4 Technology Solutions Every Growing Business Needs to Consider
Tech tools make it easy to talk with your team and customers. How well you communicate is still up to you.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Every start-up needs an idea. That's a given. A few other table stakes for growing your business include drive, commitment, smarts and start-up funds.
At a minimum there are also basic technology needs such as a mobile device, a data plan, broadband Internet connectivity and an online presence of some kind. However, small business growth and success may require a few more technological upgrades.
That's according to Trey Smith, president and CEO of OneStream Networks, a next-generation telecommunications company and consultancy that specializes in both domestic and international unified communications solutions for the enterprise using a cloud-based environment.
"It's a great time to launch a business because of the incredible functionality and scale that Internet-based solutions and software provide to cost-conscious entrepreneurs at a fraction of the price from just a few years ago," said Smith.
1. Laptop-based softphone software.
One option that Smith recommends for small-to-medium sized businesses that have more than one location, is software that's loaded onto a laptop that works as a traditional phone, which is known as a softphone application.
He says this type of virtual solution replaces pricey, multi-line telephone units while providing the same functionality at low or no cost.
"This is a great way for growing organizations, which are already deploying laptops to employees, to also deploy the softphone application on those computers as well. This allows for fast scaling of the business with an elegant solution that combines both voice and data for employees."
One popular softphone option is Zopier, which can be downloaded for free.
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2. Automated call attendant.
While a mobile device or smart phone is a mandatory tool for success, Smith suggests using an automated call attendant to provide greater customer service if your start-up is growing but understaffed.
"When a mobile device is dialed it's either answered or the call goes to voicemail. However, a busy business owner or entrepreneur may choose to answer calls with an auto attendant or interactive voice response software that automatically offers a variety of choices to the caller. This cost-effective option provides understaffed start-ups with efficient call flow handling as well as a perception of scale," said Smith.
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3. Toll-free dialing to your mobile phone.
He goes on to suggest that another relatively easy and inexpensive technology to implement is offering customers a toll-free number that connects directly to your mobile phone.
"New business owners rarely consider toll-free numbers that dial directly to their mobile device as an option. However, it's a great way to create a positive first impression, while offering enhanced value and service to potential customers."
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4. Skype for Business.
For owners who prefer video conferencing, Smith says one of the best low-cost options is Skype for Business. It's basically the familiar Microsoft Skype app on steroids, on your desktop.
"Because Skype is a Microsoft product it's automatically integrated with the MS Office Suite as well as its Outlook email product. So when a meeting is set up via Skype for Business, recipients get a hyperlink that's fully-enabled for voice, video and desktop sharing. It's powerful, inexpensive and simple to use."
Smith's company works with organizations that range from start-ups to S&P 500 companies, and he acknowledges that while it's good to know what tech solutions can scale a business it's more important to know when to scale up.
"There's no entrepreneurial handbook with a growth timetable. However, we've found that a reliable benchmark that suggests it's time for a small business to think about ramping up its technology platform is if it has a minimum of five employees who have mobile devices, laptops or whom require Internet access. That's a pretty good rule of thumb."