Maintaining productivity and efficiency with business technology

For many small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) the day-to-day challenges of business operations can be the most expensive and challenging aspects of the company. As many businesses are started to be conducted exclusively online, it has become essential for SMBs to utilize software systems that allow for increased productivity and workload efficiency. Mashable – a popular technology resource – has recommended some ways that managers and business owners can improve in these areas.

Mashable suggests that business owners or managers keep track of software updates that help improve business productivity on software they are currently using. For example, FileMaker recently released its latest update, FileMaker 12, that has since been downloaded more than 100,000 times and includes new features that help improve the usability of the software on PCs as well as on mobile devices, whose use has also become increasingly popular.

Furthermore, by using a custom database software or other custom application development, Mashable suggests managers organize or eliminate "junk" from employees' PCs. By committing regular time to maintenance and organization of hard drives, employees can ensure that their computers – an essential ingredient to the workplace – run efficiently over extended periods of time. This will save the business time and money in not only streamlining productivity, but also saving fiscally by not having to purchase new equipment.

In addition to organizational and maintenance care, Mashable suggests that executives invest in a business productivity software system that is dynamic enough to tackle many tasks. Rather than using multiple programs for similar activities, investing in one database that can be customized to perform an assortment of tasks can eliminate software that may actually be unnecessary. By doing this, businesses should see an increased productivity and organization. 

How a custom database system can keep a company organized

Organization and document storage is, oftentimes, either an ignored issue or one that consumes too much time and energy from employees or even CEOs. Although some companies may have their own ways of dealing with organizational debacles, one lost paycheck or a misplaced contract can be the difference between success and failure for many others.

To ensure that small businesses or startups are able to perform at their best, Inc. Magazine has listed a few areas of business management that may need some extra technological help for organization.

According to Inc., storage is always an issue with business, big or small. File storage capabilities have gotten the point that having multiple hard drives to back up tax forms and shipping receipts can seem outdated, let alone keeping actual hard copies of documents. Businesses may want to invest in a custom database software that utilizes cloud services to store their documents with little to no physical imprint than the device that was used to file it.

Furthermore, most standard database programs – much like Microsoft Excel – are efficient and productive, but don't fulfill the number of duties needed by business owners to help with customer relationship management. Some companies may need to keep track of when sales representatives have called a potential client or when executives need to document what was discussed in a teleconference. For this, a much more dynamic database may be needed to hold all of the information.

Also, contracts are a major concern with small businesses or startups. Any company that outsources its workload or hires independent contractors may have a number of different types of contracts it needs to use. While cloud storage solutions can assist this process, companies may want to speak with FileMaker consultants that can develop a custom database software that can not only store essential customer information but keep any number of contracts in one easy-to-access location. 

The growing pains of small businesses

Innovation is a major part of business and technology, especially for small to medium sized businesses (SMB) as major legislation from the government continues to shake up the landscape.

Although one thing does remain certain is that the more a business can expand the better. According to Inc Magazine, expansion of small businesses or startups can seem much like being a teenager in that it can, oftentimes, be measured in growing pains and changes.

The magazine uses CleanScapes as an example. The Seattle-based company originally started as an exterior cleaning service and then grew to an even larger garbage collection company that operates on a pay-as-you-throw business model.

Being able to identify different opportunities for growth similar to CleanScapes' is one of the signs of a small business in the middle of maturation, according to Inc. The magazine states that once a business has set its roots in an industry it may begin to see how it functions or malfunctions, which can create many opportunities for expansion.

Furthermore, these new insights into the industry can help create differentiating factors. As companies develop and mature, their differentiators start to come out. Inc goes on to explain that "disruptive innovation," which is a way to approach an old problem with a new solution, is a way for companies to differentiate themselves and a sign of developing an identity.

Although all these developments mark change – which is imperative for many small businesses to expand – it's important for SMBs to maintain a dynamic database software to keep track of the day-to-day essentials amidst all this innovation. By seeking FileMaker consultants for custom application development, companies in the middle of puberty stand a better chance at developing than others. 

USPS financial shake ups may have big effect on small businesses

Logistics and operations can make or break a small business, especially as consumers start to become accustomed to the instantaneous conveniences of e-commerce. With the United States Postal Service (USPS) in a state of critical repair, it may give concern to some small businesses to up the ante on order fulfillment and shipment tracking.

Despite the USPS' obvious influence in the day-to-day life of millions of Americans and small businesses, technological advancements as well as consumer expectations have changed the game a little bit. According to a Washington Post article written by Gloria Larkin of TargetGov, many companies have already begun functioning without the historic USPS.

"My business now e-mails invoices and more than 13,000 newsletters instead of using the postal service. While I personally still send an occasional birthday or sympathy card in the mail, other communications with colleagues, friends and family take place via online social networks and e-mail," wrote Larkin.

Although the USPS is not planning to go out of business any time soon, it is proposing major cutbacks in its services. This includes either eliminating or downsizing nearly 250 processing centers as well as getting rid of Saturday mail service, which could help save billions of dollars annually for the postal service and seriously affect the way many small businesses deliver their products.

With the landscape of logistics and communication technologies changing on an almost daily basis, companies should invest in custom application development and dynamic database software to ensure they can accurately keep track of where, when and how products and business essentials are being transported. 

Mobile commerce starts to gain speed amongst consumers and developers

As technologies change more rapidly, the old theory of the diffusion of innovations starts to prove itself correct. According to the diffusion, consumers can be split into five major groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

Their consumption practices function in a bell curve. As the late majority group – who take longer to use or adopt the product or technology than most – makes up the bulk of the demographics with a 34 percent share of a new product or technology's consumption, the innovators – who are oftentimes the ones making the new product or technology – comprise only 2.5 percent as they rest on the outer edge of the bell.

But, nevertheless, as technologies change by the hour this theory continues to hold more water. According to an article by Entrepreneur Magazine, although "mobile commerce" (m-commerce) has been abuzz for quite some time now, it's starting to catch on to the early majority and – pretty soon – the late majority will be purchasing more products on their phone than before.

That being said, many businesses and retailers may want to invest in adopting m-commerce to their business model. According to the article, nearly half of American cell phone users had smartphones back in October 2011. Of those smartphone users, two out of every five used the device to purchase a product in 2011 with 62 percent of Americans open to the idea of using their mobile phone as a purchasing device.

If small businesses wish to get the most out of their new mobile commerce apps or websites, investing in a database software like FileMaker or FileMaker Go for mobile devices, can help them maintain inventory control as well as monitor mobile and brick-and-mortar purchases. Companies who want to invest in this software should see FileMaker consultants

How keeping track of Google Analytics data can help companies

Services like Google Analytics can help a company keep track of many aspects of web analytics, which can provide critical insights into the functionality and performance of a particular website. Inc. Magazine has provided a list of some of the ways Google Analytics can help companies engage in better business practices.

According to Inc., the three top things companies can do to effectively utilize what Google Analytics has to offer is to set up event tracking, track page load time and set the session length to the right amount.

By using "event tracking," business owners can gain clarity as to what a particular viewer does when they're visiting the company's website. Companies can see exactly where potential customers go and look at and will provide insight into what calls for action are useful and which aren't.

Tracking the page load time is very important as a slow loading page is a great way to lose traffic. By keeping steady and consistent track of how long each viewer waits to see a company's webpage can inform if it starts to take too long. If it does, and the website starts to see a drastic drop in traffic, business owners should seek help immediately. Fixing this is a job for an expert.

And thirdly, a session in Google Analytics is – by default – 30 minutes. This means if a particular viewer is active on a company's website for over 30 minutes, their next move will count as a separate view which can drastically distort statistics. By making sure the session is the right length, companies can see accurate statistics of their website.

But, unless companies are entering this information into a custom database that can keep track of averages and trends, this information may just be a set of numbers. Companies may want to see a FileMaker developer to create this custom database software

Small business’ value in job creation a major debate with economists

As the retail and food services industries saw record sales in March and recent employment reports show an actively increasing jobs market, many economists speculate on the role that small businesses really take in job creation. An April 17 article from New York Times contributor and former senior policy-maker for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Bruce Bartlett, commented on the small business sector's role in job creation.

According to Bartlett's article, about 8,350 companies are eligible to be deemed as a small business under the Small Business Association's (SBA) new definitions from 2009. Of that 8,350, roughly 958 companies were previously considered as large businesses.

The article goes on to describe how Oprah Winfrey – a billionaire producer and television personality – only employs about 400 people under her production company, granting her to the right to claim herself as a  small to medium sized business (SMB) and receive the tax cuts and incentives the federal government allows for small businesses that may struggle to employ two or three employees.

The same holds true for the New York Giants, who only list about 210 employees, yet still made $1.3 billion in 2011, allowing them to reap the tax benefits of The Small Business Tax Cut Act as well as the recently passed JOBS Act.

Of course, Oprah and the New York Giants are outstanding examples. Other data shows, though, that the average size of a small business has decreased from 7.5 employees in the 1990s to 4.7 employees in 2011, further complicating the debate on what role the sector plays in the economy and job creation.

As small business' role in the American economy and job market continues to be a hot debate for years to many SMBs may want to invest in the services of software developing companies to create custom database software to help them stay up to date on their employment numbers, growth rates and the tax benefits they may experience. 

March sales indicative of improving economy

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail and foodservices sales rose 0.8 percent in March 2012 from February 2012 and 6.5 percent from March of 2011, which is good news for small to medium businesses as retail and food services makes up at least 70 percent of the economy. Furthermore, another report has shown that companies were "restocked" at a consistent clip in February, suggesting that businesses expect consumer bases to grow in the spring and summer.

According to Bloomberg, the improving job market has given households spending confidence despite rising gasoline prices and a declining housing market. Sales in major consumer product chains such as Gap and Target soared. Even the automotive industry has seen record sales for fuel efficient vehicles in March 2012.

"The industry and consumers have been very resilient in the face of higher pump prices," said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales at General Motors. "The steadily improving economy is playing a role and so is pent-up demand and an improved credit market."

Furthermore, a healing job market is helping increase annual incomes. The job market has increased by 635,000 positions since December 2011 and unemployment fell from 8.5 percent to 8.2 percent. This is also compounded by data showing March of 2012 as the warmest it has been in the past 117 years.

With the weather improving and the job market slowly increasing, many experts believe that the increase in sales will continue. If companies wish to take advantage of the progressing economy they may want to invest a database software to help keep track of inventories and sales may want to consider seeking a FileMaker consultant to implement the increasingly popular business software.