Growth is like catnip for companies--especially small ones just getting off the ground. But as any successful entrepreneur knows, there's a downside to expansion: bad hires, faltering customer service, diminished product quality, and skyrocketing expenses, to name a few. There's always the niggling fear that the growth rate is not sustainable.
I don't have a foolproof solution to these very real problems for growing businesses. What I do have, though, is some advice: avoid getting on the wrong side of technology. By this I mean, it's easy to get caught up in the heady "Big Picture" stuff of building a business. And with that, it's just as easy to overlook the great new technologies that roll out almost every day. These apps and services can help you manage the day-to-day operations that, when overlooked, can lead to bigger business problems down the line.
The first step is to start thinking about rapid changes in technology as an ally. New, often inexpensive tools can help you stay focused on your long-term objectives, not distract you. By harnessing the most cutting-edge applications and inviting the best technology into your company's daily workflow, the bottom line won't suffer. Granted, a few killer apps aren't going to make or break your business, but they will make rote operations smoother and more effective as your company experiences its inevitable growing pains.
Here are three applications every entrepreneur behind a growing business should have in his or her pocket:
Expense Management on the Go.
Costs can get quickly out of control when business starts to boom, in part because there are so many competing priorities. But here is where expense management becomes critical--and, actually, quite simple. Applications like Concur let employees snap photos of receipts and upload expense reports quickly. In turn, managers can approve or reject reports from their smartphones. Concur's platform also provides help with business travel expense management in detailed ways to be sure every penny is accounted for. The Concur mobile application is free with its Web-based tool; a small-business edition costs $8 per user per month.
The Mind Tracker.
More often than not, I get a burst of inspiration when I'm biking to work or running on the treadmill. Exercise and movement activate a flood of thoughts for me. The only problem is that as the thoughts collect, they can get jumbled. When I have a week full of meetings coming up, I have very little time for jumbled thoughts.
To keep things on track, I use Mindjet. The application is generally PC-based, but its free mobile application component allows me to manage projects and align workflow on the go. With the help of Mindjet, I feel like all of my projects are organized and I can collaborate with other employees to create and complete important tasks.
Watch Your Company Grow.
One platform I've come to love lately is Salesforce 1, from cloud-services company Salesforce. While the application is certainly chock-full of tools to create and manage in-house applications, I like it on a more basic level: It allows me to track our clients. I can log on and follow their progress from initial contact to final sale. The more interest we get, the less I am able to keep track of each customer the way I used to, so Salesforce 1 gives me that visibility.
I also use Salesforce 1 to post helpful links or just to stay in touch with my internal team. This allows me to maintain contact with a growing employee base. Other enterprise social applications, such as Tibbr and Yammer, can help keep the communication lines open as you grow, as well. Regardless of the application, it's important to maintain a level of connectivity or else you are sure to lose the personality of your business as you scale.