Software the Entrepreneurial Way

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Each year, thousands of people decide to set up their own business – in 2016 in the UK alone, the figure was over 600,000. Many of these consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, and many don’t. I guess that depends on each person’s idea of the definition of “entrepreneur”.

Regardless of semantics, what most of these people and their businesses have in common is the enormous number of balls they must keep in the air in their first year, while trying to get up and running. One of their potential headaches is their technology.

Who has the time, energy, or money to evaluate all the possible software for the automation that would help their business?

My own business is built around the provision of our online learning platform, created primarily to deliver training. From our experience of how subscribers are using Learn with Mobile, we’ve seen a very smart shift in thinking.

People are starting to say, “I’ve found a software service I like. Now, what else can it do for me?”. This versatile approach, typical of entrepreneurs, means they’re saving on time, software subscriptions and training costs, giving themselves room to think about all the other things they need to keep moving. And this approach needn’t be limited to new businesses.

Here are some of the ways our creative entrepreneurs have thought outside the box.

Knowledge Base

Talking to some of our early adopters to see what they were doing and what was important to them, one or two realised very early in their journey that capturing knowledge and making it available to their whole team was going to be a key efficiency boost.

It’s crazy for more than one person to spend time solving the same problem, if the knowledge can be captured and shared – the next person who encounters the issue will have a solution to hand without having to repeat the research.

It’s also a huge benefit if people ever move on – all that hard-earned knowledge stays in the business and can continue to develop.

I liked this idea so much that a separate collaborative Knowledgebase is now a standard part of our platform and we use it extensively in my own business.

Process and Best Practices

There’s often a point in the development of a business when people start to understand the real importance of knowing how they do what they do.

Some of our subscribers got their people to record each detailed stage of each task that made up their job. These were then ordered into topics on their Learn with Mobile and as the business expanded and they took on more people, they found that consistency and low training requirements really paid dividends. Even just filling in for people while they are on holiday becomes a whole lot easier when the understudy can just go to one place and follow the steps in a process.

When processes evolve, or new standards are published – there’s just one place to go to keep everything maintained and up-to-date.

New Staff

Another common need for almost every business is onboarding new staff. Everything is needed, from Handbooks and staff lists to pension documentation and health and safety instructions, even directions to the washrooms!

Typically, someone will set aside most of their day to take people through these processes, often seeing things forgotten hours later because there’s just so much to take in.

Our smarter customers saw immediately that they could set up a training course in Learn with Mobile to include all the things a new starter needs to know. A simple introductory chat with new people before letting them work through the induction course at their own pace worked far better for them, both in terms of efficiency and retention of information. It also provides an easy way to look back at anything they’ve forgotten in that whirl that makes up the first few days in a new job.

Collaboration

If you have people spread over several offices or even more than one country, getting them working together and sharing their thoughts is a vital for your business. But this can be very difficult to achieve without costly specialised software.

Thinking about how to use what you already have can solve the problem, or at least get you started when it comes to sharing thoughts and ideas across the business.

We have a global engineering company who’ve found that working online together on research ideas and problems not only gives them the best of all the brains in their business, it also helps prevent duplication of effort.

They already use our software service for training, so it was natural to try a familiar tool which was already paid for before looking elsewhere. There’s a chat style discussion area where people can dip in and out of conversations and contribute when they think they can help. And there’s a more formal question and answer area where people can look for specific help from their colleagues and then rate the best answer so that others may be guided quickly in future.

Flexibility

These examples showed me that when people trust and like a software service they’ve subscribed to, they will turn to it to solve problems it may never have been intended to solve. That may be the end of the story, but if a service also happens to be provided by someone who’s listening to their customers, all those customers may find their lives being made even easier with future releases of the software.

An engaging learning environment and flexibility have always been central to our approach to our training platform. But I never guessed at just how far our subscribers would stretch the value Learn with Mobile can add to their businesses.

I’m not suggesting that there is no place for specialist software to do one task really well. The point I’m trying to get across is that with a bit of flexible and creative thinking, you can minimise the disruption and cost of rolling out new software by looking first at what you already have in place to solve a problem.

If you find out later that a particular issue needs a specialist solution you can take the time to identify and implement this without the pressure of a crisis. I believe that in most cases you won’t need to do that.

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