We all know the standard tools that make a business run like it should. An accountant and bookkeeping system, inventory or project management software along with phones and computers to get things done.
However, there are a few lesser known types of tools that, when implemented, can make a major impact on your business and its bottom line.
A To-Do List Manager
Having a set to-do list for each day instantly makes the day more productive, which allows you to get more done. For some reason, the act of crossing an item off a to-do list (whether it’s virtually or on paper), gives a unique sense of satisfaction that can keep you moving forward.
If you have tasks that you need to get done every week, day, or month, choose a to-do list app that allows you to create recurring tasks, like ToDoist, which also allows you to assign tasks to other team members and break tasks up into different projects. Perfect for when you have different clients or want to add personal to-dos as well.
A Low-Cost or Mobile Credit Card System
If your business has a traditional credit card machine that charges high fees for transactions and products, consider switching over to a mobile credit card system, like Square, which offers a flat, low percentage fee per transaction. Square sends you a free card reader that you plug into your iPhone, Android, or tablet headphone jack, instantly making it a mobile cash register. Receipts can be sent to customers via email or text and the money usually goes into your bank account the next business day.
Additionally, if you have a lot of clients paying online, try to get them to switch to online payment provider Dwolla, which offers an extremely low transaction fee of just 25 cents. Most online payment providers charge 3.75% and up, depending on the amount of the transaction.
Besides saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars per month, this small change can also help you get paid faster.
If you want to keep up to date on the latest productivity and business books, but feel like you don’t have the time, consider utilizing a service like Audible or your public library to get audiobook versions of what you want to read. Listening to audiobooks during your commute, workout, or menial tasks can be a great way to learn new skills that can directly translate into your businesses.
Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits, found that “63% of wealthy [people] listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.” This means there is a positive correlation between income and reading. Corley also found that, “88% of [the] wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs 2% for [the] poor.”
A Virtual Assistant
If you are a solopreneur or have employees but not a dedicated assistant, consider working with a virtual assistant. Many overseas virtual assistants speak and write English fluently and have affordable hourly rates, usually ranging from $3 to $15 per hour.
According to Chris Ducker, author of Virtual Freedom, the Philippines has blossomed into a virtual assistant mecca, with thousands of highly educated, friendly and productive assistants willing to work part or full-time.
You can find virtual assistants through a matching service or on a freelancer job board like Elance.
No matter how uncreative you are, you can still benefit from creating a visualization board for your business. And if that doesn’t do it for you, try simply writing down your goals – both long-term (this year and the next five) and short-term (daily and weekly). Just writing down your goals instantly makes them much more likely to happen. (This was another positively-correlated behavior that the aforementioned findings by Tom Corley on wealthy behavior found: “67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor”).
Pinterest can be used to create virtual visualization boards of what you want for your business, as well as your home life. If you already have a Pinterest account for your business, you can create private boards for your goals.
Video or In-Person Chats
The majority of in-person meetings can be quite unproductive and a drain on employees’ time. However, if you run a mostly virtual business, there is some benefit to occasionally setting up video chats instead of phone calls. Being able to see the person you are speaking with can help you connect better to what they are saying, as our mind reads body language and speech simultaneously to get the best picture of what a person is actually saying.
In addition, holding meetings during a walk to get coffee or over lunch is a great way to break out of the conference room, which can lead to more productive meetings.
Many business owners find that it’s the small changes, like making to-do lists and more productive meetings, that make all the difference in their day-to-day operations and overall success. Try some of the options above and see if any work for you.
To Do Photo via Shutterstock
You’re right about to-do lists. I love ticking things off! I haven’t tried an online to-do list though, so thanks for the ToDoist link. Will check it out.
I am not so sure about audiobooks though. I am not really a listener and more of a reader. I can understand things better if I read them.
I’m the opposite, Aira. Audios and videos for me. Though I do read quite a bit as well, those two are my preferred mediums.
I am all for a credit card system though. It is important to allow cards in your payment methods so as not to lose sales.
Interesting that you include audio books as tool for making your business better. I recently started with offer free trials for Audible audio books on my podcast show. I like regular books, especially hardcovers, but you could go through an audio book quicker than reading, and with Audible you get 1 credit (book) every month.
A Virtual Assistant is a godsend for small business owners. When you are juggling hundreds of tasks on any given day a virtual assistant can help by taking care of the small, but important, tasks and relieving you to focus on strategic aspects of running the business.
On virtual assistants, I’d like to point out that there are many levels of assistant. It’s important to get the right one, and to have the right level of expectations relating to pay scales.
Yes, the Philippines is a center for finding good VAs. We’ve had several from the Philippines and they have been able to contribute a lot — and we have enjoyed our association with them!.
But there are also virtual assistants you can find in the United States and Canada. Those in the U.S. and Canada (or other Western nations) will charge significantly more than $3 to $15 per hour. Those in the United States may charge $40 or $50 per hour — versus $5 per hour for the Philippines.
Does that mean the U.S.-based virtual assistant is overpriced? No!
Remember that there are many levels of virtual assistant. The U.S. person charging $45 per hour may have a unique or highly qualified skill set. Some specialize in real estate or medical fields, handling sales communications, dealing with important clients, or other niches. That person may be used to communicating with executives who may require savvy to deal with them. When you hire a VA from the United States at a higher rate, you’re usually hiring for an advanced skill set and years of experience dealing with important business matters, and may not have to give much direction.
Whereas, that VA from the Philippines may be just 2 years out of college. He or she may be great at certain activities — yet may lack the business experience to perform certain types of higher level work. He or she may never have dealt with nuanced sales communications. He or she may not understand real estate deal terminology. His or her grammar skills may be a bit rough around the edges. That could be a real hindrance — especially if you expect your VA to be able to compose communications without supervision.
And then there’s the time difference to contend with. That can be a real disadvantage, depending on the type of business you are in. Someone in the Philippines is basically working when you’re sleeping, or vice versa. But if your clients need a fast response during regular working hours, you may not be able to get that.
I’m not saying that a U.S. based assistant is a better choice than a Filipino assistant — or vice versa. Just that you pick the right VA for your needs.
There are different levels of virtual assistant, and different skills and abilities. You can’t expect to pay entry-level assistant rates — yet expect an experienced, self-starting assistant with advanced skills and communications ability, and perhaps deep knowledge of your industry or the savvy that comes from years of business experience.
I second Square. It’s been key to our sales success. I’d also say Quickbase that helped us stop losing track of things in email and spreadsheets.