(BPT) - While the Great Recession convinced many big corporations to improve efficiency and reduce spending, small businesses have historically known the value of operating 'lean and mean.' Many have never had another option, and have always had to accomplish more with less. Fortunately, technology is making it easier than ever for small-business owners to work smarter and more efficiently - and continue growing their businesses.
According to a recent SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey, small businesses are embracing technology as a tool to improve efficiency, with 76 percent saying they have changed their strategies to adapt to an increasingly technology-based economy.
Online tools in particular are useful, and many small-business owners are turning to online companies for support in key functions like payroll management, selling, communications, meetings and business development. Here are a handful of online tech tools that help small businesses operate cost-effectively:
For file sharing - Thirty-four percent of the business owners polled by SurePayroll use Dropbox, an online file-sharing service. This largely free service (you can upgrade to a paid business account) allows users to upload virtually any type of file to Dropbox's server and then share and access the content from any Web-enabled mobile device anywhere in the world. The business version adds some extra features.
For payroll management - one of the most significant challenges for small-business owners - many SBOs turn to SurePayroll, an all online, wholly owned subsidiary of Paychex, Inc. Managing payroll solo can be costly for a small business - more than $2,600 per year on direct labor alone, SurePayroll's research indicates. Mistakes can boost costs, especially if an SBO runs afoul of tax laws and requirements, and ends up facing IRS penalties.
Outsourcing to an online service such as SurePayroll.com makes processing payroll easy for SBOs. It allows them to remain in control of their own payroll, while doing so affordably, accurately and efficiently. The system pays employees, automatically pays and files payroll taxes, and handles all necessary calculations and reports. Mobile apps allow SBOs to run payroll on the go.
Virtural meetings - GoToMeeting allows users to create a 'virtual meeting' with up to 25 attendees in remote locations by combining visual and audio access. Using their own hardware, attendees can see and hear each other through the GoToMeeting interface and also view the meeting leader's PC screen - a plus if the meeting includes a presentation.
Marketing - can be one of the biggest cost challenges for small businesses. MailChimp allows users to design email marketing campaigns and distribute to user-generated mailing lists. Campaigns can incorporate graphics and other user-friendly elements, and many tools are free as long as your campaigns meet distribution limits. For higher volume distribution, MailChimp offers a range of paid options.
Small-business owners - 84 percent in the SurePayroll survey - say technology, especially online tools, helped their businesses grow. With more tools emerging every year, small businesses are able to operate more efficiently, serving more customers quickly and with lower overhead costs.