Once upon a time, if you wanted to start a small business, you needed a whole bunch of stuff. You needed an office or store, office equipment, staff, a website. Even when I started my own one-person business from my home, I needed an expensive computer and software, not to mention a printer, copier, and fax (it was a long time ago…).

That was the bad old days. Now, it’s possible to run many small businesses entirely from the one device you probably already have in your pocket—your smart phone. You can make sales, run payroll, manage your website, send invoices, process payments, do your marketing—all from the palm of your hand.

In the last few years, there have been an explosion of cloud-based, mobile apps (or mobile-versions of desktop software applications) that make it easy to stay on top of many, if not most of your business operations, right from your mobile phone. And that’s great for today’s small business owner, because you’re more likely than ever to be on the go: meeting customers, traveling to trade shows, balancing work life with family needs.

If you’re going to be putting sensitive data up in the cloud, especially on mobile devices, take a few steps to help protect that information. Be sure to research potential providers when it comes to security and privacy, looking at online reviews as well as recommendations from other small business owners.

There are a few other ‘must do’ steps to protect your data and devices if you’re going to run your business from a smart phone:
  1. Choose reputable companies. With so many new apps coming out, it’s very possible that the app you choose today could be gone tomorrow. Tend to go with providers who’ve been around for a long time. They’re more likely to both be there tomorrow and to have the resources for high-quality security.
  2. Use passwords. Use passwords not just for applications, but for your phone itself, and make sure everyone who uses a business app on their phone uses a password-protected device also. And use harder-to-break passwords, not just the name of your oldest child.
  3. Protect your devices. Since your business is now based on your phone, protect your phone. Keep an eye on it and treat it carefully. You might want to get a backup phone, just in case.
  4. Control access. Make sure that you, as the business owner, control who can access your data, and when an employee leaves, be sure to turn “off ” their access.
  5. Turn it off. You’re never leaving the office if you’re carrying your business in your pocket. But you need down time. So set aside some times every day that are device free.
I’ve spent time checking out some of the most useful apps for running your business on the go. Search for these at either the App Store or Google Play Store, download, and get to work wherever you are:

 

*** Money Management and Accounting: Send out invoices, track time, pay bills, run payroll, track mileage, and more.
*** Payments: Receive payments instantly from customers.
*** Make Sales: Turn your phone into your storefront and make sales directly to customers.
*** Scheduling: Take bookings and appointments, accept upfront payments, send clients reminders, and more.
*** Customer Relationship Management: Build, manage, and keep track of customers, prospects, and more.
*** Document Storage and Sharing: Store, share, and access your files from any device.
*** Communications: Communicate with customers and manage your team back home.
*** Social Media Marketing: Manage and schedule all your social media activities.
*** Graphic Design: Edit photos, add text, create graphics, and designs for your social media campaigns.
*** Travel: Get the most out of your investment in business travel, from rewards tracking, to booking, to finding a great place to eat.
*** Newsletters: Manage and monitor newsletter campaigns you’ve created in advance on your desktop.
*** Website: Work on your site, view activity, manage your online store, write and post blogs, and view traffic.
*** Build Your Team: Find and recruit employees and hire independent contractors.
*** Project Management:  Stay on top of projects and get things done with your team.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2018

This article originally ran in USA Today on August 15, 2018