It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to set yourself up with an app stack – and the benefit it unlocks is like having a whole digital team behind you, says Bryan Williams, Head of Ecosystem and Marketplace at Xero Australia.
Sole traders are lagging behind their larger counterparts when it comes to implementing technology that streamlines their businesses. According to Xero’s ‘Tipping point’ research – a new report uncovering what makes sole traders decide to start something of their own – just 19 per cent use cloud accounting software and only 37 per cent have a website. In many cases, they simply don’t know where to start.
Enter the app stack – a suite of software or digital tools that help you perform different tasks. For example, you could have a set of apps that support customer relationship management (CRM) and digital marketing, or a suite that’s tailored to simplifying your invoices and reports.
There are apps for managing inventory, taking payments, tracking time – you name it. The Xero app marketplace alone has more than 800 software options that can help businesses of all sizes – including sole traders – build and grow their operations.
The cost? Not as much as you might think
We know from the Tipping point report that cost is the main barrier to digital adoption for 52 per cent of solopreneurs. However, an app stack can be an affordable way to support business growth without having to hire a team of experts.
With the right suite of connected tools at your fingertips, you’ll have an entire digital workforce supporting you – at a fraction of the cost.
How to make apps work for you
You don’t have to tackle everything at once. Start by thinking about what tasks are holding you back from growing your business or serving customers. Once you’ve found a software solution and have it humming, you can then work out the next issue you need to solve, and so on.
Eventually, you’ll build an app stack that’s tailored and customised for your business, supports growth, and does a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
In the meantime, here are some of my top software recommendations for sole traders’ common sticking points.
Accurately track and allocate time
A hot tip for any app is to make sure you’re harnessing its full potential, rather than dipping into just 10 or 20 percent of its functionality. For example, Accelo can help you track the time spent on emails or calls with clients, so you can charge accordingly.
Get paid faster
By using GoCardless for direct debit, Stripe to power your credit card transactions, or Square for POS transactions and online payments, you’ll no longer have to spend your valuable time chasing money. In fact, Xero data shows businesses using online invoice payments get paid up to twice as fast.
Nurture and build your customer base
As you grow, you’re going to want to make sure you retain your current customers – and HubSpot is a powerful CRM tool for managing those relationships. Use it to build better relationships with your existing network and to nurture future leads.
Oncord is another good option to launch and manage your digital marketing campaigns, social channels and website.
Manage your billing and expenses
There’s a range of automation apps – such as Hubdoc to reduce data entry by capturing information from bills and receipts, and Dext to input client data – that work alongside Xero to seamlessly ingest your billing and expense information so you’re reporting accurately and in real time.
Connected systems offer greater value – and more data equals smarter, better informed conversations, not only for you as the business owner, but also with trusted advisors, including your accountant or bookkeeper.
This information will be essential for working out the true financial position of your business, and for supporting future growth.
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