Home Articles How to turn your laptop into your own personal factory.

How to turn your laptop into your own personal factory.

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Once upon a time, a typical business needed typists, merchants, design houses, accountants (and their ledgers) to get even the basics done. Now, we’re entering a new era, where a product can be built, launched and sold from a laptop, in a coffee shop, sitting on the knee of a growth hacker in thongs.

You may not have realised it but you’ve already seen these people pitching in cafes, finalising their taxes at bus shelters and bridging geographical boundaries to close international deals… at the beach! Perhaps you have already joined the laptop-as-factory revolution.

Here are seven simple ways that business builders are already using laptops to replace the expensive trappings of office-based enterprise and create their own mobile-bound businesses.

1. Farewell FILING CABINETS

Remember filing cabinets? You probably still have one or two at the office (and maybe a little one at home to house the occasional contract, deed, passports and birth certificate).

But can you recall office space at the close of last century? Cubicles were naturally divided by these vertical coffins of steel where old documents and once cherished proposals would go to die.

The modern day filing cabinet is more likely to come in the form of a cloud based service like DropBox or Box.net. Sure, a larger office will have a server. But, in the eyes of the single-person ‘industrialist’ (yes, we’re talking about the sole-proprietor, laptop-wielding, coffee-shop-frequenting digital ‘factory’ owner) such things are fast becoming an unnecessary burden.

2. Sayonara SOFTWARE

It was once the case (and still is for many people) that email was stored and only accessible on a single personal computer or laptop, with an emphasis on the word personal.

In other words, you needed your own device to access your own email.

And, of course, the same has traditionally applied with software. If you’re a fan of PowerPoint, you’d need access to your computer or another computer with PowerPoint legally installed.

These days, almost every email service provider offers a cloud alternative.

And software providers are following in their footsteps.

While we use Gmail for email at Anthill, many friends and colleagues have adopted Outlook’s cloud based alternative. And what’s so cool about this? Not only can a busy business builder jump between different devices but nothing ever gets lost! And, with the arrival of Windows 8, Microsoft customers can now access Outlook and its broader Office package as a cloud-based subscription model.

What does that mean? Like email, software is likely to no longer be restricted to a user’s ownership of one or two computing devices. That’s right. Email in the cloud and software in the cloud.

3. Arrivederci PERSONAL ASSISTANTS

Another once essential tool now nearing obsolescence will be familiar to high-flyers of the 1980s (and anyone who collected a business card well into the nineties).

Of course, I’m talking about the Rolodex.

In the noughties, business card scanners became a popular replacement (no respectable office of the noughties was without a business card scanner). And, more recently, with the advent of smart phones, ‘bumping’ has emerged. (If you don’t know, don’t ask. The moment has passed.)

Today, CRM systems have become the ‘new black’ in contact management, replacing technology and the super-human memories of professional Miss (and Mr) Money Pennies.

What’s a CRM?

Not only will a smart ‘Customer Relationship Management’ tool (also known as a CRM) help a busy business builder store contacts but it can also provide the services of a canny personal assistant.

Have you ever needed to be reminded when it’s someone’s birthday? Do you ever need a nudge to let you know when it’s time to touch base with that important prospect?

These are the tools that sales teams now use to manage hundreds of clients simultaneously. And, as for, laptop-jockey business builders? There’s nothing like an alert between café lattes to help keep focus.

4. Move over DIRECT MAIL

Popular CRM tools, like Salesforce, SugarCRM and InfusionSoft, not only operate within the cloud and not only can help replace (or assist) a canny PA, but they can now also be integrated with popular email platforms, like the two mentioned above. What does this mean? Goodbye direct mail!

Possibly the greatest marketing innovation for small business over the past 10 years has been the advent of email marketing solutions.  Whereas direct mail was once the exclusive domain of big businesses with suitably big wallets, email marketing solutions democratised direct mail and reinvented an otherwise expensive, albeit measurable, marketing tactic.

And what’s particularly exciting about this advent? Direct marketing tacticians, including small business owners, have been forced to adopt a ‘permission first’ policy. This means more targeted marketing, cheaper marketing, more environmentally friendly marketing and happier customers.

5. Bah-humbug MEDIA BARONS

Media ownership was once restricted to a small few… owners of industrial machinery and expensive government licenses. Today, that’s no longer the case.

If you have a blog, you’re a media owner. If you have a Facebook fanpage, you’re a media owner. If you have a Twitter account, you’re a media owner. Even if your followers can be counted on fingers and toes that doesn’t diminish the fact that, as business owner, you now ‘own the eyeballs’.

Goodbye printing presses, inky fingers and disruptive advertising. Whoever owns the attention of a specific market has always tolled the channel, controlled the message and profited handsomely. And this can now be managed from any business builders’ own private little factory. (Yup, the laptop.)

According to a recent HubSpot report, a website with a blog is likely to attract 12 times as much traffic as a direct competitor without a blog. It is also likely to attract four times as many leads.

The café shop blogger is no longer a cliché. The Facebook fanatic is no longer a slur for the lazy. Simply mentioning that you use Twitter is no longer a sure-fire admission of narcissism in the extreme.

Facebooking, Twittering and Blogging are becoming essential business skills for owners of micro-media complexes, to reflect the interests of niche industries and passionate customers.

6. Bye-Bye BUTCHERS PAPER

So, you accidentally find yourself in that coffee shop, at a conference or maybe even at your local bus stop delivering an impromptu pitch to your newest prospective customer or client. (It happens all the time!) You have the prospects sudden and undivided attention, so what do you do?

You could:

  1. Arrange another meeting (and risk the possibility of the prospect losing interest); or, you guessed it,
  2. Flip open a two in one touch screen laptop and give your new friend a taste of your action.

You’ve seen it done with iPads, which is fine if you already have the presentation loaded and ready to go. However, if you are more comfortable navigating your laptop (or don’t want to leave the house every morning with the entire Dick Smith back catalogue), the Intel® powered Ultrabook™ offers an extremely viable two-in-one option. That’s right. Some Ultrabook models are now convertible (i.e. laptop plus tablet).

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7. Hasta La Vista Money Managers (baby)

What ever happened to cash registers? Those big, bright wonderful sounding machines that would make any self-respecting business builder salivate like Pavlov’s dog at their chime. (Cha-ching!)

Well, they have been replaced by a combination of cloud based accounting tools (like xero, MYOB and Quicken) and cloud based ecommerce merchants (like PayPal and eWay).

A smart cloud based accounting tool can monitor transactions going to and from a bank and learn, over time, how each transaction relates to a business owner’s chart of accounts. For example, a regular expense, like a taxi fare, can automatically be recorded as a travel expense.

A smart cloud based ecommerce tool can be used to take single or multiple transactions, manage repeat payments or allow a mobile business builder to take a transaction… on the go!

Is this situation familiar?

It’s no longer unusual to meet someone at a conference and discover that throughout the event they have:

  1. Saved their conference notes to the cloud (Farewell filing cabinets),
  2. Sent and received emails, before finishing their presentation (Sayonara software),
  3. Collected contact data from new contacts (Arrivederci personal assistants),
  4. Triggered a series of emails to stay in touch with their new contact (Move over direct mail),
  5. Tweeted their experiences and blogged about a vital lesson learnt (Bah-humbug media barons),
  6. Pitched their new venture to a new friend during a break (Bye-bye butchers paper); and,
  7. Sold a product or service, reconciling the purchase (Hasta La Vista Money Managers, baby).

What cool tools are you using to create our own ‘micro-factory’?

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