As we embark on this new year, it is a good time to review your technology stack. Technology is such a powerful tool but can be confusing and scary to many that do not consider themselves technology wizards. But I am here to tell you, it can be a lot simpler than you think. When used properly, technology should complement your business and not be seen as a hinderance or something overly complex. If you do not have all the technology that you need or it is just not working for you, there is no better time to review and make corrections than right now. But you have to act. What is the old phrase “What is the definition of insanity, keep doing things the same way and expecting different results.” For the remainder of this article, I am going to focus on software used to run your business that can help you improve on last year’s results.
I have been in technology for 25+ years and a business owner for 20 years. During my career, I have filled just about every role for technology companies from programmer, QA/QC/tester, enterprise architect, project manager, to leadership roles Vice President and CEO. Technology has always played a critical role not only in technology companies, but to all types of businesses. My experience has shown that many business owners seem to only look to address technology pain points when a problem occurs. Just follow the news recently and see issues that occurred at the major airlines causing them to cancel thousands of flights. They blamed the weather but much of this was a technology failure. Technology should have one main goal in a business, to make the business run more efficiently. To make it easier for employees to manage key business processes and operate the business. It should save owners and employees time and money. And it should enable the business to grow. However technology can be dauting for business owners, especially for those that do not have the technology staff in house. No wonder with constantly changing terms, like digital transformation, AI, machine learning, business process improvement, cloud computing, and on and on, people consider it challenging. In addition, business owners fail to acquire and adopt usage of the software they need simply because they are too busy keeping their businesses afloat or do not know where to start. Does this sound familiar ?
Business owners are going to find that, acting is much better than the alternative, failure to act at all. That means consulting with other small business owners about software they use or with IT resources about software options. In my years of consulting, one thing that has always been readily apparent in organizations, small and large, government and commercial, is that Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets) is often the preferred tool for all sorts of things. That means for things like: maintaining customer lists or managing customer interactions, maintaining employee vacation time, doing company accounting, maintaining a list of products, project management, task management, and on and on. I get it. Excel is a great tool and can be used for so many things. I also use it quite a bit. I am not going to tell you to stop using Excel, far from it. I am saying that there are a number of other software options that can be used in addition to Excel and often integrate really well with Excel, if needed. Today, there are a number of low-cost options. And once you begin to use these tools, you may find that they better satisfy your needs.
Some of you are going to ask why, why can’t we just keep doing what we are doing. It is easy and I am comfortable with it. I guess you can, but if you plan to grow, then the benefits of a more robust set of software to manage key business processes will become apparent. Following is a list of software options listed under categories that are not overly complex but work well for small businesses. I am a believer of the LIMKIS Principle meaning Less Is More, Keep It Simple. Therefore I try not to make things unnecessarily complex. The list applies to a broad range of businesses, however, not all categories will apply to all businesses. Please note that this list is not an exhaustive list; it was intentionally made short. Why do you ask ? Years of marketing research has shown that people tend to act when given less choices versus more choices. Two to three choices is about right and these are products that we have used or implemented and seen others utilize with great success.
1. Accounting and Payroll
Accounting is a core component to just about every business. If you don’t keep track of the money coming in and going out, then you will not be in business long. However, there are businesses who still manage their accounting using Excel. They may be comfortable with it, but I can assure you, there are better options. Here are a few tools that are very popular and worth consideration.
a.) Quickbooks – helps you manage your tax accounting, payroll, profit analysis, and inventory management, create invoices, and manage expenses. There is a desktop version and an online version.
Other Notable items
- Easy to use and learn
- Integrates well with other systems and flexible with 3rd party applications
- Provides good accounting reports
- Affordable price
- Easy to access from any device – phone, tablet and computer (depending on the version)
- Easy to find and fix errors/mistakes
- Easy to look-up customer information
- Built with Small Business mindset. This can be a plus and a negative depending on size of the business
b. Paychex – has HR and Payroll solutions to fit the needs of any size business, from startup to enterprise.
Other Notable items
- Improves your hiring processes
- Includes employee onboarding solutions
- Offers professional employer organization capabilities
- Provides payment processing solutions
- Automates payroll tax filing
- Includes time tracking and attendance
- Includes HR tools
- Manages healthcare and employee benefits
- Easily stores all your documents
- Offers cyber liability insurance
c.) Gusto – provides a cloud-based payroll, benefits, and human resource management solution for businesses. Gusto has several self-service features that enable employees to manage benefits themselves. It also integrates with Quickbooks.
Other Notable items
- New hire paperwork
- Employee birthday reminders
- Easy to navigate
- Visually pleasing layout
- Employee paycheck contributions to charities
- Keeping all of my payroll documents in one place for easy access
- Easy distribution of W-2s at year end