Nearly every small business owner has to mind the bottom line carefully. Cash flow is almost always tight, and so every expense warrants scrutiny. When a small business owner sees something that appears unnecessary on a budget, the reflex is often to cut it out. Unfortunately, this reflex can often set back small businesses, because they’re not looking far enough into the future.
One large expense many small businesses wrestle with is providing employees with smartphones. The smartphone has become a staple technology, yet many small businesses are unwilling to pay employees’ monthly bills. Since startup employees typically aren’t mobile, there seems no need to keep them constantly in touch with a smartphone. Plus, many of them will bear the costs themselves, so why offer to pay?
Why offer to pay? Because the smartphone can be crucial to a small business’s success. It might not seem obvious at first, but there are a number of reasons why small businesses should ensure that their employees have smartphones.
1. Flexibility and organization
One of the most valuable traits for any small business is flexibility. In many ways small businesses cannot afford the rigidity of large corporations. They don’t have the financial might to power through certain obstacles, so they must have the flexibility to circumvent them. The greatest way to achieve flexibility is through organization. The highly organized small business will stand a greater chance of weathering tough times.
A smartphone’s personal information management, or PIM, applications allow employees to remain highly organized. When a company supplies its employees with smartphones, they also imply an obligation to use them. By keeping important dates in line, including deadlines, small businesses can move with efficiency. The smartphone also keeps the employees connected at all times. This isn’t to say that they should work around the clock, but rather that they can be reached when necessary.
There are many instances where employees cannot make it to work. The New York City area was recently hit with a devastating hurricane, leaving many without power and access to transportation. Small businesses kept chugging along, though, because their employees were able to work from home. Part of the reason was they all had smartphones, which helped them access information normally stored on their office computers.
2. Customers use smartphones
Small businesses need to find any means possible to identify with prospects. It is through identifying with them that they can effectively market to them. And it’s not until the marketing phase that the prospect realizes his or her desire for the product. It’s a long, complicated process, and small businesses should embrace any means of making it simpler. Equipping employees with smartphones is a step in that direction.
Analysts forecast next year alone that consumers will buy 1.2 billion smartphones and tablets. That doesn’t even take into account consumers who purchased smartphones this year, who won’t be upgrading until 2013. Billions of prospects worldwide use smartphones, and small businesses can leverage this fact by familiarizing employees with them. The more ways in which an employee can relate to a prospect, the greater chances they can find common ground. Sales typically occur when salesperson and prospect find common ground.
Smartphones also help companies more effectively market to prospects. Mobile websites, apps, and social media are staples of modern marketing. By arming employees with smartphones small businesses afford them an opportunity to dig in deep and learn how to use these marketing tactics. One big reason is because the phone comes from the company. Employees might be less likely to learn if doing so on a personal phone.
Sales are the backbone of any small business. Without sales there is no money, and without money there is no business. Every small business must sell or it is no longer a business at all. Just as small businesses must remain flexible with operations, so it must remain flexible with sales. If there is any obstacle between the prospect and the sale, the prospect likely will not turn into a customer. Smartphones can now help eliminate many obstacles.
Imagine a sales employee traveling around with the ability to sell to anyone, at any place, during any time. Not only that, but imagine that payment is instant. There is no need to input customer information, nor is there any real barrier to the sale. It just involves swiping the customer’s credit card. This is possible now with mobile payment systems. These are units that attach to a smartphone, and allow salespeople to ring people up, as though they were at a real cash register.
Intuit is one company leading the field here, with their Go Payment unit. They keep a mobile payments blog that can help explain exactly how small businesses benefit from using these new devices. Of course, they’re only good with a smartphone. They’re just another good reason for small businesses to invest in smartphones for their employees.
Yes, the monthly bill for a smartphone, roughly $100 US per person, can look like a weight on the bottom line. But there are too many advantages to smartphone ownership. Smart small businesses will see this cost as an opportunity to make employees more organized and flexible, while allowing them to gain common ground with prospects and generate sales. Instead of being a cost, smartphones should be viewed as investments.
Author Bio: Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits, and consults for several technology blogs across the web. He keeps a personal blog at JoePawl.com.