Entrepreneurship is not a 9-to-5 job. Never has been. But in today's hyperconnected world, running a business requires an "always on" mindset and fortunately, there are a number of mobile tools that to do just that.
As the CEO of a technology company that empowers small business owners to simplify their workflow and step away from the desk, it probably comes as no surprise that much of my job happens outside of the confines of the office. Although there are many business-related activities where a desk cannot be replaced, I have leveraged mobile technologies to stay on top of the business with greater ease and efficiency. This has the added benefit of carving out more time to do what I love: building great products, talking with customers, working with employees, and spending time with my family. Mobile has been a game changer allowing me to be a better CEO and a better husband/dad.
Compared to all of the apps available today, my earliest relationship with mobile technology seems no more advanced than two cans and a string. Since its origin, the technology has advanced leaps and bounds in a short time. Mobile has offered both consumers and professionals new ways to organize and navigate their busy lives.
For me, mobile computing has dramatically affected the way I manage several areas of my business: communication, time management, organization, and payments.
Before mobile computing became ubiquitous, these activities often required several points of contact between telephone, desk, and computer. Now it's just one - and I take it everywhere I go.
As a business owner, most of what I do on mobile devices tends to fall, in one way or another, into the communication category. This is an area most businesses already understand well and where the use of mobile communication platforms has become universal.
In my experience, whether it is an email, text (only if it's urgent), or even the attendance of a web meeting, the true value of mobile communication is that I can do it from anywhere. This ability allows me to make the most of my time, especially in instances of travel when I need to make a meeting and communicate while in route.
Technologies like Webex, GotoMeeting, Hipchat, and Skype allow me and my team to be virtually present during a meeting that one could not attend. Although a virtual presence does not replace the effect of an in-person meeting, these tools are the next best thing. Documents are shared, people collaborate both online and on the phone and when necessary, it is easy to do a video call. The tools lead to more productive and open conversations. For example, when having an important call with a customer, we use tools like Hipchat so that we can have sidebar conversations real-time. Often times this changes the dynamic and the result of the call.
Time, for a lack of a better word, is money.
Managing my time has always been of great importance to me, and the less time I spend behind my desk, the harder it becomes. Luckily, mobile computing has not only solved this problem but has actually given me even greater control over my time, and in ways I never thought possible.
For example, the ability to carry a calendar around at all times has dramatically changed the way I do business. The convenience of organizing my day from anywhere and at any time, coupled with the reassurance that my calendar is synced via the cloud, has saved me a great many hours over the years, not to mention headaches. Additionally, having my whole organization operate in this way has led to a more efficient use of time across all departments. Someone 3,000 miles away can schedule an impromptu meeting or, if lucky, cancel an unnecessary one. This kind of remote collaboration allows us to book internal meeting quickly and much more efficiently than before, sparing us all the headaches of coordinating across individual calendars.
Staying organized is essential in the fast pace business environment we live in today. As a business owner, there are dozens of tasks and initiatives taking place across a company at any given time. It is your job to remain informed and to keep tabs on those activities. This means sharing files, approving documents, reading reports and so on. In order to keep my work organized, I have relied on some great mobile applications.
Collaboration and content management tools like Evernote, Docusign, and Box can be lifesavers. Now, I can organize and manage my thoughts and to-do's with my staff from anywhere, I can review contracts and sign them at any time and can access all sorts of files from the web. All on my mobile phone. These technologies mean that I no longer have to lug around a heavy briefcase full of the day's paper work. Now, I leave my office with just a phone in my pocket. Talk about liberating.
Organization also means keeping track of expenses. Receipts are easily lost and can come back to bite you at the end of the month if not managed properly. This is true even when you're the CEO. With apps like Tallie or Expensify, I can just take a picture of the receipt and it's automatically uploaded into an expense report. It's truly never been easier. As a business owner, this means time saved and more accurate expensing, both great resources to have.
In the past, managing these activities would take hours of dreaded "desk work" and result in stacks of paper that can fill filing cabinets in no time flat. Being chained to desk every Friday to pay bills is something I hear from business owners and finance professionals everywhere. Recently, new mobile payment solutions have eliminated much of this work for both individuals and businesses alike.
Applications like "e-wallets" and merchant platforms such as Square and Stripe have liberated companies from expensive, traditional merchant payment systems. Now, any business can accept credit card payments right from their mobile phone.
On the flipside, mobile technologies have also changed the way owners pay bills. This area is of particular interest to me. Bill payments have traditionally been regarded as the most mundane of desk work. Now, I can manage my entire A/P and A/R bills from a mobile app and pay with just the click of a button, anytime anywhere.
The ability to stay on top of bill payments with a mobile device is a game changer. For the "always on" business owner, having clear optics on your cash flow at any given time - and being able to make payments - allows me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business and be a more effective leader.
Every day, mobile will continue to reshape the way we do business. As an owner, it is your responsibility to use the best tools available in order to stay ahead of the competition. Today, that tool is mobile. So next time you find yourself at a desk ask yourself, 'can I be doing this someplace else?' You never know when a little flexibility might prove to be the key to success.