Think back to the bygone days of being an employee rather than a fully-fledged business owner, and you probably remember the interview question: ‘Tell me where you’d like to be in 5 years’. Did you ever puzzle over the specificity of that 5-year mark? In business, 5 years is seen as as a sufficient period for anything to happen. It’s a window that allows you to plan far into the future, using your imagination to overstep short-term barriers, and focus instead on your vision.
The issue is that running a small business demands lots of reactive decisions and fire-fighting, taking your mind away from the bigger picture. If you struggle to even think past the morning’s responsibilities, you’re not alone.
But technology has come to the rescue, offering innovative ways for you to keep your eyes on the future as well as the present.
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When we conducted a survey to see what small businesses wanted to achieve in the coming years, growth came out on top. Specifically, that growth related to increased revenue and a bigger customer base. Here were some of the other long-term goals:
- 38% plan to expand product/service offerings
- 29% will try to achieve greater work/life balance
- 28% will hire additional staff
- 11% will begin selling online
- 10% will open up additional brick-and-mortar locations
- 9% will open up their first brick-and-mortar location
As the goals of small business owners have evolved over time, so has the technology used to achieve them. If you’re hunting for tools that help you do more with less, or understand the workings of your business so you can plan ahead, here are our top picks.
If you’re a services business juggling customer appointments, or a busy manager dashing between meetings, many calendar apps often don’t have the features you really need to stay on top of it all. Not only do you want an appointments tool to work for you and your staff, it should be user-friendly for your customers too. Good scheduling software can benefit both your customers and you. Look for a tool that allows customers to book online 24/7, and also has customer management features, including appointment history, personal details, notes, and purchase history. To simplify things even further, look for a tool that integrates with your POS and payments processor like Square Appointments.
Is there anything more nightmarish than building and editing invoices in a word processor, or manually tracking what’s been sent? To save the wasted time and headaches, choose an invoicing tool like Square’s that lets you create, customise, send and track invoices for free, and receive deposits as soon as the next business day. There’s never a cost to your customers, and we’ll only ever charge you a fee when invoices are paid by card.
Small businesses need the freedom to make a sale wherever and however their customers want to pay. Clunky, fixed point-of-sale systems that take up the entire counter never really worked well for anyone. And they certainly never looked good. Instead, you can custom build your own setup with a range of products. Start with the point-of-sale software first — make sure it comes without setup or monthly fees, long-term commitments or tricky assembly. It should be easy to use via your phone or tablet. With that out of the way, you can add card readers or even transform your iPad into a fully-fledged point-of-sale with Square Stand.
If your business doesn’t already have a website, this is one of the best ways to help you reach new audiences and serve your existing ones better. Depending on the type of business you run, you may want to set up an e-commerce site that lets you sell products online, or simply use the site as a place for customers to book appointments and find out more about your company.