Very often I meet entrepreneurs who are challenged in the computer skills department. They know how to turn their computer on and off and send an email, but that seems to be about it.
Knowing how to operate your computer and how to work the software you need for your business is essential for running your business.
Of course which software you need may differ on your business, but I would say that as a solopreneur or small business owner you need to know how to do the following, because if you don’t you are either forced to call on someone else for every little thing that needs their magic. Or you are hindered in progress because you cannot get certain things to work (as fast) as they should. And outsourcing in most cases demands money.
Software and skills
You need to be able to install the programs you need on your computer. And you need to be able to run a backup of your system, or know how to set it automatically. You do not want to lose your files. Also the tax authorities require you save your administration for them.
Which software you need depends on what type of business you run, but every business owner needs to be able to send emails and to be able to type letters or plans. So an emailing program like Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird (free) will come in handy, as does Microsoft Office or Open Office (free). If you want to use Office but think that buying the whole package is too expensive, you can consider using Office 365. You can pay per month or per year and the software is hosted in the cloud. In the cloud means that it is not on your computer but the software can be used while you are online.
Of course other software is useful as well. Some type of spreadsheet for instance. Microsoft Office or Open Office provide such software. Spreadsheets is essential for recording and calculating the numbers of your business. Your sales and your cost, but it can also be used to capture relevant information such as the numbers of guests visiting your shop per day, the origin of guests staying at your B&B, names and contact information of potential customers, or an overview of your marketing activities. Spreadsheets are great for recording and analyzing financial data and other business metrics; without this information you may as well be running your business blindfolded. The good thing about spreadsheets is that you can set them up according to your wishes, so they can be used for lots of things.
Other types of software that are quite useful is any form of anti-virus software, such as McAfee or Norton and software to turn any document into a PDF. Microsoft Office 2010 has a function which allows you to save a file in a PDF format. You can also download a free program to convert your files. Just search for “PDF converter” with Google. Lastly, software to back up your computer is essential as you do not want to lose the stuff you saved. You need an external hard drive as well, unless you save your data in the cloud at Crashplan for instance. Software to use with your own external hard drive is NovaSTOR. The brand named are examples, there are many other brands of software out there and you are free to choose what suits you and your budget.
Of course there are many other types of software that a small business owner could use, but these are the basic essentials for running your business I think.
Learning how to
Of course you have to know how to operate your software in order to get the most use out of them. Most often the producers of software offer all kinds of tutorials and support, so look on their website. There are also organizations that can teach you how to use software. This can be in your hometown or online. A good source for free online courses on basic software is GCF LearnFree.org.
I am not an computer or software expert, but as a business owner I know how to use them, so if you have any questions or if you want to share any tips, please comment below.
By Pepita Bos
About the author: Pepita sees marketing as the core of any successful business but also sees that immensely talented small business owners often lack marketing skills. She believes that with some effort anyone can learn to market their own business more effectively. Learning, knowledge sharing, teaching, problem solving, helping, and laughing are what drive Pepita. Her motto is “Marketing is everything and everything is marketing” a quote by Regis McKenna. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.