In the never-ending battle for productivity and efficiency, new technologies are giving business owners a leg up on the competition.
Whether it's machine learning, artificial intelligence, or a printer/scanner that delivers game changing time savings, new technologies are making life simpler, smarter, and far more organized.
Owning a business comes with myriad responsibilities and small business owners wear many hats. While it is impossible to extend the day, there are ways business owners can be more efficient with their time so they can focus on what is truly important to them.
As Director, Customer Experience at HP, Brandon McGovern is in the business of making sure that small business owners have the tools to work as efficiently and intelligently as possible.
A big part of his job is listening to business owners to find out what makes them tick and what it is they need to work smarter, not harder.
"I'm responsible for looking across our entire customer journey and understanding how we can maximize efficiency and productivity for them," he says. "How do we bring value and satisfy our customers at every single touch point?"
A recent HP study found that 86 percent of small business owners globally own a printer. As such, McGovern is constantly looking for ways to make printers more efficient for greater productivity.
HP's latest small business printer, the new, reinvented HP OfficeJet Pro , allows for seamless printing, copying, and scanning. All of this can be done remotely by smartphone or tablet using the HP Smart app, which also includes time-saving capabilities.
The Case of the 18-step Expense Report
McGovern gave the example of scanning and sending expense receipts, a process that had been a huge drain on productivity. For multiple receipts, McGovern counted an average of 18 steps between putting them on the scanner and uploading them to where they could be reviewed and approved.
"We asked ourselves 'how do we redefine this journey to be far simpler,'" he says. "We developed a solution we call Smart Tasks. "
Smart Tasks is a feature of HP's Smart App which allows owners to access and drive their printer/scanners from anywhere using their smartphones. Smart Tasks used with the OfficeJetPro make the perfect duo for helping small business owners save time and get the most out of their day. Smart Tasks, McGovern explains, allows you to customize different workflows with shortcuts. Once customized, these repetitive tasks can be accomplished in a fraction of the time.
For example, expense reports can be done faster with the ability to remotely scan receipts, then automatically sync content to business software you're already using--like Quickbooks.
So what's the impact of using HP Smart Tasks for expense reports?
"In one click you could have the receipts scanned, named, placed on Google Drive, and have it emailed to your account all at once," he says proudly. "We found that it helps reduce the same amount of time it takes to do a simple scan job--about 50 percent."
What Does Work Smarter, Not Harder Really Mean?
Working a 70-hour week does not make you a better business leader. It makes you a stressed, burned-out business leader. Fortunately there are a host of new technologies designed to improve efficiency and productivity.
What does McGovern think of when he hears the phrase "working smarter, not harder?"
"When I think of 'work smarter, not harder,' a couple of words that really jump out at me are productivity and focus," he says. "How can I be more productive in what I'm trying to do? How can I remove the extra stuff so I can focus and then be more productive with what I'm working on?"
Working smarter, not harder involves both time-saving technologies and behavioral and attitudinal adjustments.
In a recent article on Inc.com, John Rampton, spelled out these "work smarter" hacks:
- Measure your success, not your time. Being tied to your desk for 12 hours does not mean you're getting the job done. Reaching goals does. If goals can be reached by 4 PM, go home!
- Automate more tasks. A variety of software and hardware solutions are designed to do just this. This is where the HP technology and mobile access can come into play.
- Create and stick to a routine. You can carry out tasks faster since you don't have to think about the task.
- Relieve stress. Increase your control of a situation by increasing your control of a situation in advance. This can mean making a to-do list or having your Plan B ready to go.
HP customer and high-end fashion boutique owner Alta Alexander came to entrepreneurship after a long and successful career in public service. She learned quickly there's a big difference between working in a government office and running your own business, almost singlehandedly.
Alexander wears many hats in her business, so anything that saves her time and effort is more than welcome. "I knew going into launching my own business that I would be the office manager, the buyer, the merchandiser, the inventory control specialist and, yes, even the custodian," she says. "There are never enough hours in the day, so you find ways to turn two hours into one."
One of the great timesavers in Alexander's workplace is her HP OfficeJet Pro. She uses it for all of her printing needs, including flyers for the many book signings she holds at her boutique.
While she concedes there are features she hasn't even tried yet, she's already finding it frees up time her old printer never did. One of the features she loves is HP's ink delivery service--Instant Ink. Her printer senses when ink is running low, and HP automatically delivers ink to her door before she runs out.
"I think the worst that could happen is that you're in mid-print and you're out of ink," she says. "That drives me bananas so HP's ink delivery service is a help and not a hindrance, which you're always looking for in business."
Alexander, who is constantly on the move, uses the HP Smart App to handle printing and scanning jobs from the road.
"I love it," Alexander gushes. "There are a ton of features. I love that I can print, scan, and copy right from my phone. It's more than just a time saver. It's a life saver."