Five tips for running a lean, mean web-based machine
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are at least part of your business – if not the entire operation – could be moved online. Nobody epitomizes this better than the local web entrepreneur Steve Jagger, founder of Ubertor, Reachd, OutsourcingThingsDone, and other projects too numerous to mention.
Jagger was explaining to me recently how he ditched his office and went online-only – a move that saved him six figures a year in overhead, kept his many thousands of monthly customers happy, and allowed him to roam freely in search of new business while staying in constant contact with his team.
To accomplish this, Jagger uses a wide variety of online productivity tools, most of which you’ve probably heard of: Skype for long-distance calling; Google Apps for email, documents and calendars; Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for promotion. Here are a few more that Jagger recommends, and which you might not be using (yet):
The more decentralized your office becomes, the more important it is to keep track of time spent on projects – not so you can lord over your employees, but to keep tabs on where all your labour is being spent. Especially if you work in the service industry, Slim Timer makes billing much more manageable, and can even help settle disputes.
Yammer is an “enterprise microblogging” system that allows you to declutter your inbox, centralize your communications, and see what everybody is working on (and saying). It’s especially effective for larger organizations with lots of employees in different offices, but it can be useful for SMBs as well.
Internal communication is important, but what about your customers? Just because you don’t have an office with a reception area anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still give attentive, personalized service on your website. There are a lot of options out there now, with LiveChat being the most well known, though Jagger recommends WebSiteAlive, which is just as functional at a fraction of the cost.
Leaving the office behind frees up a lot more time for networking and travel, which we all too often neglect. That’s where meetup.com comes in handy: whether you want to meet likeminded people or start a group or event of your own, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for here, no matter what city you find yourself in.
If you’re part of a larger organization, you may be chained to Microsoft or some other legacy system that you can’t easily shake off. But Steve’s example shows that freeing yourself from outdated, institutional IT and adopting open systems can mean the difference between getting by and getting ahead.
If you are flexible enough to make changes on the fly, keep in mind that there are thousands of online productivity tools out there – and that’s without getting into mobile apps and devices. So it’s definitely worth doing a bit of shopping around before you commit to implementing new systems. Chances are, the perfect tool for your business already exists – you just have to find it.