In the face of the day to day challenges of getting your ‘business-brain’ back into gear after the Christmas and New Year hiatus. I thought it might be interesting to look at some ideas that can help make your business life easier.
Regular readers will know of my admiration of Peter Drucker and his pithy quotes encapsulating so many truisms of business. Possibly my favourite is this:
"The two most valuable functions of a business: Innovation & Marketing. These are the only two functions that contribute to profit. All others are costs."
Given that a key objective is (normally!) to sustain and develop your business, I think Drucker’s quote gives some insight into ways it may be a little easier to do this. If it is the marketing and innovation functions that are the primary drivers to sustaining and growing your business, then maybe this is where you should focus? If you can reduce the demands of the rest of your business, maybe this can make things easier?
Cost: more than just money
When we think of cost, it is only natural that we think of cash, yet money is not the only consideration.
Businesses are based on 2 fundamental resources. money and TIME. I come across many businesses where the owner concentrates on saving money with no thought to the potential time cost.
The danger of this approach is that any financial savings are swallowed up by the time cost of having to work less efficiently. Savings are only real if you reduce the combined demands for money and time.
Technology – we just want it to work!
Over the past 20 years or so, technology has hugely changed the way we run our businesses. The internet and new software applications have brought opportunities that were inconceivable in the 1980s and ’90s. But these opportunities can come with an Achilles heel – particularly if you focus too much on saving money.
A common marketing approach with many web-based apps is the ‘Free Version’. You get to use the software at no cost. This may be fine to start with but the more you use it – and the more you come to rely on it, the greater the problem.
Most ‘Free’ software has limited functionality at some level. If you find you use an application regularly but run up against the ‘Free’ limitations, you can end up spending more and more time trying to work around the restriction. Any benefit you gained in the first place gets wasted by your distraction in trying to keep it free. The problem is exacerbated when it comes to technical support. Understandably, Free software has little or no technical support – maybe a few online blog posts but rarely more. If you have technical problems with your free software you can find yourself completely stuck with no place to turn.
When it comes down to it, the best software tools are the ones we don’t really notice. We just want them to work!
Business needs investment
Whatever you may think, you cannot run your business for nothing. Every business, however small, needs some level of investment. Rather than fixating on keeping software free, sometimes, moving to the paid-for version is a sensible move. This said, I would always advise using apps that have a wide user base and extensive, positive reviews. If you are committing to some software, you want it to stick around and be developed.
Often the cost is only modest – less than a sandwich a week. You will remove restrictions meaning you can use the software as much as you need to for the benefit of your business rather than spending time struggling to stay within arbitrary limits. You will normally also open the door to professional technical support. Fixing issues becomes s0omebody else’s problem while you concentrate on your business.
A word on Open Source software
There is some fantastically successful open source software out there, developed by a community of coders for altruistic rather than commercial motives. Surely this is ideal if you are looking for a free solution? In theory, yes, but in practice, most really successful open source software has been commercialised, at least to an extent. Also, by its very nature, open-source tends to be the realm of techies. If you want to use it you need to know what you are talking about. Not ideal for the average small business.
Focus on what is important
By embracing good, professional software tools, you can get on with the regular tasks in your business more quickly and easily. You are safe in the knowledge that when things break (they inevitably do!) it is in the interests of the developers to make sure they are fixed quickly while you carry on with your own business.
By streamlining routine tasks, investing in effective systems to free up your time, you gain the freedom to get on with the innovation and marketing that are the things to really drive your business forward.
You know what is important in your business. You also know which are the time-consuming tasks that distract you from focusing on the important tasks. Maybe a modest investment can help you redress the balance? Perhaps it is worth taking a look?