Small Business Week: The Passion and Tools to Make Your Business Great

This year’s Small Business Week, May 20-26, is filled with helpful workshops, inspirational success stories and glimpses into the technology that will power small companies into the future. With this exciting week on the horizon, I encourage you to dedicate some time to strategizing on how you can take your business to the next level.

Part of great business success comes from having the passion, planning and drive to achieve it; the other part comes from incorporating the right tools. Below are three key technologies, along with resources providing information on how to leverage them to take your small business from good to great.

· Cloud. Cloud computing has completely transformed the ways in which we work and play. Cloud technologies like Microsoft Office 365 save businesses money, streamline their technology needs and operations, boost collaboration and provide considerable return on investment. When employees and business owners are freed from the tasks of IT maintenance and management, they can put their focus and investments back into their core business. I encourage you to explore this free cloud computing guide, developed in partnership with American Express OPEN, to help you navigate the cloud computing landscape.

· Mobile. By creating a strategy for mobile devices—mobile phones, smartphones, laptops and tablets— you can improve your business, extend your marketing strategy’s impact and become more accessible to customers. To make the most of mobile, business owners need to understand the full potential of the technology. For instance, today’s smartphone has the capability of being a computer, camera, communications system, presentation device, payment service and GPS. However, nearly half of the decision-makers in small and midsized businesses recently surveyed by Microsoft said they don’t use a smartphone—and among those who do, eight in 10 use it only for checking email. To learn more about harnessing the power of mobile, read this case study on how one small company transitioned to mobile and completely transformed its business.

· Online Presence. With consumers so highly connected with each other through smartphones, tablets and laptops, their conversations about your business can rapidly make you or break you. So, what are your customers saying about you? And, more important, how should you respond? Through sponsorship from Microsoft, the founders of MyWebCareer created Brandify, a tool that tells you about your online presence, and offers tips on what you can do about it. If you’re wondering how to get started in building an online presence or getting your online brand back on track, this free tool can help.

While these tips and tools will help you get started on the journey toward transforming your small business, I hope the energy and excitement of Small Business Week will spark your passion and drive to achieve greatness. Learn more here about Small Business Week and ways you can get involved.

For more tips and information on how technology can support you and your business, follow me on Twitter(@Cindy_Bates) or follow Microsoft SMB on Twitter (@MicrosoftSMB) and Facebook (Microsoft SMB).