Smartphones are everywhere. We see them in the office, the airport, and even outdoors. With the growing popularity and expanding features these advanced mobile devices offer, small- to mid-sized business (SMB) owners use them on a regular basis to manage operations.
Many professionals take advantage of the capabilities smartphones have to offer. In speaking with several business owners, it is clear they rely on these devices to do everything from email clients and staff, track expenses, book reservations, share photos, resolve a pressing issue, or collaborate on a project.
Keep in Touch, Maintain a Presence
Sarah Shipley owns Bo Peep Boutique, an established children’s clothing store in Quesnel, BC, Canada. She has three employees and uses a Research in Motion Limited BlackBerry Bold 9700 to market her business through social media. “I use my BlackBerry to Tweet and update my Facebook page,” says Shipley. “Twitter and Facebook for BlackBerry are both valuable tools for business,” she adds.
Shipley’s primary use for her smartphone is email communication and texting. “I love BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). One of my employees has a BlackBerry, and I have a well-organized list of contacts that do as well. This saves on overall texting fees,” she shares. BBM is an instant messaging application (app) just for BlackBerry smartphone owners, allowing them to text each other for free.
Shipley also uses her smartphone’s camera to send pictures to clients and suppliers. If there is a problem with merchandise received, she lets suppliers know right away.
In addition, Shipley takes her banking with her when traveling. “My bank has an app where I am able to manage accounts with an Excel spreadsheet that I import from my desktop,” she says. Documents to Go is an all-in-one application with support for Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, and other files. “When traveling, I also like to use OpenTable to make reservations online,” she adds.
Blog and Update Web Content Remotely
Ronika Khanna, CA/CFA, Montreal Financial in Canada, depends on her Apple Inc. iPhone 3GS to stay in constant communication via email, text, and phone call. As an independent accounting professional providing accounting, tax, and financial consulting to small businesses and self-employed individuals, it is imperative that Khanna is easily accessible and connected to clients.
The iPhone also helps Khanna stay on top of her marketing and outreach efforts. “I maintain a blog for small business owners and use my iPhone to update it on the go,” she explains. Squarespace—the content management system she uses—has an iPhone app that allows users to manage their entire Squarespace site from a mobile device. This includes posting and editing blog entries, uploading pictures, saving drafts, and accessing site statistics.
“I also use the Twitter app frequently, and the Dropbox app to pull up business or client files when I am away from a computer,” she adds. Dropbox allows users to access important files from anywhere, at anytime.
Take Advantage of Apps
Sally Witzky, co-managing director, Traction Group—a social media and marketing consultancy in Richmond, VA, takes advantage of apps on her Motorola Mobility, Inc. Droid Pro to market her business, keep in touch, and stay organized. “I utilize multiple email accounts and connect with people on mobile apps for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare—a location-based social networking Web site for mobile devices,” she shares. “I also use my smartphone to manage social media marketing efforts, project management, and note taking.”
Witzky recommends using a smartphone for applications such as Tumblr—a micro-blogging platform and social networking Web site where people post text, images, videos, links, quotes, and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog. She also recommends the Basecamp app for project management, and Touchdown for email/calendar organization. Hootsuite is another popular tool that Witzky uses to manage all of the company’s social media accounts.
To combat small keyboard fatigue, a Motorola Droid Xyboard ten-inch 64 GB tablet does the trick. “The fact that it has a keyboard prevents me from taking meeting notes or writing action items on paper first, and then transferring them to electronic form,” she says.
Collaborate to Go
David Podsiadlo, head of design, Gus*Design Group Inc. uses a BlackBerry Torch 9800 to maintain the design production process on site and remotely. “I use the built-in camera and video applications to communicate with other members of the design and production team. Everything from inspirational photos to production details are described more effectively with images,” he contests. “Sending pictures and communicating instantly with BBM allows us to discuss ideas or make improvements to our production process despite the fact that our team is not always in the same location.” His smartphone comes in handy when receiving feedback on designs, discussing concepts and prototypes, and making production improvements during the process.
Because Podsiadlo’s role involves travel, he finds the BlackBerry Travel app helpful. The all-in-one travel service assists with reservations, flight details, hotel and car rental, currency conversion, and weather forecasts.
Run All Aspects of Business
Established in 1964, Herrle’s Country Farm Market in St. Agatha, ON, Canada is currently operated by the second generation of Herrles. They employ 50 part- and full-time seasonal employees and about 20 on-contract workers for the harvest season.
Herrle’s produces and markets approximately 250 acres of fruits and vegetables through its farm market, and cash crop 140 acres of wheat. Along with buying and selling other produce from local farms, they have an on-site bakery, corn maize, children’s play area, and conduct Fall school tours. The family uses all seven BlackBerry smartphones including the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Torch 9810, BlackBerry Bold 9900, and a BlackBerry Playbook to stay on top of all aspects of the business.
“We use our BlackBerry smartphones within our family to manage the day-to-day operations and stay in contact when we are in different areas of the farm or on different farms,” explains Trevor Herrle-Braun, operations manager, Herrle’s. “BBM enables us to share ideas and pictures of produce for quick decisions,” he adds. They have a BBM family group and a BBM staff group for employees who own BlackBerry smartphones. “We share reminders, staff events, customer success stories, or scheduling,” he adds.
Because many other farms across the province of ON use BlackBerry smartphones, BBM offers a way for them to connect and communicate, share information, and order produce in an efficient manner. “We order products for our market every day,” says Herrle-Braun. “The ease of opening an order form on my phone or Playbook, filling out the order form, and emailing it back to my supplier, without being tied to a computer, makes mobile business easier.”
The Herrles recently created a feature called What’s for Dinner. Each week they provide a recipe and a shopping list of local ingredients to purchase within their market. This is shared on its Web site and uploaded to Facebook through a BlackBerry app. In addition, a video can be recorded on the BlackBerry Playbook and uploaded to YouTube. What’s for Dinner is accessible by a quick response (QR) code promoted in the market and shared through Twitter.
In the field, Herrle-Braun uses his BlackBerry for record keeping—creating spreadsheets for planting schedules and pesticide management records. “With these records maintained on my phone, they are accessible at a moment’s notice,” he says. He also takes pictures of diseased plants and emails them to an agronomist to analyze the plant health and send back a diagnosis.
“In the upcoming year I hope to use a mobile payment option with our point of sale provider,” shares Herrle-Braun. “This would enable us to increase the speed of our customer service with small transactions so payment lines could be avoided.”
Specific to its business, Herrle’s uses the Sell Smart app to keep track of current grain prices, the Documents to Go app for spreadsheets and Word documents, Accuweather for long-range forecasts, FancyTran for communicating with field workers where English is not a primary language, Poynt for directions, Ubersocial for Twitter, Facebook for BlackBerry, and Barcode Assistant to create QR codes for its What’s for Dinner feature.
Don’t Leave Work Without It
Many SMBs are reliant on smartphones to keep in touch and run day-to-day aspects of business. With all of the communication and organizational features, remote access, and special apps for busy business owners on the go, it’s easy to understand why.