Starting a new business is full of excitement and challenges. There are customers to win, deals to make and a burning need to make a name for the new company.
Having the right mobile technology in place can facilitate all of these things, by helping the fledgling small to medium enterprise (SME) to become efficient, productive and responsive, writes Craige Fleischer, regional director for southern Africa at Research In Motion (RIM).
Start-up firms will often be made up of an entrepreneur and a small team, who are often tasked with playing multiple roles; for example, marketing, finance, IT and sales. They will all be wearing multiple hats, and find there are never enough hours in the day to complete their different responsibilities.
However, small businesses with highly mobile workforces have the sort of agility that enables them to work flexibly and switch roles. It's important for these "virtual offices" to have the ability to communicate in a responsive and timely manner. They need to be connected, staying on top of lead generation and incoming queries, as well as maintaining close contact with geographically dispersed colleagues.
Creating an agile working environment
The beauty of an intelligent mobile system – such as the BlackBerry smartphone platform – is that it will help SME staff to work more efficiently, communicate more closely, and react more quickly to business events, and customer requests.
Smartphones bring the ability to manage cash flow in real time, as employees carry the Web around with them. As a result, the technology can help the company to watch the bottom line and remain solvent.
Smartphone users also have the ability to work from anywhere, remaining in reliable contact with their customers, suppliers and team members. Being connected and available is absolutely critical when time is of the essence. It can make the difference between the business winning or losing a new client, or fulfilling an order on time.
This is one of the key advantages of small businesses: namely, their ability to respond quickly to business events. Having close communication within the team means the business can meet the needs of the customer quickly, respond to an order, answer a query, solve a problem, or ensure the product is delivered on time.
Maximising technology for business growth
BlackBerry applications, such as BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), can help small business owners to stay in touch with all the people who matter to their business. This instant messaging app can facilitate staff and customer communication, collaboration and resourcing, in other words, help to ensure the right people are doing the right thing at any point in time.
With BBM, users can setup groups of recipients designated based on tasks, projects, teams to share calendars, to-do-lists and conversations, all in real-time and at no additional cost. Users can also share presentations, documents, pictures and other files almost instantly for immediate feedback and discussion.
A business that is able to respond intelligently to a situation will have the upper hand competitively. Mobile computing gives employees access to relevant and timely information that will enable them to provide a high quality response. And the company that can move quickly is more likely to secure new business.
Another important strength of enterprise-class mobile technology is that it helps smaller businesses or start-ups to appear larger than they actually are. This empowers them to compete with larger competitors and win new clients by punching above their weight.
Workers live in an increasingly online world. Business people are now using networking tools and social media on a daily basis, as a cost effective way to build their company's name and brand quickly, and broaden their market reach.
Using tools like Twitter and Facebook on a smartphone enables small businesses to create a buzz at virtually no cost, just the investment of their time. Start-ups that are too small to have a dedicated marketing department can achieve a huge splash in the social networking space just by being able to dip into their social marketing apps throughout the day.
Start-ups and small businesses can harness smartphone platforms right now, and benefit from the sort of enterprise features that big businesses are used to, but at a much lower cost. Hosted or cloud-based solutions are also available, especially for smaller companies, which reduce the upfront technology cost.
The right solutions will make it simple to connect smartphones to the company network at no charge and without compromising security. For a relatively small investment, smaller firms can get the benefits that larger businesses enjoy. It's time to grow.