Are you ready to quit the paper war? Are the day-to-day processes of running your business sucking the life out of you? It is time to embrace technology and give these cloud tools for small business a chance!
Running a business can be tiring – even more so with old desktop based applications! Luckily a few cloud tools for small business came to the rescue!!
The difficulty we’ve experienced with older desktop applications is that they mostly involve manual processes, do not give us access to real-time information, allow for very little automation and their lack of integration with one another often ends with duplication of processes, not to mention the fact that data has to be extracted from more than one application to compile a meaningful report.
With the revolution of cloud based applications, many of these issues has been virtually eliminated. And even though we all fling around the latest “cloud lingo” as if we have been early adopters of this new technology, South Africa is so far behind the rest of the world that it poses one major challenge for us as service providers. This is not to adapt to new processes, new systems or even new costing- or pricing models, but in fact to educate the end consumer to the real value locked up in this new virtual world.
As a practice we have fully adopted and embraced cloud services and are today a proudly, fully paperless and cloud based service provider and although we faced many growing pains in doing so, we can attest to the absolute firing power that these applications can add to armory of services.
We’ve subsequently taken the liberty to highlight the 5 main cloud tools for small business that you need to consider:
- Cloud Accounting
Cloud accounting is becoming increasingly popular, and has two main advantages: you’re not tied to a particular computer where the data is stored, and your accountant or other adviser can work on your books without having to copy the file and then merge any changes. We exclusively use and recommend Xero, mainly due to its ease of use and the power house applications available that directly integrates into the core accounting system. This allows for extreme flexibility to tailor and grow your accounting system as your business and its needs grow.
- Invoice automation
Customer days outstanding (how long it takes your customers to pay your invoices) are one of the primary reasons why your business cashflow may not be as healthy as it should be. Do everything you can to ensure you get paid as quickly as possible. One way is to streamline how and when you send invoices, and the quicker after the job is completed, the quicker you can get paid!
One option would be to automate the sending of recurring invoices or automating invoices to be sent immediately after a job or service has been marked as completed from your job-tracking software.
- Create different payment options
Make it as easy as possible for customers to pay you. The easier the process the quicker the money is in your bank account! There are many payment platforms that allows you to either collect payments directly from your on-line store or website for instance, or run scheduled direct debits from your customers’ account on pre-determined dates. With real-time integration of these payment gateways directly into your accounting platform, your bank account transactions could be reconciled by the time the money hits your bank account. Now that’s efficiency!
- Automate everything you can
Choosing the correct accounting software such as Xero, allows for numerous cloud applications to be added as and when your business requires. The integration between your accounting software and these applications allows for information to be transferred and shared instantaneously, eliminating wasted time processing the day-to-day transactions in your business. These increased efficiencies will create greater productivity and subsequently also the opportunity to scale your business to much larger volumes with the same amount of staff. Typical integrations could range from accounts payable, inventory, time sheets and even point-of-sale or CRM systems.
- Work in the cloud
Working in the cloud gives you the opportunity for greater collaboration at all levels in your business. By utilizing applications such as Google docs or Office 365, this collaboration can occur within your organization, or even between your business and its customers and suppliers. Utilizing cloud storage applications such as Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud, means that you have all your documents with you, wherever you are.
Now obviously these cloud tools for small business are only a few and some of our favorites, but we do encourage you to take the leap of faith and explore the millions of options out there and apply the ones most suited to your small business.