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How 4 small businesses use technology to thrive
Taking advantage of their agility and size, small businesses can gain an edge by using technology to simplify, improve or change how they do business.
Here's how four entrepreneurs have used technology in their businesses, and how you might apply their lessons to your own company.
3-D scanners take tailoring up a notch
Sure, male athletes are built better than you and me, but they also have a much harder time finding great-fitting clothes. Standard sizing of most menswear brands doesn't fit them. The solution: Create a system to replace the tattered tape measure, says Kevin Flammia, CEO and co-founder of the Manhattan-based RFM Clothing.
He invites thousands of athletes into his studio and uses a 3-D scanner to compile precise measurements for all of them. He then uses that to create RFM's fashionable line of jackets, blazers, shirts and pants, which are sold online and in the company's showroom in the New York City neighborhood, SoHo.
Tip: Identify a customer's problem and reimagine how things are done in your industry. Then, use technology to make it happen.
Cloud-based software sinks teeth into patient info
Slim Dental, a New York City-based dental practice, uses technology to drive improvements in recruiting, human resources management and marketing. But the real game-changer lies in using technology to improve customer service, says founder Stephen Lim.
Doctors can write their notes and see their schedules, X-rays and patient records from anywhere by using cloud-based, patient-management software. It allows them to focus on providing top-notch patient care while at the office.
Employees use the cloud-based system to pull up records at any of the practice's three locations, which provides convenience for patients who move or change jobs within the city, Lim says.
Tip: Move to a cloud-based system to untether employees from their computers and filing cabinets, increasing both customer convenience and productivity.
Mobile apps help employees get the scoop
10Below Ice Cream dishes out Thai-style frozen treats in four New York City locations, with plans for more shops in Los Angeles, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So, staying in touch requires mobile apps, not plain-vanilla paper solutions.
"We use a lot of the tools from our daily lives," says Richard Tam. He and co-owner David Chen use WhatsApp and GroupMe to share new initiatives or to see who can cover open shifts. They also use a mobile payroll app so employees can check on their all-important paychecks.
Tip: Look at areas in your business where staff members might get out of sync. Then, seek mobile communications apps to improve the workflow.
Electronic ordering keeps up with blooming customer demand
Back in 1994, Starkie Brothers Garden Center became one of the first home and garden stores in its area to use computers. Co-owner George Starkie has been on the cutting edge of technology ever since. These days, he uses an inventory and ordering system to keep in-demand items in stock.
"The last thing you want is to be out of something a customer came in for," he says.
His point-of-sale-system flags when supplies are running low and connects to the ordering system. Stark can place orders in minutes compared with the hours or days it might take his competitors.
"I wouldn't have achieved the growth that I have without it," he says.
Tip: Seek new tech tools to tap into the information your systems already collect. Inventory software, for example, pulls in real-time sales data and can alert you when stock is running low.
Learn more about how technology can move your business forward here.
Ami Albernaz writes on technology, finance and small business-related topics. She is a former lifestyle columnist for The Boston Globe and contributor to The Christian Science Monitor.