In early 2014, a fundamental shift occurred in the American business landscape. For the first time ever, internet usage on mobile devices exceeded desktop computer usage. While it was inevitably bound to happen sooner or later, it was a monumental moment nonetheless. Over the past four-plus years, smartphone usage is up 394 percent, tablet usage has increased by an astounding 1,721 percent, and 75 percent of all internet active Americans now access at least some web content on a mobile device. And I’m guessing you’re a part of that contingency.
While the average person can certainly extract value from smartphones and tablets, it’s business owners and entrepreneurs who have the potential to gain the most from mobile devices.
Whereas it was once practical to carry around a laptop, the proliferation of smartphone technology has made it less so. People no longer feel like it’s necessary to travel with bulky laptops when they can access the same applications from the smartphone in their pocket.
Leave the Laptop at Home
Next time you step away from work and take a family vacation, you don’t have to worry about leaving your business behind and missing out on the action. Simply download the right apps, set up the correct systems, and you can actually manage your entire business from the palm of your hands. Whether you’re in the streets of Paris or on a beach in California, your smartphone is the only tool you need.
According to Sage CEO Stephen Kelly, this trend of managing a business directly from a mobile device is being accelerated by a generational shift – noting that 50 percent of the population will be millennials by 2020. “We’re seeing an increased number of customers running reports on their smartphones already,” he said. “We’re reinventing the way businesses can be run,” he said (referring to his company’s role in developing business software solutions).
Practical Tips for Managing Your Business On-the-Go
Practically speaking, how does this look, though? What tasks can you handle, which apps do you need, and how much will it cost you? Let’s take a look:
- Start with the Right Device
The first thing you need to do is start with the right smartphone. While there are dozens of different makes and models on the market, there are really only a handful you should consider. For starters, the phone’s operating system needs to run on iOS or Android. Sure, there are other options like Windows OS, Blackberry OS, Palm OS, and a handful of smaller ones, but you want a system that allows you to download any and all apps you need. Go with one of the smaller operating systems and you’ll inevitably find yourself in a situation where you can’t use a particular app.
As for the phone itself, this is less important than the operating system (but still requires careful consideration). Ideally, you should go with the iPhone 6 Plus or a newer Galaxy model. These models have large screens that allow you to do more.
- Set a Budget
How much are you willing to spend on apps? It’s important to figure this out from the beginning, so you can strategically select which solutions you’ll use and which you’ll avoid. If you’re going to be traveling a lot and managing your business from your phone on a semi-regular basis, a liberal budget will more than pay for itself. However, if you only take one or two vacations a year and otherwise handle everything from your computer, don’t go overboard. A couple of quality apps may do the job.
- Find Out What You Can Get for Free
You may be surprised to learn about how many useful business apps you can download for free. For example, Trello – a collaborative project management tool – is completely free. (Basecamp, which is essentially identical, starts at $20 per month). Invoice Ninja – an easy-to-use invoicing app that allows you to work with up to 500 clients – is also free. (Freshbooks costs up to $250 per year for most users). If you’re a QuickBooks user, go ahead and download the accompanying app – it’s included in your monthly fees.
You get the picture. Do some research and find as many free apps as you can and start populating your home screen with them.
- Don’t be Afraid to Spend on Paid Apps
There are times when you need to pay for quality, though. Some free apps simply won’t cut it when you’re trying to successfully run an entire business on your phone. Here are a handful of apps you need to consider:
- TurboScan. You’re going to need some sort of app that lets you scan, save, and email documents or receipts. There are plenty of apps to choose from, but TurboScan is one of the best (and it only costs $2.99).
- TapeACall Pro. If you’re spending time with your family, hitting tourist attractions, or relaxing in a poolside cabana, odds are you’re not 100 percent focused on business phone calls. That’s where TapeACall Pro comes into play. It lets you record your phone’s incoming and outgoing calls. That way you don’t have to scramble to find a pen and paper when something important is discussed. It’s $9.99 well spent.
- ZenPayroll. Need a paperless payroll system that you can manage while you’re on vacation or away from the office? ZenPayroll is cost-effective and extremely intuitive. It automatically calculates income taxes, produces simple pay stubs and abides by all state and federal regulations. ZenPayroll is actually a web-based app, too, which means you don’t need to download anything. It has a $25 base monthly fee, with an additional $4 charge for each employee.
There are obviously hundreds of other useful paid apps on the market. You’ll have to determine your needs and research the best options for each. The good news is that most apps are only a few dollars, meaning you can likely afford anything you find.
- Stay Organized
The key to effectively managing your business from your smartphone is to stay organized. Sometimes it’s counterintuitive to download too many apps. Organize your home screen and make sure you’re able to effortlessly find anything you need on a moment’s notice. You can have the best apps in the world, but they’re useless if you can’t use them properly.
Learn When to Say No
In the end, vacations are meant for relaxation and enjoyment. Don’t get so caught up in managing your business that you overlook this. However, with the right devices and applications, you may also find that taking vacations is more feasible than ever. That’s something everyone in the family can appreciate.