Taking control of your telecoms
GADGET GURU ANTONY WORSLEY (see picture), MD OF SWANSEA–BASED ANYCommunications Ltd, OFFERS INVALUABLE ADVICE TO SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES ON OPTIM-ISING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM:
Many new and existing businesses ask me about telecommunication challenges they have and the possible solutions to their problems.
When starting up a new business or expanding an existing one, it is important to think through how important a role telecoms will play in the business. If there is a business plan, be sure to include a section on telecommunications requirements including voice, connectivity and applications and the role and development path for these solutions, as early planning can help avoid costly changes of direction later on. This time spent working on the businesses operations will provide a clear guide when making decisions on where to start and a development path for growth.
Talking of where to start, I often see new businesses spring up with a mobile phone, a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo email address and a hastily designed logo. Equally, existing businesses jump into a new project without considering the impact to communications, connectivity and day to day operations.
This is an important time to pause and think through answers to some questions:
Will you be sending email and have an online presence?
You will need a domain name at some stage, why not secure it now and use it for email. Whilst the free email accounts are OK, one with your own domain looks far more professional and creates the right first impression.
What is the quality of connectivity at the new location?
This is an absolute MUST to check as part of any due diligence when looking at premises or adding to an existing portfolio. The new office might look fantastic, but if there is no mobile signal and broadband is virtually non-existent or much slower than your needs or your current location, the cost to correct could be extremely high or simply not possible. Check with other local businesses, ask them what broadband is like. If a telephone landline exists in the premises have it checked for broadband and the quality of service available on it. Ask if there are plans to upgrade to fibre, does it qualify for superfast broadband? At least with good information you can make an informed decision should you still decide to press ahead.
Do you know your target customers?
Would they be happy to call a mobile number? If not, securing a virtual landline number can provide both local presence and inexpensive call costs for potential customers
What type of working environment will you be working in?
If it is outdoors, in more challenging conditions a mobile device designed to stand up to the work environment is a better choice.
How will you be gathering information from your customers?
How will you be taking payments?
This is often overlooked during the early lifespan of a business. People resort to the least line of resistance and go for pen and paper to take notes, I know I did until the duplication became ridiculous. The challenge is, if you wrote it, can you read it afterwards and does it make sense? The same applies to taking payments. Cash, cheque or BACS are the popular options but what do you do if offered a credit card onsite for payment?
As for taking notes, there are many note taking applications that can be used on mobile devices and if you can text you can certainly type. Using electronic note apps enable you to send them to other members of the business for acting on without having to retype or duplicate the work.
Some solutions enable the information gathered to populate other systems speeding up processing and ultimately how fast you get paid.
With payments, online and debit/credit cards are fast becoming the primary method of payment. Having solutions in place now can ensure that you can offer all the main payment methods to ensure you get paid as quickly as possible.
Many solutions are accessible via a mobile app or work in conjunction with a smartphone. The ability to take card payments onsite for trades, and other people working away from the office, is a must as turning down payment may create problems later down the line. For example Barclaycard have a solution called “Anywhere”. This is a card reader that plugs into a compatible mobile smartphone and works in conjunction with the Barclaycard Anywhere app to take credit and debit card payments when cards are presented.
In summary, asking key questions, and getting answers to help with your decision making can result in a significant difference to the performance of any new or existing organisation. Telecommunications is often taken for granted in the expectation that everything will be fine, but in business this is a risk that is frankly not worth taking. Seek advice, get the information and get your new business or expansion plans off to the best possible start.