How I made my life easier with technology
JBS Financial Strategists chief executive Jenny Brown provides tried and tested checklists and strategies for other small business owners looking to boost their technology capabilities.
Technology has been talked about, almost to death and generally speaking you’re either 100 per cent on board or you’re not. There is that thinking of ‘if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it’ but when it comes to technology, it’s more a case of ‘you just don’t realise that it’s broken’. It’s like looking at the old car window winders; you’d turn and turn and eventually your window would go down but ultimately it did the job. With improvement of technology almost all cars now come standard with electric windows making the job easier and faster. You could still have the old window winder, but why would you want to?
And before you stop reading because you think that I’m just talking about social media, I’m not. Social media can be a technological tool that you can use to build your business, however, if this feels too new age, or if you think you’ve missed the boat, maybe start with other technology first.
Many software systems are going cloud-based, which essentially just means that the information is held in the internet so that information can be retrieved from anywhere. Not only does it promote efficient work practices but also employee retention. Being cloud-based means work can be completed from anywhere. This means that employees could have flexible working arrangements and work from home, and in some instances you may find that work quality and quantity improves from working without office distraction as well as a happier employee. We have a number of our team members who work from home two or three days per week. It saves them travel time, allows them the flexibility to take their kids to school or sporting activities, and the time they spend in the office helps build the relationships and culture with the rest of the team.
Cloud-based programs also give you the freedom to be more flexible with the information and processes you are using. Many integrate with other similar or complementary software so you could have your client database feed into your financial planning modelling, feeding into your fees tracking software that then flows into your accounting software or alternatively, you could consider consolidating into a single software provider such as Xplan, which we use extensively along with Xero for our business financials as it allows data feeds and provides up to date financials at any time.
With the rise in technology due to its necessity in business, many software developers are willing to customise their standard offered to the particular needs of any business which makes incorporating technology into any business an easier step. It’s not an ‘off-the-shelf’ as it once was and can really accommodate almost all of your wish list so that you can improve the processes, build efficiencies and get on with business.
Many small business owners growth their business as a means of saving for the future, with the idea to sell and retire but without the incorporation of technology and client databases, you will find that your final business sale is a lot lower than expected. Electronic client files are expected these days and when you're the one offering paper files from your Datafile cabinets with the alphabet stickers, you’ll either find it difficult to sell or have a drastically reduced valuation.
The introduction of robo-advice only highlights that technology is a force in itself that cannot be stopped. While some may shrug off robo-advice as nothing more than a cheap trick that can’t compete with true financial planning, if nothing else, the fact of its existing and increased use shows that potential clients want this and are in fact embracing technology themselves.
The world is getting smaller, especially in business, and physical location is no longer a barrier to business. Incorporating simple technology like Skype is an easy one; or setting up a Zoom account so that you can do video conferencing, share screens and record your conversations all from the convenience of your office. This means that you can take on that client in another state, catch up with a busy client that just can’t find the time to come in even though they’re only around the corner or even take an extended holiday and have that one important meeting that cannot be missed while in a totally different country.
It doesn’t have to be a giant leap into the big unknown either. Setting up an online portal for clients to access their portfolios plus personal and financial information including all important documents helps to build that fence around them and have you as their go to person.
As someone who has embraced technology and effectively improved process and employee retention through the inclusion of cloud-based software, my biggest pieces of advice would be to:
• Start small and slow
Pick one area, one technology, one change and start with that. Understand what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. You could start with setting up a Skype account or a LinkedIn profile.
Once that has been mastered, then move onto the next one like adopting the use of recording meetings via a Livescribe pen – it helps with file notes and uploads easily to xplan in the notes section.
• Be realistic with timeframes of implementation
Something small like opening a LinkedIn account might only take you an hour to get your details in and something presentable going but if you’re thinking about a full software upgrade and consolidation from the myriad of separate systems into one consolidated system that does it all, expect it to be at least a six-month process to incorporate planning, building or customising, implementation and ironing out any issues.
• Don’t expect it to revolutionise your business in one day
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a major technological change in business. It needs time for it to be implemented, people to use it, to resolve any issues and see the benefit achieved.
There will also be many iterations when setting up templates, tasks and threads – our philosophy is to whiteboard the process, map it out, put the process in place, test and measure, then go back tweak and test and measure over again.
• Give it a chance and don’t write it off and the first hurdle, as there will be some
Sometime when we’ve resisted something for so long there can almost be a bit of resentment and expectation (or eternal hope) that it will fail. If you’re going to start with improving the technological measures in your business you have to be in a frame of mind that allows the improvements to work. There are always going to be problems, issues and tweaks to be made but stick with it as it will eventually work for you. The majority of people in business already using technology to their advantage can't be wrong.
It’s also vital to get buy in from your team, after all, with any large change it will most likely be them doing the work and struggling with the changes and hiccups.
• Talk to others
Get advice from others – those around you – those in your industry as there will be others that have done it all before you. No need to invest in the wheel, but rather work smarter be utilising others mistakes as well as wins to work out what will be the best fit for you. Join the various forums/groups around on LinkedIn so you can ask questions on what works best and best practice.
Ultimately, the world is changing and if you want to continue to operate and build a more efficient and client-focused business then you have to embrace technology. If you don’t feel that you can make the advancement then maybe being in business in this modern world isn’t for you. The rate that the different technologies that we use increases is astronomical and be not embracing it now you will be soon so far behind that you’re just unable to catch up.