Technology has proven itself as the most powerful enabler of flexible working. The rise of digital has probably changed when you work, where you work and how you work and this is creating new opportunities for you to exploit a lucrative marketplace. But one of the biggest barriers to achieving greater market share is time.
You know you need more time to research competitors, invest in resources, upskill your employees, and sufficiently plan and execute killer strategies – all of which will help you stay agile and adaptable. The trouble is, like all small business owners, you’re notoriously time-poor - often too bogged down with the day-to-day running of your business to dedicate the hours needed for these higher value tasks.
In 2013, research published by Eurostat revealed over one quarter (28.1 per cent) of the EU population reported a low satisfaction level with its time use, with almost half (49.2 per cent) only reporting a medium satisfaction level. With 7.6 hours being the average working day, it suggests a lot of time-wasting is happening if such a significant proportion of people are either dissatisfied or only moderately satisfied with how they are utilising their time.
So what can you do to make the best use of your time at work, gain more free time and potentially create new opportunities for boosting your business?
Enter virtual assistants
The answer to your time conundrum lies in the palm of your hand – by way of your smartphone, a growing sharing economy and a host of innovative apps and cloud-based services. Together these solutions can address everything from office laundry and lunches to admin services, accounting and IT. By outsourcing these back-office functions to so-called digital assistants, you can not only save time but reduce your running costs.
So if you’re looking to take back control of your time and improve your productivity at work, try out some of these handy apps and services:
Need a business loan? FundingCircle, LendingCrowd and assetzcapital offer various peer-to-peer finance options.
Hate balancing the books? For accounting services try Intuit, Xero or FreeAgent.
Trouble with filing, diary management or general staffing requirements? Check out TaskRabbit, Freelancer.co.uk, Fiver, Zirtual, ODesk or Mechanical Turk.
Looking for office space or a conference room? Try wework.com, Nomad, LiquidSpace or ShareDesk.
Hosting a corporate lunch? Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEATSs will cater to every taste.
For answering services, IT software and cloud storage try office24, mypaonline,Office365, Gsuite and Dropbox.
Looking for specialist equipment? Most services are industry-specific, for example KitMaker and Agrishare, but the likes of Zilok can help with general equipment hire.
Restaurant linen or guests’ bedsheets need washing? Laundrapp, ZipJet and Love2Laundry will have everything collected, cleaned and delivered back spotless.
If you’re looking to dip your toe in the sharing economy – it’s worth noting that peer-to-peer exchange is not without its challenges, notably a lack of regulation and that many business services are regional-specific. But where services are available, the time-saving advantages are increasingly hard to argue against. According to research from PWC, 83 per cent of people think a sharing economy makes life more convenient and efficient. In addition, it can allow you to tap into specialist skills sets and form new partnerships through collaboration with other organisations.
How you choose to leverage new technologies, such as the sharing economy, can impact significantly on many areas of your business. But at the end of the day (and we all get the same 24 hours after all) it’s how you choose to leverage your time that can have a far greater influence on your wider business and its bottom line.
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