Small businesses have an inordinate amount of tasks to manage during their working week, and usually this is with less people in the business than larger businesses may have. So, it becomes incredibly important to be as efficient as they can with the time they have available to them. In this post I share the top five productivity tools that we suggest to our clients to use.
Time tracking – Toggl.com
A big part of pricing your service/product is about (a) making sure you are pricing correctly and (b) that you are as efficient in delivering that service or product as you can be (thus increasing profitability). We suggest that clients keep track of how long tasks take. Now – this isn’t for every business – but you could also use this as an exercise every now and again to evaluate efficiencies in your team. The tool we suggest for this is free – it’s called Toggl. It can be used on the web, or downloaded on your PC or Mac, and there is even a Mobile App as well.
Things to track:
- administration tasks
- service or product delivery tasks
- putting together proposals
- sales follow-ups
- on-site meetings with clients
- marketing activities (including social media, design, editing, etc)
This way, while you are growing, you will be able to very quickly make decisions about where people’s time is better spent. This is also valuable when deciding on outsourcing tasks that are taking your team too long to do and are better suited to a provider for a quicker and more professional turnaround.
Expense Management – Dropbox.com
Now there are so many tools out there for this – i.e. helping you to track your mileage and receipts. The one aspect we will just focus on, as it’s the easiest to implement, is the instance where you have a team that are out and about and incur regular expenses and receipts.
Dropbox has the ability for your team to scan their receipts while they are out and upload it to a folder you share with them. Give them clear instructions on how to label the scanned receipt – which may help your accounts department to gather those annoying little receipts that “go astray”.
This is a way of reducing the amount of time your accounts person will spend trying to track down receipts. They need receipts – especially if there is VAT involved. It affects what they can claim back from the VAT man. So – help them out!
Have a look at Dropbox for Business – you get more storage and an ability to administrate a team’s access.
Task Management – Asana.com
This is a good one – even if you are a one-man band using a virtual assistant, or having projects where you may work in conjunction with others.
Being more efficient with your time in administration and delivering your service is a big profitability boost. By looking at your repetitive tasks and also how you use email within your business – can make a huge difference to you and your team.
When you look at your email inbox – do you get overwhelmed? One thing we suggest to clients is to remove the “task” and “conversation” based emails (the ones that are “reply to all” and can carry on!) and move them into Asana.
Things to move:
- certain processes that are delivered exactly the same, over and over (and perhaps involve multiple people helping on the process)
- creating content for social media (there are a myriad of steps involved – so you can track who is going to do what and allocate tasks where needed)
- Inducting new clients / customers (you will have certain steps that you will need to do for this)
- Managing sales funnel enquiries (if you don’t want a heavy pipeline software – or want to keep outside of your CRM system) – this works well
- managing marketing tasks (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
Conference Calls – Skype
Today, you can entertain the ability to not have to travel for meetings. Consider swapping one or two meetings a month to Skype. You can do video and audio calls – as well as share screens if need be. You can also have multiple people on a Skype call if need be.
This may help with reducing the time out of the office, while still being able to be effective with a pseudo face-to-face meeting with a client. It doesn’t replace your much-needed in-person time with your clients – but with a swap now and again – it may give you back some time where you should be focusing on other things too.
Online Calendar – Google Calendar
Many small businesses are still trying to maintain paper diaries. While this is great for when you work alone – it’s not so great when you try to manage a team, or multiple diaries. A good, easy idea to implement is to look at Google Calendar.
You can create different calendars (if needed for different team members) and decide who has access to them. This is very helpful as it has a great Mobile App too and it can be blended into Outlook or Apple iCal if needed by the end user (who may prefer using those tools to read their calendar within).
That’s it! That’s our top 5 productivity tools. Do you have any tools that you can’t live without? We’d love to add to our list – let us know below.