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Tip of the Week
Small-business owners say that managing their business creates twice as much stress as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, according to a recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report. And it is nearly three times more stressful than raising children, small-business owners report.
While technology can enhance productivity and sales, provide access to wider audiences, and, ultimately, increase profits, it also can be a major source of stress for the small-business owner. There is so much change out there, small-business owners often experience fear and frustration as they try to keep up.
When it comes to implementing new technology, the two main challenges for anyone operating a small business are money and time. However, it's impossible to be a competitive business owner without taking advantage of today's technology. The trick is investing in technology that will make your life easier not harder. While there may be a learning curve, there are a variety of ways to afford the technology you need as well as the technical support to help you learn how to use it.
Here are four turnkey technology strategies that just about any small-business owner can start using today.
1. Re-think your cash register - Until recently, millions of small businesses have long been at a technology disadvantage. By using antiquated, time-consuming methods of taking payments, they have missed out on the ability to capture useful sales data for inventory and sales tracking. Today, more affordable cloud-based point-of-sale software is made specifically for small businesses.
2. Amp up and automate your marketing efforts - Sending meaningful and relevant communications has never been easier for small-business owners who utilize smart technologies. Social media is here to stay - so it's a wise business move to start a Facebook or Twitter account to interact with core audiences. Plus, it's free. Email marketing also makes connecting with customers quick and easy. Seek out systems that allow you to set up automatic email marketing campaigns as an easy way to save time and stress. But remember, no one likes spam. Be sure to communicate with your customers in ways they actually want to be reached, otherwise they'll opt out and move on.
3. Make sure your website is up to speed - Customer impatience is at an all-time high. Customers won't wait around if your site is slow to load or if transactions are too time-consuming. Make sure your site can handle the traffic peaks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
4. Protect your computer system - Every day, viruses infect approximately 1 million computers around the world. Viruses can travel in anything from a USB flash drive to an email message, and can completely halt the productivity of a small business. To minimize your company's exposure to viruses, worms and hackers, be sure you use the latest patches, system updates and firewalls for your software and computer systems. You can usually find patches and program updates on the software manufacturers' websites. If you choose a cloud-based sales system, make sure your information as well as that of your customers, is safe by adopting an encryption strategy.
Consumers wanting to obtain loans of a few hundred dollars or less are urged by the Better Business Bureau to be extremely cautious when applying for money from companies that offer loans over the Internet. The BBB offers the following tips:
- Verify the business's contact information (name, address, phone numbers) before you give out any personal information.
- Read the loan's terms and conditions carefully. If you don't understand them, ask. If you are unable to get a suitable response, don't do business with the company.
- Be extremely cautious about providing Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information to businesses you do not know and trust.
- Deal with businesses that have proven to be trustworthy and have known business practices. Ask friends and family members and research the business. If a pop-up box appears after purchasing an item, read the box carefully to see how you can close it out without agreeing to a purchase.
- Check out the business with the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org.
According to Grant Thornton, here are the 10 best countries for business:
10. United States
8. South Korea
Online auction site eBay recently got a redesign. President Devin Wenig said it will provide "a more intuitive, convenient way to browse, decide and buy.”
GateHouse News Service