Recently I've been using a photo of my husband Steve as an introduction to the subject of cloud and mobile technology in my speeches to audiences comprised of small business owners.
It's a simple photo of Steve sitting at a table, working on his (Mac) laptop. My sunhat is on the table. Behind and surrounding Steve is windows with nothing but ocean. Therefore it's quite evident he's on a cruise (I ask everyone 'where do you think this photo is taken - and it's always guessed correctly).
I ask "raise your hand if you are horrified; or think that it is wrong that Steve is working while on holiday". A very large percentage of the audience normally raises their hands.
Then I say. 'May I offer a different perspective? It is not working while on a cruise; it is cruising while you are working.'
This subtle juxtaposition of words highlights the freedom that technology gives you. Think of it - instead of working in front of a PC in your office or home office, with laptop and internet connections you can work anywhere.
By the way, I am not talking about leading a life of vacations. I am talking about being able to multitask like never before to improve your business success AND enjoying more freedom.
For example being responsive to customers while staying and watching your child's afternoon sports practice. Deciding to go out to the mall, and combining it with a communication catch up while having coffee in a wifi zone or using your smartphone as a personal hotspot for your laptop.
By the way - here's a tip. It might cost a little more, but always buy lightweight laptops. I'm a Toshiba fan and mine is always with me in my handbag.
I just returned from a speaking engagement in Cambodia this past Tuesday. Naturally I added a few days on to see the country. The only inconvenience to work, was the time difference of six hours.
I would wake early, and do all my email communications during lovely prolonged breakfast. All other communications were done using VoIP (voice over the internet protocol). Phone calls to clients / business related were done on the smartphone or laptop with Skype; either free to their Skype ID or at 2.4 cents a minute to their telephone/cell numbers.
I called, messaged, sent pictures and videos to the family using Viber. Again free. I sent an email via a web service to over 14,000 of my newsletter subscribers. Wrote speeches and sent out proposals while poolside.
In other words I was able to do every single thing I would normally do or needed to do for business and it didn't matter that I wasn't sitting in Glendowie doing it. The only thing I couldn't do was personally sit in front of a client at their office. Virtually yes with Skype and camera. Physically no.
There wasn't an ounce of impediment to my 'customer service'. There wasn't a delay in communication - beyond a few hours perhaps based on the time difference.
To sum up, the point of these column is simply this:
1. You know the activities you have to do to run your business well. Accounting. Marketing. Customer service. Communications. Administration...
2. Learn and understand what technology is available to you either inexpensively or for free. I'm talking software - cloud based or on your laptop; tablet; smartphone.
3. Take advantage of technology and use it to give yourself freedom and flexibility while ensuring your customers/clients have excellent service.
4. Turn your business into an AAA one. Anyone -You, staff, contract help and customers can access the information they need, communicate, at Anytime from Anywhere.