Even in a recession, I was lucky enough to have a company that was growing—quickly. We were adding customers, suppliers, employees and partners faster than I could giggle. In response to this, my business partner, Stephanie, and I focused on our business processes and, as part of that, moving most of our business infrastructure into the cloud to keep on growing for years to come.
Managing a fast-growing business is a lot like running on a treadmill–the pace of your business growth is like the speed of the treadmill. If you’re well-organized and in good shape, you can keep up as the treadmill/your business quickly speeds from walk to gallop. If you’re not, you’ll eventually fall down as the treadmill/your business speeds out from beneath you.
How do you keep from falling down as things speed up? You keep your organization in good shape and “agile.” I have done this by doing three main things, which include using cloud services:
1. Define my key business processes. We try to have a “way” of doing just about everything in our business, from how we answer the phone to how we manage content on our website. We are constantly trying to define all the steps that go into each of our key activities, figure out who’s responsible for what, when and why. This is definitely a work in progress–especially when the business is growing fast. But by creating processes that are defined enough to be written as a list of actions in order, everything you need to do to grow becomes much easier, from training employees to buying services and software and creating a slogan.
2. Work smart before I work hard. I am always looking for ways to automate repeated tasks using software, or preferably, cloud services. I drive myself and my employees to become smarter about how we do things. This is actually one of the main things that separate successful businesses from those that eventually fail, and as such, is something you’ve always got to work on. I like to use software and gadgets to work smarter, but sometimes it may be how you delegate/assign tasks or train your staff that result in the greatest impact on your business growth.
3. Share my process information in the cloud. I have found that the single biggest driver of business agility, which is the ability to grow, is the “shareability” of business tools, information and initiative/ideas. When you enable your key business processes using cloud services, you are not only able to automate something you used to do manually, but you are also able to share more easily the information that comes out of those processes with the people that need to act on it. Cloud-based services are designed to simplify accessing key information and tools via any Web-connected device (e.g., a computer, tablet or mobile phone) as well as collaborate with your team, clients or partners around that information quickly. Decisions can be made faster with better information, activities can happen more quickly and your business can grow naturally.
My research shows that like me, many of my small business sisters and brothers also have their heads in the cloud. In fact, some 40 percent of owners and decision-makers of companies with 5 to 99 employees have cloud priorities for 2012 (20 percent are doing so to lower costs and 19 percent are doing so to add flexibility). But only about half that number of very-small or home-based businesses with 5 or fewer employees have the same goals. The reality is that even tiny companies can benefit from the right cloud services.
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