Let’s talk about how your own business apps can work together to create an optimized system.
Whatever the specific function, in any size company in search of a solution for any variety of challenges, there will constantly be new software solutions coming onto the market to solve them. There’s simply no looking back at the traditional techniques of pen and paper.
Bill Furlong, founder, and CEO of SquareStack and author of “Appify Your Business” says many small business owners now are solopreneurs, where they're the one-person shop, and they contract out to a variety of workers, or they're just a small company, and they want to run and own the whole financial cycle of the company.
“The idea of working from a register, checking your bank account online, and mailing checks out is inefficient compared to the new way,” he says.
“In markets like landscaping when you’re out with your sleeves rolled up and dirty fingernails and outside all day, you may not think that moving to the software way of doing things is worth your time and investment, but believe me after the first learning phase, it’s so easy,” Furlong says. When you take a look at the first learning timeframe of a few hours of training either by the app company itself or self-learning tutorials, that commitment of moving to the software first or digital first, will only buy you more time and make you more money.”
The cloud revolution has allowed the creation and scaling of every business’s tech stack. Business app, as another term gaining traction, guides me to rename the tech stack to a more relevant parlance, the AppStack. A standard AppStack can comprise business apps in the following areas: banking, Facebook, Google, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Twitter and more.
In his own stack, Furlong has expense management software, Concur, customer relationship management (CRM) Solution, Crisp Chat, marketing software, Adobe Creative Suite, portals like Business.com and Expedia for content and travel respectively, and, finally, all his bank and credit-line password-protected admin sites.
It’s all about the money, the margin.
“In terms of time, a business that does it the old way and switches to the new way creates a reduction of about 60-70% of time. So that time you can go out and monetize out in the field doing projects. Literally 15 minutes a day for a small business owner is getting money back in your pocket,” Furlong says.
For most small businesses with under 10 people, the owner is an operator.
“When you look at that, the more time you spend in an administrative non-billing function, the less money your company is making,” he says. “I talk to small business owners every day. My time is money. So, if I can save half an hour in administrative duties -and this is what GreenApps addresses- then I can bill out that 30 minutes to a paying customer.”
That's the sort of simplistic math around how a more efficient system of record for all your software will save you time, thus, money.
However, Furlong says the second and more long-term implications are, by understanding all the data of a company, such as knowing how many new followers you have on your Facebook page, to how many people are opening your newsletter, to how much is available on your line of credit, an owner can visualize, in their own strategic way, the health of their business and can start understanding the data implications of their business.
Furlong finds it surprising how many small business owners don’t realize they already have a rudimentary AppStack in place.
“They also don’t realize that they’re already investing a decent amount of money in software and managing many of their routine activities via their AppStack,” he says. “Many of our readers of Green Industry Pros already have systems in place, but there is that section, mostly boomers, its generational- that may not want to embrace the digital first way, but clearly the younger generation, the successor to the family businesses, the millennials, they’re digital first and get it.”
The business app landscape is well on its way to being an expansive ecosystem, comprising many business categories and subsequent software solutions.
“The primary takeaway is to understand that you must own and operate your very own AppStack,” Furlong says, which is what GreenApps does for the green industry. “Even as a small company, you need a robust technology enterprise that, in turn, you must manage, assess, and optimize for the good of your business. Tending to it must be as routine as reviewing your bank statement, checking inventory, and the daily team meeting. These are the table stakes in today’s small business environment.”
Furlong says the financial function is the best place to start your AppStack. “You save time here and will save money,” he says. “Start by making sure you’re completely connected to your bank, credit cards, and lines of credit via their SaaS and mobile applications.”
From that point, Furlong says contractors should investigate, research, and add to your business AppStack smartly in areas like expense management, vendor payment systems, shipping and postage, and ecommerce.
A few simple action steps to take now are writing down all the apps you have on your phone and laptop. Also add any vendor websites you utilize in the course of a workday, like banks, suppliers, or business media websites.
Then start assigning each of these apps to the following categories that best designate them: Accounting and finance, business intelligence and analytics; collaboration; communications; customer relationship management; design and production; email; human resources and employee relations; information technology; legal; marketing and advertising; productivity and project management; recruiting and outsourcing; retail and ecommerce; sales; security; shopping; social media management; startup planning; travel and hospitality; and website development and management.
“This isn’t something that is going to just happen overnight and that’s why GreenApps is this long-term commitment to really put into focus the implications of the small business’s data. And of course, we are going to be educating and sharing best practices,” says Furlong. “We’re going to be this community of knowledge sharing so that the users of GreenApps will learn from the whole community.”