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Seven Ways Technology Makes Your Small Business Grow Faster

Seven Ways Technology Makes Your Small Business Grow Faster

When properly harnessed technology has the ability to change lives for the better – the world over. As a point of illustration, you need only compare the technological progress made over the last 50 years with the prior 500 years of advances to appreciate its impact on society. However, modern technology’s reach doesn’t end with the general public.

In fact, its impact extends far into the business arena — to the extent that technology has the potential to make or break most businesses; this is especially true for small businesses.

Does this mean that technology can negate the effects of bad business fundamentals, poor management, or inept leadership? Absolutely not! However, it does mean that small businesses who at least score average in most areas can benefit immensely from the tech sector. Namely, it can help them grow and become more effective.

Here are a few ways that businesses can scale technology for growth.

1. Store Data on Cloud

Storage is in the cloud is a practice that has completely upended the old ways of storing data. Ten years ago companies who managed large quantities of data had to FTP large files when they wanted to send them. Likewise, businesses could not manage data without investing in numerous high capacity storage devices.

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In contrast, today it’s as easy as hosting the data via an online storage account and sending an invite link to share it with peers. Indeed, the implications of being able to store data in the cloud are staggering.

For example, cloud storage makes it possible for users to:

  • access their data from anywhere in the world
  • perform backups automatically
  • store unlimited amounts of data
  • collaborate on a single document in real time

If you’re a small business owner, you can use the benefits above to give you the speed to compete with larger businesses.

2. Social Media

Social media allows small businesses to do several things that were nearly impossible to accomplish as an SME only 25 years ago. Namely, it allows you to observe nearly every aspect of your audience’s behavior; this gives you a wealth of insight into what your customer’s motivations are. In turn, you can use this knowledge to become a better seller. Additionally, social media gives you a platform to build your authority. Social networking platforms have made it easier than ever to do both.

What this means to you as a small to mid-sized business is that you can wield just as much marketing firepower as more established brands at a fraction of the cost.

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3. Productivity Apps

While it would be nice to have an army of project managers at your beck and call, the reality is that it would cost a small fortune to do so. But the good news to small business owners is that thanks to digital innovation, you don’t need hundreds of productivity experts to stay productive. As a matter of fact, all you really need is a mobile device armed with the right productivity apps.

A few of the most popular ones include:

  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Podio
  • Basecamp

What’s more is that many of these apps can be synced with their desktop versions and are completely free or offer a free level of service.

The nice thing about using and mastering these applications is that doing so automatically enters you into the small percentage of businesses that are highly effective at getting the right things done.

4. Analytical Tools

There are numerous analytical tools that you can use to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Thanks to the Internet many of these tools can be deployed within a matter of seconds. For instance, you can gauge the percentage of visitors to your website that browses your site on their mobile browsers – or – you can assess your page load speeds. When it comes to measuring your company’s key performance indicators, they sky’s the limit. Digital technology puts all of this at your fingertips.

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If you’ve ever heard the adage, ‘knowledge is power’, then applied knowledge is even more powerful; this is exactly what analytical tools afford you. Namely, the ability to make wiser decisions in a shorter amount of time.

5. Better Marketing Campaigns

Digital marketing campaigns have the potential to offer highly specific targeting, immediate results, easy testing environments, and two-way conversations. More importantly, they tend to offer higher returns on marketing spend than some traditional forms of advertising. These characteristics make digital marketing much more accessible to small businesses than other types of marketing.

One of the reasons online marketing appeals to smaller businesses is that unlike print, radio, or TV advertising, you don’t have to wait until the campaign is over to review campaign results.

6. Technology Yields Ease of Communication

Recent technological advances have done made communication effortless. Not only is it ridiculously easy to communicate in this day and age but communicating with your peers is both lightning fast and incredibly affordable; this applies both to domestic and international communication.

As business owners, modern communication has removed the barriers that used to make doing business overseas nearly impossible. As such, today collaborating with someone who lives abroad is as simple as Skyping that individual.

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7.  Web-Based Payment Systems

Web-based payment systems make it easy to send or receive payments. And they do so while offering a host of payment options. Many of these platforms even offer seamless integration into the popular accounting programs.

As a result of this newfound payment flexibility, small businesses can gain access to entirely new customer segments. Ultimately, this means more clients that you can offer your products and services to just by virtue of accepting another method of payment.

You’ve just seen seven ways that technology can help build your business. The common thread is that most, if not all of these advances allow business to do more with less. I hope that you found the article useful and can use at least one of these technology applications to your benefit.

Featured photo credit: imujer.com via static.imujer.com

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More About Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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