4 Ways to Update Your Small Business in an On-Demand World

Savvy small business owners are always looking for an edge. Some wake up at 4 a.m. to get a jump on the workday, while others burn the midnight oil researching potential investments. No matter the industry, consumers have more options than ever before, so for businesses trying to rise to the top, it's all about focus – and finding the formula for gaining an advantage on the competition.

The on-demand economy boasts $50+ billion in annual spending and virtually all businesses are being affected in some way. Both your employees and your customers are seeking more flexibility and personalized attention. Being aware of these expectations and open to change gets you in the game. Adapting your business to meet these needs and crafting a plan to make it happen makes you a player.

Here are four ways to modernize your business: save time, increase efficiency and put more money back in your pocket.

Architects working in office on construction project

Consider hiring outside contractors

Adding a contractor or freelancer to your team or contracting out a portion of a project may be one of the smartest moves a business owner can make. Since you're not required to pay benefits and there is no mandated time commitment for which services are provided, opting to hire a freelancer often makes financial sense. It also makes it easier to get someone with highly specialized skills that you could not afford to have on your full time payroll.

When you're just not sure how much time and energy a particular job will entail, bringing on a contracted employee allows you to experiment with those hours and responsibilities. Many workers – millennials, in particular – seek out and relish this kind of flexibility in today's Gig Economy. In fact, the more rigid the schedule nowadays, the less likely you'll retain an employee. You'll also be saving on overhead costs: fewer in-house employees means less office space and a reduction in utilities and amenities.

Automate timekeeping and payroll

While some jobs and tasks require the human touch, punching in and out and sorting payroll are processes that can now be quickly and effectively handled in the cloud. When your mobile employees aren't making a special trip to the home office punch clock and your bookkeeper isn't chasing them down for missing hours, you're saving a massive amount of time and money. Just ask New England-based Masters Touch Design and Build who eliminated both of these obstacles by implementing an employee time tracking system.

Web-based timekeeping systems like Timesheet Mobile not only automate timesheets and simplify employee scheduling, but also make bookkeeping much quicker and easier to manage. And rather than having to pay an on-site supervisor to monitor worker hours and locations, Timesheet Mobile’s time card app uses geofencing to capture that on the clock information and easily import it into QuickBooks, ADP, Sage or FreshBooks.

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Rethink your approach to meetings

Meetings can be a polarizing topic and depending on which side of the fence you sit on, your workday likely looks drastically different than that of your peers. If you're the type of manager that cannot hold enough meetings, it may be time for an intervention.

Nothing eats away at a day like a schedule stuffed with meetings. Employees generally dread them and most would be hard-pressed to tell you that sitting in a meeting was a productive use of their time. In addition to the time spent rehashing information that is typical of most meetings, lack of focus and preparedness can quickly derail the sit down. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, recognized this flaw and made a concerted effort to change his approach. Rather than wait for the meeting to begin to kick off the discussion, he now requests that his people send information beforehand. Attendees enter the meeting clear about the goal, decision or debate at hand.

Making some sort of adjustment to the way you conduct meetings can have a major impact. Mix it up and change the time, shorten them unexpectedly or make a statement by eliminating them altogether. If you must hold meetings, insist that everyone is on point and don't waste each other's time.

Be open-minded about new technology

It's understandable being tempted to stick to the tried and true ways of doing business. If it's not broke ..., right? Not necessarily. "Old school" may be trendy, but it's not hip to ignore innovation. And your business will surely suffer if you cannot compete.

Technology that is designed to improve the way your business functions is always worth a look. When it also improves the lives of your employees and your customers, you're winning! If you haven't already, consider going green at the office. Retiring the fax machine, ditching paper timecards and eliminating printed handouts in favor of more sustainable solutions are solid changes for both the office and the environment.

Rather than disrupting the flow of the workday to call yet another meeting in the conference room, ask everyone to join a quick video conference. Zoom is a great option for this, allowing up to 25 people to set up separate video streams and up to 200 people to join the meeting as observers. Participants can even share their screens: convenient AND paperless!

In today's world, your business needs to be prepared to take payments from customers at any place and time. Portable technology like Square makes transactions entirely paperless. While offering this modern and convenient service to your customers, you're also saving trees and saving yourself money – you'll no longer need a bookkeeper to sort through hundreds of receipts everyday.

Geofencing is yet another exciting and emerging technology that is becoming more common in a variety of industries. For companies with mobile employees, geofencing allows managers to put virtual boundaries around jobsites, ensuring accuracy and accountability. If you are a retailer, this location-based technology can help you both find customers as well as target "regulars" by offering tempting deals when they are in your area. With consumers out and about and often glued to their phones, having a discount or special offer pop up on their screen may be an effective means of instant gratification.

Research, evaluate and be receptive to new technology. Run it by your team and collaborate with them, rather than just springing it on them out of the blue. Ensure that employees are properly trained on any new technology and monitor the results closely to gauge ROI.

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