Growing a business isn't going to make anyone's Honey-Do list. It's stressful, difficult, and all-encompassing. Not only do you need to build a product and staff you can be proud of, you've also got to find customers, win their business, and keep them happy. And with limited time and resources, you're forced to juggle multiple tasks and roles, so it's easy to get distracted from the most high-value activities. Nope, this is not a simple check-the-box activity. What you need is a list of ways to improve efficiency, while still making smart business decisions... Great news: It's here--5 ways to grow your business smarter.

Keep it simple. When you're this busy, there aren't enough hours in the day for tools that take a long time to set up or require complex deployment efforts. When you purchase new technologies, you need to prioritize solutions that are easy to maintain so you won't have to use precious time upgrading and keeping them up-to-date. And it's not just easy setup and maintenance that's important. You need easy, intuitive products, so you can quickly onboard new users without a lengthy training process.

Go mobile. This shouldn't come as a surprise: When your team is small and everyone wears a lot of hats, you never know when--or where--you'll be needed. Thanks to today's smartphones, we can handle business needs both simple and complex from anywhere. But all mobile solutions are not created equal; there's a big difference, for example, between viewing spreadsheets versus technologies that are designed with mobile in mind. Find a solution with a mobile-first mentality and you'll future-proof your business.

Automate, automate, automate. Repetitive tasks are the mortal enemy of growing businesses. You've got to find a way to alleviate them so you could focus your efforts on the more impactful activities. Many of today's technologies are designed so that even the most technically-challenged people can set up workflows and automations that can save huge amounts of time. Start simple and work your way up to the more complex variations. Automation is also key to scaling your team easily through growth.

Connect your apps. When you're running a small business, it's easy to feel like you're constantly moving from one fire to the next. But if you purchase technology solutions to solve the problem of the moment, you may find yourself six months down the road with a set of point solutions that don't connect with each other. Your data is now siloed and you can't get the kind of customer visibility that you need to fend of the competition. Investing in a platform makes it easy to integrate and share data across apps. It can also make it easier to expand your business and be ready for the future.

Try artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is here, and it's spectacular. (Sidenote: Did you know you can have pizza delivered by drone?) AI tools can identify patterns in your business, predict what will happen next, recommend best actions, and even automatically take care of some of them for you--perfect for time-strapped small businesses. Your customer service team, for example, can know when a customer is unhappy, before that customer speaks up, and send an offer or discount to head off an unhappy situation. Pretty amazing.

Even as technology advances, small businesses continue to have the same challenges, no matter the industry. They need to do more, sell more, and work faster--all with fewer resources. Luckily new technologies can help you work more efficiently and keep your business focused on the activities that will really move the needle for you. What are your own secrets for working smarter?

Published on: Dec 2, 2016