U.S. small businesses enjoyed an average annual sales growth of 7.3 percent going into the last quarter of 2016, marking the fifth straight year where American companies have enjoyed sales growth above 7 percent. Meanwhile net profit margins averaged 8.1 percent, a point higher than a year earlier and double the net margin for the year ending in September 2011. This growing profitability reflects the cautious approach to spending and borrowing that business owners have taken since the Great Recession. Technology is also helping business owners run leaner operations to trim expenses while boosting profits. Here are four ways technology can help you increase your efficiency and scale your way to a more profitable business.
Use a Mobile Base of Operations
One way business owners are cutting costs is shifting their base of operations to their smartphones. Nine out of ten executives now use their smartphones for business, and one in ten run their businesses exclusively from their mobile phones, a Forbes Insights survey found.
Using your smartphone as your office helps cut your operational expenses by reducing the amount of office space and equipment you need. You can even run your company from home in some cases, and you can manage your business from anywhere and cut your travel expenses.
Using your smartphone also lets you use the latest apps to streamline and integrate your IT operations. If you prefer a desktop experience, quality smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 can be connected to a monitor and keyboard and mouse through devices such as the Samsung DeX to provide a desktop simulation powered by your phone.
Build a Cloud-based Infrastructure
Adopting a cloud infrastructure can make it easier to run your business from your smartphone or with a minimal amount of on-premise desktop hardware, and it can also make it easier for you to scale up your operations. Working from the cloud also lets you take advantage of apps that can streamline your operations and increase your efficiency.
For instance, Intuit’s QuickBooks Online lets you integrate your accounting books with other key financial functions, including point of sale transactions, tax preparation, inventory and payroll. Microsoft’s Office 365 for mobile lets you run traditional office suite software from your smartphone.
Drive Business Decisions with Analytics
To scale up effectively, instead of relying on guesswork, smart businesses today use smart analytics tools to make business decisions based on objective data. There are a growing number of analytics tools for small businesses available today to let companies of all sizes tap into the power of big data.
For instance, to optimize your marketing, Kissmetrics lets you track information about your website and social media profiles’ performance as well as the behavior of your visitors. InsightSquared lets you mine data from other apps you use so you can use your internal business data to make more informed business decisions. ClearStory Data lets you create customized visual aids to display information about your operations, marketing, sales and customer analytics.
Hire Remote Vendors and Employees
One of the biggest expenses for any company is payroll. Using effective outsourcing and remote workforce strategies can help you trim this cost and maintain your profit margin, making it easier to scale effectively.
Outsourcing can help you cut expenses for functions that are essential to running your business but lie outside your core functions, such as accounting, IT, copywriting and graphic design. Outsourcing can also be useful for functions that could be done more efficiently by hiring specialists instead of relying on in-house talent. Remote workers can be used for functions such as administrative assistance, sales and customer support, insuring the most efficiency.