Here’s how to find the best tool to meet your individual business needs.

By Steven Khuong, CEO, Curacubby

In my experience working with small business owners, I find that many still rely on paper-based billing, spreadsheets and other labor-intensive tasks rather than use a technology solution. There are several reasons for this–often, when a longstanding business has relied on manual processes to manage operations, it can be hard to break from what’s familiar and comfortable. Additionally, many SMB owners aren’t familiar with the solutions that are available–or if they are, they can be overwhelmed by the number of choices. Often, there is a level of intimidation involved. For people who aren’t accustomed to using technology in their day-to-day lives, they may have a fear that it will be too hard to learn, too expensive, or require too much work to put in place.

The truth is there are many tools available for all aspects of running an SMB that are affordable, easy to learn and simple to use. With this article I aim to help you overcome your fear of technology with a step-by-step guide for getting started. The benefits are many: the use of software will save you time (and lots of it!) and money, and offer an added convenience to your clientele.

Here’s how to find the best tool to meet your individual business needs.

  1. Start small. Identify the areas of your business that are the most time-intensive and ask yourself: is the time involved due to a manual process? If so, chances are there is an affordable technology tool that will save you lots of time. I suggest you pick one or two of these tasks to begin with, and as you get more comfortable with using technology you can tackle other aspects of your business as well. One area that can be a good place to start is billing and payment processing. If you still use paper invoices to bill customers, collect checks for payment and make bank runs for deposits, you can replace that entire process with a tool like FreshBooks, which is easy to use and offers low-cost options for SMBs. The initial set-up might take a few hours, but it’s very simple and straight-forward – and once you’re up and running, the solution automates the entire billing and payments process so the amount of time required each month is minimal. Other solutions include Zoho Books, Sage 50cloud, Netsuite ERP and more.
  2. Do your research. Reading this article is a start! Sometimes the best research comes from talking to other business owners and asking for recommendations. You can also do a Google search and/or find recommended tools on small business websites (like Small Business Daily!). Finances Online is also a good resource; the site offers reviews of different software solutions for small businesses and allows you to search by category, so if you’re looking for a customer contact management tool you can enter “contact management” in the search bar to see what products they recommend, or look at the “Customer Relationship Management” section on the Small Business page. Often, companies will offer a free trial so you can try out the software and see how it works for you, and also get a flavor for how the company works, how responsive they are and how well they understand your particular needs.
  3. Know what’s important to you. When you’re a small business owner, cost is usually a key consideration. There are many affordable solutions available, and some companies even offer free versions of their software with limited capabilities. Be sure to find a product that allows you to only pay for what you need rather than force you to pay a higher price for a lot of features and functionality that aren’t useful to you. If customer service and responsiveness is important to you, then be sure to keep that in mind as well. And most importantly, find products that are designed for your type of business whenever possible. If you’re operating a preschool or childcare center for example, a solution that’s geared toward general SMBs may not be specialized enough for you. Likewise if you run a small medical clinic or dental office. Doing your research (step #2) can help in this area.
  4. Take the plunge! Often, the biggest step to take is making the decision to move forward. As philosopher Lao-Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Hopefully this article provides a useful guide for how to get started. Tackling the unfamiliar can feel scary but more often than not, once business owners replace a manual process with a technology-enabled one, they find the tool is much easier to use than they thought, and they have much more time to focus on more important aspects of the business – or simply enjoying life.

Steven Khuong is co-founder and CEO of Curacubby, a software platform that combines online registration, automated billing, and free payment processing for preschools, childcare centers, and K-8 schools. He co-founded Curacubby to bring a simple yet powerful tool to the education sector to handle back-office tasks while cutting costs and growing revenues. Follow Curacubby on Twitter at @Curacubby, find the company on Facebook and LinkedIn, or request a demo.

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