Organization & Management Tools Every Entrepreneur Needs to Boost Productivity
Relying on technology can help save you time, energy and frustration.
You've heard it time and time again: You've got to work smarter, not harder. The best way for any entrepreneur to work smarter is to have the best organization and time management tools at their disposal. There are lots of tools to choose from these days, and since many of the newer ones work on a smartphone, you can stay on top of your productivity without being chained to your desk.
Poor time management and organization can cost you and your business tremendous amounts of money. When technology is used, especially for repetitive operations, mistakes and work hours are reduced or eliminated. So, whether you're new to using tech tools to organize and manage your business or you have yet to update your tools, take time to consider these approaches.
Think about what your business is wasting time on now. If you are like most business owners, chances are good that you are filing, retrieving important documents, tracking your income and expenses, invoicing and collecting and training employees. These types of tools can make these tasks easier and faster to complete:
Cloud-based document storage. Instead of locking important files in your office, store them online ("the cloud") where you can retrieve them anytime from anywhere. Google Drive lets you store up to 15GB for free, while giving clients or colleagues access to collaborate. Other tools in this space include Dropbox and Box. They can store everything from simple text documents to sales presentations, market research and photos. They automatically help you file proposals in one place and signed contracts in another. Their security controls enable you to give only certain people access to certain files, lessening the chances that important information will fall into the wrong hands.
Online finance tools. You know by now that a computerized accounting program can do a better job of managing your business' finances than a paper ledger (or worse: receipts stuffed in a desk drawer). As with document storage, there's no need for financial management tools to be tethered to a computer in an office anymore. There are cloud-based accounting programs and electronic invoicing tools that can put you on the path to good financial management practices. With e-invoicing systems like Freshbooks and Xero, you can automate both billing and collection: You set up standard invoice categories and prices in advance so you can immediately generate an invoice right from the job site. Some of the e-invoicing systems are adding tools to become light-weight versions of the big accounting programs. One other big time-saver in these tools: They make it easy to look back at your finances when tax season rolls around.
Training programs. The better trained your employees are, the less time you will need to spend on managing them and the more they will add to your business' bottom line. How do you find time to be the trainer-in-chief when you are already wearing so many other hats? There are resources online and training platforms that can enable your staff to learn in bite-sized chunks and even take exams and gain certificates. If the online resources don't quite meet your needs, think about simple steps, like an occasional brown-bag lunch seminar or setting up a mentorship program to enable seasoned employees to share their skills and knowledge.
Productivity is important to a business owner, and the trick to being the most productive is to be organized. You may not have natural organizational skills but there are apps that can help you. Some, like KanbanFlow, can prompt you to assign tasks and set due dates. Others, like Trello, function as project management tools to organize the workflow among your employees. There are even tools like Proven to make the hiring of new employees more organized and time-efficient by helping you to post to multiple job boards at once and screen applicants. Given how tight the U.S. labor market is right now, this can be a big time-saver.
Stephen Sheinbaum is the founder of Bizfi, an aggregation marketplace that offers many kinds of alternative funding, from short-term finance to longer term loans, equipment finance and lines of credit. Since 2005, Bizfi has originated in excess of $2 billion in funding to more than 35,000 small businesses, including many well-known franchises.
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