Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Aliza Sherman @alizasherman. As a web pioneer Aliza helps people find sensible, practical and manageable ways to use digital technology to improve how they do things in their work and lives. You can follow Aliza on Twitter @alizasherman and on her website www.yourdigitaldiva.com.
SmallBizLady: You’re based in very rural Alaska. Any particular challenges you face doing business and how do you overcome them?
Aliza Sherman: My biggest challenge is connectivity. I have 3 Internet accounts – one DSL, one cellular modem and one MiFi – 3 different providers, just in case. Virtual meetings – I have to use a conferencing system to meet with colleagues and clients. No fax services for 200 miles – I use Fax.com. No Fedex or UPS for 200 miles – I use EchoSign to sign contracts securely and avoid the mail. No office supply stores – I use Amazon.com a lot.
SmallBizLady: The holidays are right around the corner. What are some of the pitfalls business owners run into this time of year?
Aliza Sherman: Not having a backup plan for customer service during the holiday. Scheduling deadlines too close to the holidays. Forgetting about the distractions the holiday brings that reduces productivity. Having a hard time managing social media channels while away from the office.
SmallBizLady: How can SMB owners maximize productivity during the Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day lull?
Aliza Sherman: Develop your 2013 plan before the holidays, including fresh marketing tactics and a plan to nurture your network for new leads. Develop a streamlined system for responding to queries or handling issues that arise despite the holiday break. If you’re a company of one, then map out an efficient process for responding that minimizes the impact on your holiday. Set up a notification system for VIP customer emails. Check out IFTTT.com and a mobile app called Pushover. Load tools on your mobile device to help manage your business during your break, Dropbox and Google Docs are 2 great options. Schedule key messaging to go out throughout the holiday break to your key social networks.
SmallBizLady: What are some Big Don’ts for business owners as this year comes to a close?
Aliza Sherman: Don’t cut back on marketing. Don’t neglect to follow up on invoices now. Don’t forget about the January lull in business. Don’t fail to have a process and systems in place for handling the inevitable holiday emergency.
SmallBizLady: What apps can help small business owners handle the holiday crunch and get ready for the New Year?
Aliza Sherman: Web and mobile apps can save you time. Apps can provide systems to get things done – better, faster, more efficiently. The best apps can be accessed anytime, anywhere from your smartphone or mobile device to give you access to tools to keep your business running smoothly during the holidays. Apps can keep you organized for better productivity in anticipation of the January business lull.
SmallBizLady: Do you have suggestions for apps to help SMBs improve project management, accounting and other business processes in 2013?
Aliza Sherman: Apps for managing tasks on the web: Do.com, Mindjet Connect. Apps for managing tasks via mobile: Remember the Milk and GoodToDo. Apps for accounting: Freshbooks and Expensify and Shoeboxed. Apps for info management: Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket. Apps for collaboration: iMeet, Google Docs, Dropbox.
SmallBizLady: We hear a lot about “work/life balance” this time of year. How can SMB owners find a balance between family and business?
Aliza Sherman: I don’t ever use the word “balance.” It’s a juggle. It’s a Work/Life Juggle. Set parameters that outline work schedules vs. family schedules that feel right to you and your family members. If you work from home, set boundaries – physical ones – to carve out a clear work space apart from family spaces. Keep your commitments, not just to your clients but to yourself and your family. Nothing is written in stone – it always changes, so be flexible. Don’t feel guilty. Nobody can do it all at once. Do the best you can.
SmallBizLady: What technologies can help business owners keep up with their business during holiday travel?
Aliza Sherman: Make sure you will have connectivity if you need it. Scope out wifi hot spots before you get to your travel destination. Save critical files in Dropbox as a backup and have the Dropbox app on your smartphone in case you can’t get to your computer. Have a good conferencing system on your smartphone or mobile device like the iMeet app for impromptu meetings. Don’t forget charging devices! I love the Belkin Mini Surge Protector; great for hotels with limited power outlets. I also bring a 12v USB charger for my rental car or an inverter to charge a laptop. I have one from Cobra.
SmallBizLady: What technology do you think SMBs will increasingly adopt in 2013?
Aliza Sherman: I think anything that helps streamline the virtual, flexible and mobile work process will be key. Collaboration solutions, like virtual and web meetings, and file sharing solutions will continue to see increased use. The concept of “working in the cloud” will feel much more commonplace than it has in the past few years. I sure hope to see desktop computers going the way of the dinosaur. I haven’t used one for years.
SmallBizLady: What is on your business Christmas Wish List?
Aliza Sherman: The newest iPad and an iPhone 5. An extra pair of black a-Jays Four flat cord ear buds – they are amazing and never tangle. A laptop carrying case with a built in solar panel charger; like a Juice Bag. That 25th hour in the day so I can get some personal business projects done!
SmallBizLady: What small business resolutions are you considering for 2013?
Aliza Sherman: To be more organized. I can’t have another one because that one is a BIG undertaking.
SmallBizLady: Any last minute tips as business owners gear up for the holidays and New Year?
Aliza Sherman: Leverage the technology tools that help you be more productive when you need to be. Test out apps you for your business by taking advantage of their free trials. Pay for the applications that provide you with mission critical services that directly affect your bottom line. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday and New Year!