The more you use technology to your business’s advantage, the more possibilities open up.
In our globalized age of handheld devices, work has become dispersed. It’s no longer isolated to a central office or 9-to-5 hours. Personal computers started the shift, but previously bulky devices have become smaller and more powerful, broadening their capabilities and making them easier to use outside of the office. There are already examples of how the handheld device has transformed the face of business, including how I operate my own company (which includes having employees all over the world). But beyond the obvious (making printers irrelevant, making email mobile, using your phone camera as a scanner, simplifying signed documents through PDFs of digital signatures) the compactness of the handheld device and its many apps are not the only ways technology is helping increase our productivity as business owners.
Using the Cloud
Information must be kept somewhere — a book, a library, a hard drive — but the dawn of the cloud means access to everything, everywhere. I can access all of my files, all of the time. Storing data in the cloud through tools like Dropbox allows me to have a remote view of my company.
Having access to the cloud also means that when I board a plane in Pittsburgh bound for Hong Kong, I don’t have to carry client files or a computer with slides for a presentation. Upon arrival, I can pull up current information on a client or a product from a real-time tracking software like Pivotal Tracker, and present a texting campaign from Dropbox through Chromecast. I can upload a client contract to Google Docs, monitor changes and confirm edits remotely with the project’s team. While the remote storage possibilities remove encumbrances like additional computers, what I appreciate most about using the cloud is the ability to continually collaborate despite vast distances between people’s locations.
Having an International Scope
In Asia and other emerging markets, most consumers don’t have the larger legacy devices like desktops, office copiers, scanners or even laptops. However, everyone has a phone.
Beyond Europe and North America, the technology revolution that has swept over the business world skipped straight to cost-effective handheld devices that allow people to do business internationally. For startups and small business owners like myself, this means that emerging markets hold limitless opportunity. I’ve been able to start a business in Thailand, do product testing in China and hold virtual meetings with partners in Jakarta. Our handheld devices have not only made us more efficient; they have also changed our scope so that our productivity has far-reaching effects. Anyone can now invent, produce, market and sell on a global scale.
The most innovative businesses will take advantage of their connections to emerging and foreign markets by not only extending the reach of their products, their access to resources or their comfort of working from beach resorts and mountaintops, but also by enabling and monitoring an international workforce. When my business started, for instance, I looked for employees locally. While we still maintain some face-to-face presence in our business, the majority of our employees now come from all over the world and work from wherever they live. The shift from local to global workers changes not only the cost of the workforce, but also my company’s ability to choose from the most skilled workers rather than those who just happen to live nearby. I’ve been able to select employees who share my company’s vision and work hard to ensure our success; this has proved to be one of the greatest assets of this new technology.
Though international access and reach are clear benefits of this technology, one of the greatest ways I’ve used it to improve my work takes place on a much smaller scale: like many businesspeople, I have two phones. My iPhone is an application-centered device with a user-friendly screen, which allows me to read emails quickly and easily, browse the Internet and generally make the most of visual information. While I use the iPhone almost exclusively for reading, I also have a BlackBerry. Its QWERTY keyboard allows me to respond to email and texts quickly and accurately. Most importantly, I can almost always be talking on one device and using the other to accomplish a different task. By carrying two phones, I have been able to effectively double my efficiency.
By storing information in the cloud, extending the reach of products or services and enlarging the potential pool of employees, as well as combining the features of two phone systems, entrepreneurs like myself can harness the benefits of technology to make their businesses more productive. Though this means we’re never disconnected from work, the upside of these tools is that we can work anywhere, at anytime.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.