Business growth in its primitive stages is exciting. Transitioning from one person starting a limited company, to a respected business with clients and employees is a fantastic achievement. However, these early stages are fundamental to success later down the line.ma
Unfortunately, as reported by The Huffington Post, 50% of small businesses fail in the first four years. In order to overcome this obstacle, and set the business up for ongoing success past the 4 year, 5 year and 10 year marks, there are some fundamental tools you need to put in place.
The key consideration here is that everything is scalable. Use free trials, or only sign up for the service level you need at this stage – making certain that the software is ready to accommodate your business as it grows.
The below software and solutions are some of our favourites for increasing productivity in small teams, reducing the administrative burden on you and your team, allowing you to focus on business growth and development.
Invest in these options and you won’t be alone – The Huffington Post reported that “52% of small businesses will increase their budgets for productivity apps over the next two years”.
- A Cloud storage solution
Countless start-ups are founded in a bedroom, garage or annex, before moving to a shared or small office space. As your business increases in size and adds more employees, it’s important to ensure all documents and data are accessible to the team members that need them.
When looking for a cloud storage solution, the key things you need to consider are; data security, speed and storage. Is your data safe, can you access it quickly and easily from anywhere, and how much storage is available to you?
There are many options available, from Google Drive to Dropbox and many more bespoke solutions in between. Whilst these options are perfect for day to day documents and files, if your business is website or app based, you may wish to use Managed or Unmanaged Servers.
- HR software
Whether you have 2, 200 or 2,000 employees (or more), HR is something that you need to consider early on. Whilst you may not need to employ a full time team just yet, there are inevitable HR issues that will arise the moment you become an employer. From recruitment to absence management, it’s important that you have the right tools in place so you don’t spend endless hours on manual processes.
As a growing business, the other important consideration is that the solution is scalable. HR Software from Cezanne HR, for example, is self service software that’s hosted securely in the Cloud. This allows you to easily add or remove employees, and also reduces administration overheads and speeds up processes.
When it comes to performance management software, it’s important to get employees involved from the outset; “people are much more likely to buy in to something if they feel they have been part of its creation.”
- Marketing automation software
Marketing strategies will vary from business to business and should be aligned to your business goals and KPIs. A great marketing plan could include multi-channel campaign, and whilst there’s no approach that fits all businesses, this could include social media, email marketing, blogging, search engine optimisation (SEO) and advertising.
Without a dedicated team with specialist skills, it can be hard to keep up with marketing alongside everything else. Employing a marketing manager, or working with an agency is the best way to get things done, but if you’re not quite ready for that step, using marketing software could save you a lot of time and ensure there isn’t a drop in your marketing presence.
At the same time you’ll want to be able to see how your web presence compares to that of your competitors in its performance since something as seemingly insignificant as ranking one spot higher in the search results can make a significant different to your bottom line. Canonicalized.com Rambler is tool you can use to compare your site against the top 10 competitors, making for a great yardstick against which to measure where you are with your site and where you need to improve, if at all.
Take a look at Pickaweb’s list of 15 Free Marketing Tools That Will Supercharge Your Business
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software
The need for this will depend on your industry and product or service, but CRM software will manage all your client (and potential client) contact details, allowing account managers and salespeople to record their interactions.
The best thing about a CRM system is that all contacts are stored in one place, rather than saved in someone’s Outlook address book. Salesforce is a popular choice as it integrates with a whole host of other software services, including a variety of email automation systems.
- Better computer systems
A laptop or PC and all the necessary programs are vital for office based employees to do their job, but it doesn’t stop there. You also need to ensure they’re secure, with virus protection and up-to-date software. Giving employees old laptops will not only look unprofessional, but also slow down their working speeds.
The same goes for all Point of Sale (POS) till systems, or picking and packing machines. Your employees are only as good as the technology at their disposal.
- Accounting tools
Whilst a spreadsheet might have been a perfectly fine solution at one point, there is much more to consider as a small business. Make everything simpler with accounting software such as Xero or Sage. This will free you up for to focus on other areas of your role, and enable you to produce invoices, create expense claims and see your real time cash flow.
Look out for a tool that encompasses payroll, invoices, expenses and purchase orders in one.
You don’t have to rush to install all of the above in one day, there will be a natural progression for rolling out each option as your company grows. But it’s important to keep them in mind.
Using spreadsheets and manual processes may feel like the cheaper option, but when you start adding up the time it takes to do each of these things, and the opportunities you’re missing, it becomes clear that this is an investment in your organisation’s future.