminders and promotions, and customise beauty packages and new treatments based on client preferences and how much they like to spend. Get your software to tell you all the customers who haven’t had a treatment for the last month and automatically fire off a text (providing you have correct marketing permission) to invite them back, and perhaps offer a discount to make them feel valued. Refocusing on existing customers can be so much easier and more profitable than always chasing new clients. It can also be really useful when you have cancellations or quieter periods too.
Keep an open mind, many business owners think their businesses are too small to benefit from these kinds of solutions, this simply isn’t true. Software solutions can free you up to do what you are best at. So maybe instead of trying to wear all the hats, use your head to see if there is a different approach.
Access Superfast Business Wales’ free, impartial Software Essentials directory to help you choose the right software for your business and speak to one of our experts today.