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The 'hard' tools of small business management

Sally-Anne Watson Kane . Wednesday, July 27, 2016 . Comments
The 'hard' tools of small business management

Small business owner/operators and freelancers need the right tools to manage their businesses including:

  • 'Hard' tools - the physical tools needed to manage a business; e.g. an office, office equipment and any trade tools required. This is what I'll be discussing in this article.
  • 'Soft' tools - the non-physical tools needed to manage a business; e.g. creativity, common-sense and communication skills. I've discuss these tools in another blog article entitled: The six Cs of running your own business.

'Hard' tools

Whether operating from a permanent or mobile office, every small business manager needs 1) a suitable office, 2) office equipment, and 3) the other equipment they need to manage and work in their business.

A suitable office

Permanent office

Your office, or office space, may be permanent or mobile, depending on your type of business.

Many small business managers, particularly sole trader businesses and freelancers who don't need a large office, manage their business from an office they've set up in their own  home. Businesses that employ staff who need to work in their office (rather than contractors who work in their offices) need a larger office space so usually have  an external office. Some sole trader businesses and freelancers also manage their businesses from external offices for various reasons.

The benefits of operating your office from within your home include being very close to your work and more flexible in regard to work hours than a person who works in an external office; and setting your office and equipment just the way you like it which is not always the case if you're sharing your office space with other people. Home-based offices also have lower costs than external offices. However, working from a home-based office has its own set of challenges.

I'll discuss the pros and cons of small business management from a home-based office versus an external office in a future article.

Mobile office

Small business managers whose work requires them to travel a lot have to take their essential office equipment with them, wherever they go. They usually have to  make do with whatever office chair, desk and storage space they can find at the time they need to do their work. Wherever they end up doing their work - whether that be administration or doing paid computer work such as scribing, writing or editing - wherever they and their computer are can be called a mobile, or virtual, office.

Nowadays, I conduct most of my scribing and editing work online and via telephone from within my home-based permanent office, and only occasionally work away from home. However, when I lived in Darwin I always scribed meetings and interviews on site. I'd never know until I arrived, what sort of space I would be working in; some days it would be an office, other days a board room; once it was a shed. Like a snail, I carried my 'mobile office' around with me: one laptop and charger, one telephone and charger and one packet of staplers, paperclips, post-it notes and pens. I regularly flew to Alice Springs to scribe interview reports for two or three days at a time. After each day of scribing, after a bit of dinner and a stroll around town, I'd set my 'mobile office' up in my motel room where I'd catch up on administration, start editing reports and prepare the next day's reports.

If your work requires you to travel around and operate your business from a 'mobile office', you need to consider the privacy of your office spaces, your Wi-fi and internet requirements and a few other issues which I'll discuss in a future article.

Online office

Some small businesses provide secretarial services; they work predominantly online, usually from home-based and/or mobile offices. Some of these businesses call themselves 'virtual' office assistants, secretaries or typists. Now, 15 years ago when almost everyone worked mostly face-to-face and on site, if you were an online secretary it made sense to say you were a 'virtual secretary' - i.e. not a real, or normal, secretary - because working predominantly online was then not the norm. However, these days many assistants, secretaries and typists provide their services online; it has become the norm. Therefore, the term 'virtual secretary' doesn't make sense any more. 'Online secretary', or just plain secretary (or typist or office assistant), is more apt.

Tools and equipment

Every small business manager working from a permanent office needs the following office equipment:

  • A desk that is the right size for what they need to do, and suitable storage space
  • Computer equipment and software that suits the needs of their business
  • A comfortable office chair that supports good body posture
  • Telephone systems and good reception,  internet and, if required, Wi-fi
  • Small office equipment including staplers, stationery, printer cartridges etc.

Most small business managers also need other equipment- the tools of their trade - to manage and work within their businesses.

Example: the 'hard' tools I use in my scribing business

I'm owner/operator of a scribing, business writing and editing business. I have a team of audio transcriptionists and editors, each based in their own office. My main roles are scribing, editing and managing the business. In addition to the office and equipment mentioned above, I use the following tools on a daily basis:

  • Lockable filing cabinet for hardcopy documents
  • Printer and scanner, photocopier
  • Large external hard drive and an extra PC (for backup)
  • Camera used for taking photos for website and blog articles
  • Reference books including Australian Style Manual
  • Headsets (headphones) for mobile and landline telephones, used when scribing
  • Various audio-transcription and audio conversion software, headset and footpedal
  • Audio cassette transcription machines (rarely used nowadays)
  • Ergonomic footpedal for balanced posture
  • Lighting: desk lamp, suitable overhead lighting and natural light

'Soft' tools

I will discuss the 'soft tools' required to manage a small business - such as creativity, common-sense and communication skills - in a future article.

This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small (sole trader) online/onsite scribing business in 2002 which has evolved into an online transcription, scribing, writing, editing and proofreading business.

Stay posted for future articles about managing small businesses, particularly online or home-based businesses.



 

Copyright Sally-Anne Watson Kane, On Time Typing. Please seek my permission prior to reproducing this article in any way but feel free to link directly to this page if you wish to use this content - thanks!

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