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Smart for business?

Written by Joe Jeffrey on Thursday, 03 April 2014. Posted in Apps & gadgets, Technology

Entrepreneurs are getting savvier at using smartphones to help run their businesses. Thinking of increasing presence and revenue? There’s an app (or hundreds) for that

Smart for business?

It’s safe to say that mobile phone technology has evolved since its birth, just over 40 years ago in New York City with the release of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X – a mobile weighing in at over a kilogram and sounding like something more akin to a device capable of nuclear war as opposed to one designed for cellular communication.

Fast-forward four decades. Bearing in mind the recent acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook for a cool $19bn, there’s no denying that apps and the smartphones that go with them are big business. So big in fact that it’s estimated the mobile app industry will be worth $30bn by next year. And for good reason. Be it the latest Angry Birds installment or the most recent update of Citymapper, there’s something for everyone. And that includes SMEs. And cats. Yes seriously, cats. 

With 51% of SME owners in the UK dependent on the use of smartphone apps to help run their businesses, according to a survey by PeoplePerHour.com, it’s evident that oodles of entrepreneurs are embracing technology. The same survey revealed that among the 2,000 business owners interviewed, two-thirds rely on apps to run their business on the move and three-quarters of entrepreneurs use smartphone apps daily to improve productivity. Similar to the demise of DynaTAC, it may be that the once must-have PCs, scanners and fax machines will become obsolete to make some space for their more compact successors.  

“Smartphones are the new personal computer; they’re more connected than ever,” says Desire Athow, editor of website TechRadar Pro. “They are often as powerful as their desktop counterparts and are feature-packed. In addition, a lot of enterprise business applications now run on smartphones as well. Most importantly though, users within businesses embrace these technologies rather than being reluctantly driven to adopt them.

“You can already connect your smartphone to two screens, a keyboard and a mouse, essentially turning it into a desktop computer,” Athow continues. “Add in access to cloud services and enterprise-grade features and you have a versatile, affordable, business-ready platform.”

It’s no longer a matter of waking up at the crack of dawn religiously every day, riding the train with the other cattle and rocking up at 9am to log on to a clunky machine, as Luke Barlow, co-founder of Tufferman – a multi-purpose shelving company – can attest.

“We all go into the office for a couple of days and then work remotely for the remainder of the week, using Skype for conference calls, checking documents on PDF-viewing apps and, obviously, using the phone to make calls. The good thing is all of this can be done using one device,” he says.

It doesn’t stop there, though, as Barlow explains. “These days, smartphones have got absolutely everything on them. The apps we use now, like XpenseTracker, which accounts for company expenses, such as mileage receipts and so on, save so much time,” he says. “Then there’s Business Card Reader Pro, which is a business card scanner – it’s ideal for trade shows; you take a photo of a business card and it scans the info direct to your contacts. You never have to have a fax machine or scanner either – the iPhone has replaced it all.”

When running a business solo, it’s not uncommon to miss a call. But missing the wrong one could have dire consequences for the business. That’s why Melissa Edmunds, owner of Safesip and inventor of non-spill drink covers by the same name, signed up to RingCentral – a cloud-based mobile phone app, which provides a variety of tasks for business owners and entrepreneurs on the move. RingCentral also allocates a cloud-based telephone number to the user when calling out on a mobile. 

“When I attended my son’s sport’s day and the phone rang, I knew immediately that it was a work-related call by the ringtone,” says Edmunds. “The call related to an opportunity to trial Safesip with the NHS. I would have missed the call but RingCentral makes it look like I’m always in the office when, in this instance, I was standing in the middle of a field, which makes you look more professional.”

Incidentally, off the back of the call from the NHS that day out on the field, Edmunds’ Safesip is soon to trialed by the NHS – in both hospitals and in the community – amongst patients with Parkinson’s disease and similar disorders that can potentially cause difficulty gripping and sipping.

Barlow agrees that the advent of new technology enables entrepreneurs to be more accessible to customers. “From a commercial perspective you can be more reactive, which means you can certainly increase revenue,” he says. “There’s no real skin off your nose to work whilst you’re on the train, or anywhere, and still be able run the business.”

The must-have apps

Any.do

Already downloaded and used by millions, the award-winning Any.do is a simple but effective to-do list app. With quirky little features such as shake to clear completed tasks, as well as simple user-friendly interface, it looks like a winner to us.

Available on both Android and iOS

Evernote

The behemoth of note-taking apps, Evernote, offers everything you could ask for in an instant. Powerful search functionality, clear and friendly presentation, as well as the ability to attach photos or audio clips to your notes makes this an app to be reckoned with.

Available on both Android and iOS

XpenseTracker

XpenseTracker is an all-inclusive (yep, you guessed it) expense tracker, with a reporting application for your business needs. Simple to use, but packed full of features, this app will even track your mileage – ideal for when the tax man comes a-knocking.

Available on iOS only

Genius Scan – pdf Scanner

A scanner in your pocket – who would’ve thought that a few years ago? Providing the ability to scan documents on the go and export them as JPEG or multi-page pdf files, is it any wonder Genius Scan has over 11 million users? 

Available on both Android and iOS

RingCentral

Want to make a small business look like a big one? RingCentral could help with access to a dedicated business telephone number and various advanced calling features such as conference calling and a call attendant. 

Available on both Android and iOS 

About the Author

Joe Jeffrey

Joe Jeffrey

Having escaped the rat-race of asset management in the City, Jeffrey decided to follow his true passion by changing careers and stepping into the world of journalism. When not writing about start-ups, SMEs, technology and music, he enjoys socialising on as many occasions as his wallet will allow, walking his dog, Chewie, and getting down with the kids by listening to hip-hop.

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