Business is easier than ever to manage remotely with the advent of enterprise and other web-based systems. If you’re reading this and own a brick and mortar business, I’m going to translate everything that I converted to a web-based system. Other than face-to-face interaction and the human factor(which is huge), I can completely manage my business from a different time zone. (If you’re up-to-date on web-based systems, skip the next paragraph.)
Now what exactly does web-based mean? That is an internet-based tool that will help you keep things OFF your computer and ON the internet. Why is this important? Computers suck. They break, the power goes out, things turn off; not the internet though, it’s always on. For many years, I kept important files in my fire safe. I have since began using Dropbox, a cloud-based(internet-based) storage system. This means you can access things like your files, books and records anytime and on anyone’s computer or device. The only things I store in the safe now are money, guns and ownership titles. Cloud-based storage is just the beginning of web-based capability so to understand the remainder of business practices, one must understand the “cloud” concept. Clouds are all around you. If you have Gmail, they offer Google Drive. If you pay for Microsoft Office, they offer storage in Microsoft OneDrive. If you have an iPhone, Apple offers iCloud for backup of contacts, photos and videos. These are all different brand names of the same thing, a cloud-based storage system. I personally use Dropbox. Clouds are like filing cabinets with unlimited storage. Unless you have good reason, you don’t need to use more than one. You might be wondering if for instance you have an iPhone, must one use iCloud? No. If I have Gmail, must I back up or save files to Google Drive? The answer is no. There is always a way to store your files on any cloud. Of course clouds are competing for business, so they might not make it easy, but it’s feasible in most cases. I have only Dropbox and I back up everything there. The same is possible with the other clouds. Pick one and stick with it. If you have the cloud concept down, you can begin to see the extensive possibilities with computer files, photography, record-keeping, etc.
Book Keeping: I use Quickbooks like many other small businesses; however, I use the web-based enterprise edition. It offers “apps” within that help manage anything from sales pipeline to time clock keeping. If you’re running a business and either aren’t bookkeeping or are paying a bookkeeper, you ought to check out just how easy it is to do your own bookkeeping. They’re made it pretty easy these days; however, all principles of accounting remain unchanged! I can travel about the country freely and always have access to my accounting.
Filing Cabinet: I use Dropbox and share folders with my Manager and Salespeople. If they owe me products, such as weekly reports or payroll, they upload them into Dropbox for my approval. If I owe them a product, such as an absentee tracker or company policy, I upload it into their folder to be
printed and distributed. I have DropBox on my phone, integrated with my computer and on my iPad so I am always able to check my folders.
Banking: Self explanatory. I do my banking online, but it doesn’t really matter where you bank and what kind of website they have, because I do(and you should too) all of my analysis and book keeping with QuickBooks. Credit Cards are a different story. I have both Bank of America and American Express business cards. American Express has a beautiful expense tracking system that integrates into QuickBooks. I can order cards for employees to use, get instant spending updates via text message and track multiple cards with one login of my account. I use the Bank of America card because I get my airline miles; however, they have a corporate method of accounting that doesn’t integrate that well into QuickBooks.
Employee Training: We have all our mandatory OSHA, safety, driving and other training available online. Manager creates account for the employee, employee logs in, conducts training, takes quiz, passes and gets certificate. Gives the employee a sense of accomplishment and allows me to have detailed records of all training conducted.
Employee Hiring: All of our employees find us online through Indeed, Craigslist, HelpWanted or our company website. Prospect submits resume, we call them for a quick phone interview, then call them in and the Manager interviews them.
Email: We use Gmail-based email that’s intergrated into our domain and website. It’s the most common email and easily captures contact info and integrates with our marketing systems.
Customer Relationship Management: We use SalesForce to manage customer records, work orders and sales calls. SalesForce has many “apps” that enable better sales and productivity. One example of this is the InsideSales plugin. A great way to call track. I can see what’s on the schedule for my employees, I can see the sales schedule, I can see real-time leads as they come in and I can forecast and track weekly revenue before it post. I use SalesForce to see what’s planned to happen, then I use QuickBooks to see what actually happened.
Marketing: I conduct massive marketing campaigns across my city. I use DirectMail for both current and prospective customers. They have automated mailing services available for current customers to help retain them, sell add-on services or even woo back former customers. I use SignPost to manage leads(sync’d w/Gmail and Yodle). If a prospect calls to get a quote, emails to inquire or inputs their information into our website request form, it all funnels into the same lead system in SalesForce(for record keeping) and then syncs with SignPost(for marketing). I track who opens my marketing emails and who clicks on my text messages via SignPost.
Advertising: I exclusively use the internet to advertise. I use Yodle to manage my website and thus my keyword and content management. I have a pay-per-click campaign so I show up in both the advertisement section and organic section of Google, Bing and the Network. Whether a customer clicks the ad, or finds me organically, I can see and track it via Yodle. I also use HomeAdvisor, Care and Yelp with paid advertising campaigns. Yelp does a good job tracking who visits my page, how many prospects click through to my website and how many people call my number from the Yelp app. All of these advertising methods I can track online through that company’s dashboard.
Quality Control: Yodle uses a different number online than my regular office number. When the prospect calls that Yodle number, they call through a cloud where all calls are recorded. I can then see what hours of the day we get more calls, who’s answering them and how well our inside sales and customer service reps are performing. SignPost helps manage my reviews before they hit the internet by asking customers what they think via email and text message. We intercept all the bad reponses and resolve them before they go “public” and entice the customer to publicly post any positive reviews via Google, Bing, Yelp of Facebook.
Supplies and Job Materials: Staples Business Advantage(not Staples) is a great local supplier to have. I have a personal relationship with the warehouse manager and can get supplies same day. They are a little higher on price than Amazon Business Services, but the service is instant. The important thing is that I order supplies to my door so my office personnel aren’t wasting time standing in line in a store. I can track purchases and analyze consumption too. With these door-to-door delivery options, my Manager can call me with a problem or immediate need and I can instantly order it knowing it will be there in a few hours or days. That allows me to control the amount of the purchase and gives me visibility to what they are buying without being there.
Utilities: My gas bill, electric bill, internet and phone bill are all managed and paid online. You can turn off paper billing if you like, but I like for my Manager to get big utility bills. Many utility companies have features online where you can analyze usage by month or by day. Pretty cool features not available on a paper bill.
Presence: The hardest obstacle to overcome with not being at your office is knowing what’s going on; thus, I installed security cameras at my office. Companies like ADT offer great business options, but they are very expensive and come with monthly service fees. I chose a cheaper option with basic Wi-Fi cameras. Since these cameras are connected to the wi-fi at all times, I can access them 24/7. I have an app on my phone and iPad that allow me to see any of my cameras or watch all of them at the same time. I can even listen through the cameras and can push to talk back if I need to. These cameras around the office and warehouse allow me to watch my inventory, supervise office staff and check on employee training.
In summary, you can unchain yourself from the physical footprint of your business if you harness the power of cloud-based systems to help run your business. I love spending time with my family and traveling, but I’m also a control freak and have to see and know about everything going on in the business. Do both! And watch your business grow without you! On the beach!