How do you Communicate?

We are not talking about person to person communications. How do you communicate with your distributors, suppliers, vendors, employees and customers? These interactions can take many forms. From old fashioned fax to state of the art email systems and everything in-between. I use multiple forms of communications in my daily interaction within my business environment. Using modern technology effectively is a great tool for maximizing profits and minimizing expenses.

In the Warehouse: Are you still walking around the warehouse with a pen and pad trying to keep track of what’s there and what’s not? Think about upgrading your technology there. A tablet PC would be the ideal tool for that. Use a wireless connection to your database server and add inventory items directly into your system. Enter your PO to the vendor on the spot. Why spend time writing everything down just so you can enter it in the system when you’re back behind your desk. Take your desk with you.

In the field: Again, why write things down just so you can call them in or hand your notes to an assistant? Use a smart phone or similar device to make your notes and synchronize them back to the office automatically. Any smart phone worth its salt can sync up with an exchange server and populate a calendar from afar. Does the water schedule need to be adjusted? Or does grove 15 rows 32 to 48 need underbrush cleared away? Is an additional pest control application necessary? Enter the data into your device and within minutes the office will be updated. While at it punch in a quick email to a foreman and within minutes if not seconds it appears on his smart device. I have clients that have 2 computers, a server and over 20 smart devices. The server is necessary to enable that seamless integration between calendars and people.

It is important to remember that 99% of these devices rely on the cellular network infrastructure. So when looking at potential devices make sure that the company you select has ample coverage in your area. There is no sense buying a Sprint MiFi access device only to find out that there is no coverage and the devices are useless. I often hear “I am under contract and can’t change carrier”. Sure you can, there might be a fee involved but that fee is reduced for every month the contract has been in place. The highest termination fee I have ever seen was $ 175.00. In many cases your new carrier will discount the first couple of month of service to win your business and mitigate the termination fees. Ask for it. Don’t walk into a phone store, call the company direct and deal with a small business specialist. Store personnel do not have the latitude to issue discounts and credits. While on the subject, only buy smart devices that will communicate directly with your back office. The iPhone, iPad and Windows mobile phones are ideal choices. While the Blackberry device is nice it does not natively communicate with an exchange server. Depending on the number of devices you might be able to get a loaner from the carrier to test signal strength out in your environment.

Text messaging and instant messaging are other ways you can quickly and in writing convey information to your staff. Did you know that every phone in the US has an email address? Any email send to that phone will be displayed as a text message. The person receiving the message can reply to that and it will come back to you as an email, even if the phone itself does not have email build in. By taking advantage of some or all of these technologies you can stay up to date and in touch even while away from the office. Talk to your technology advisor. Find out how you can stay in touch, streamline operations and make your time more productive. In today’s world people expect instant answers. As business people and employers we need to change from the old paper ways to the new electronic ways. Our customers are no longer willing to wait a couple of days for an answer. They expect answers fast. I routinely answer all incoming emails by 5:00 PM. And why not? I get the customer inquiry and usually answer within 30 minutes. It demonstrates to my clients that they are important. And best of all, they don’t know that I am sitting in Key West sipping some frozen concoction.

So look around you and examine your day to day operations. And then figure out what you waste most time on and start with that item. You be surprised how cheap it can be to buy yourself an extra 30 minutes a day for the important stuff.