If you are running a small business and you are really tight on your budget, there are many innovations that can help you save money. Of course, there is the cost of doing business, I am not questioning that. I just emphasize that you do not need to spend a fortune on things that you can easily do for a fraction of the cost. Here are some items that come from my consulting experience.
Although I am a Microsoft Certified Trainer and earning my life with the use of Microsoft technologies, there are times when their products are simply too much to purchase: both in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO) and need. Suppose that you are operating a business where you do not need advanced functions of a Microsoft environment. All you need is accessing a basic word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program and some PC functions. If you do not need an active directory infrastructure and operating with 20-30 people, then you can safely look for Linux alternatives. You can go for an Ubuntu Server for your server needs and Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) for your clients and workstations.
Maintaining a mobile workforce is costly. But, thanks to free wireless access points scattered everywhere, plus the falling prices of the mobile data plans, you can change your strategy a little bit from conventional communications to IP-based communications. Instead of investing in mobile gear, you can ride the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) wave and invest in Voice-over-IP (VoIP), such as purchasing Skype minutes. You can also shift your strategy from notebooks to tablets. Not only tablets are more portable than notebooks, they are also excellent in producing content by adding a low-cost keyboard. And their operating systems provide more security solutions: Apple has “find my iPhone” feature in iCloud and Android has Android Device Manager.
A small business does not need to go an expensive Microsoft Office – SharePoint solution if the costs do not justify the advanced functions. Office 365 (Microsoft), Google Apps and Zoho Office (Zoho) prove to be an excellent office and groupware solutions for the small businesses. All you need to do is to compare the costs and the features and implement the groupware platform that suits your needs. And since they are cloud-based systems, they not only save money by implementing and maintaining office/groupware systems, but also on file storage, saving and access costs.
Your company’s online presence can easily become a money-drainer. With the online groupware tool you are considering, you have the option to go with the web publishing platform: this can be SharePoint Online for Office 365, Sites and Blogger for Google Apps and Sites for Zoho. These companies also provide social network management tools (social media aggregators) with their platforms. With these aggregators you can keep the pulse of your customers and your market, analyze trends and plan for the specials, discounts, promotions. Social media has closed the gap between the marketing department and the customer base like no other tool could ever did before. And who doesn’t want such a powerful marketing tool that can deliver such insights with little investment?
Depending on the industry that a small business is operating in, mobile payment systems and online invoicing offer big returns on the medium to long run. Android and Apple platforms have already been converted to cash registers and nearly every smartphone can be turned into a Point-of-Sales (POS) terminal thanks to Intuit’s GoPayment. The ability to create and send receipts via email with the online invoice systems help you save on the postal, paper and ink costs in the short run and reduce the number of the printers in the medium run. These costs may appear insignificant now but when they add up, they turn out to be quite high (and ask any IT professional about printer maintenance).
When you combine all of these items you have a business working more cheaply, more efficiently and more agile. I do not say that all of these innovations make sense for your particular business but I argue that some of them may. And applying them to your business will help you save money.