Technology, please: Using online productivity tools to do better in business

With a friend, I built kitchens and bathrooms. That was fun, and almost a hobby rather than a business—though not intentionally so. We would wait for money to come in, spend many unhealthy hours with a phone seemingly stuck to the side of our heads, and pay multiple visits to customers before jobs to plan, discuss and change plans again.
If only I knew then what I know now.
It wasn’t that we didn’t know about technology—hey, we had mobile phones and used email! And as fast as technology moves, even that short time ago there were tools that would have made our lives so much easier. But we did things the hard way.
We would sketch designs until we ran out of paper, rather than use any of the many free online planning tools widely available. We’d trip over duplicate emails because we weren’t synced up. (I replied to the email; he replied to the same email. How professional is that? Not so much, I agree.) We chased payments. On foot, sometimes.
So would I do it again? Absolutely. But I’d do it so much better.
Knowing what I now know about all the amazing productivity tools available to small business owners (from GoDaddy and other companies), I’d work smarter — using technology to save time and money (not to mention the environment), communicate more effectively, and get paid faster. Here’s how.  
I’d leverage the cloud.
Back then I didn’t know that moving everything to the cloud — our designs, photographs, contracts, etc. — would have saved us lots of mileage. I could have accessed the customer’s paperwork from the office, my car, even my customer’s house. Then—get this—have my customer sign off on plans, contracts, and so on, and then send it all back to the office for instant printing.
There are a number of free and reasonably priced cloud storage products on the market, including Microsoft One Drive™, Apple’s iCloud™and Google Drive™. You can learn more about cloud-based productivity here.
I’d be sweet on productivity suites
In addition to online storage capabilities, there are a few really excellent tools available to help small biz owners communicate and quickly and easily, no matter where you are, including:
Microsoft® Office 365 from GoDaddy. In retrospect, I realize the only real benefit to the free email account I used for my business was the price. A business-class solution like Microsoft’s popular Outlook® would’ve enabled me to sync my email, calendar and contacts across all my devices. Plus, this productivity suite includes Office standards such as Word®, PowerPoint® and Excel®. (Old me: “But I am a Mac user, and that’s Microsoft!” New me: “Yeah, and it all works on a Mac, too.”)
Google Docs. Intuitive (and free), Google Docs™ is a wholly cloud-based productivity suite that makes it easy to create and share word processing documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations.
— LibreOffice. In the true spirit of collaboration, LibreOffice is the open source alternative to the bigger productivity players. The free, downloadable software features its own word processing, spreadsheet, drawing and presentation apps — plus a really cool mathematics editor.
I’d take my invoicing and bookkeeping online.
It’s hard to believe how much time and energy I wasted chasing payments and rounding up receipts for tax time. With products like Square®, Stripe® and Get Paid, you can take customers’ payments with your smartphone. And products such as Online Bookkeeping, Quicken® and Mint® make managing small business finances simple so tax time doesn’t equal stress time.
The mental edge
It’s not possible to list all of the tools and resources available to help small businesses get more done in less time with fewer headaches. And, naturally, it’s horses for courses—what works for me might not work for you. But what can’t be denied is that we need to make use of what’s available in this era of technology. A pencil and paper really does have its limitations.
Sitting here, writing this down, a thought crosses my mind: all of this technology is going to make me feel more professional, too. Strange, that knowing I’ll have this technology working alongside me will make me feel as though I am running a business far bigger that it actually is. Offering me resources that I didn’t even contemplate the first time around. Productivity suite? Check. Financial management package? Check. Complete email package? Check.
Hmm. I’m forgetting something … Oh, yeah—hammer and nails.
Peter Dillon was transplanted from Wales, UK, about 10 years ago and joined the GoDaddy family in 2010. A specialty trainer, Peter loves education and enjoys being on both sides of the desk—knowing that there is not only always something to learn, but there is always something that can be taught. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.