Tablet (3)

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 59% of all UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are based out of an owner’s home - representing 3.1 million businesses. Indeed, even some of the big brands we know so well – including Apple – actually started out as home-based businesses. While a home business owner’s aspirations may not necessarily be to become the next Apple, they likely have some growth goal in mind, whether that is to expand their support team, grow their list of repeat customers or hit an annual revenue target.

Home business owners play many roles and are often under more pressure than owners of larger enterprises. Everything, from finding the right partners and expanding their clientele base, to juggling budgets and growing revenue, is down to them. On top of all that, many home business owners feel enormous pressure to constantly innovate to stay ahead of competitors – big and small.

So how do home business owners tackle these challenges and continue to grow their company? Obviously there’s no one size fits all recipe for success, but one key ingredient is collaboration.

A key ingredient to home business success

Collaboration offers a competitive advantage for businesses that recognise its importance and make it a priority. In fact, a recent study conducted by Google revealed that collaboration enhances planning and decision-making, as well as paving the way for greater innovation. By specifically facilitating collaboration with co-workers, partners and clients, home businesses can benefit from better communication and alignment among team members, enhanced productivity and, ultimately, growth.

To emphasise this point, an Aberdeen Group Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study found there is a strong correlation between communications, collaboration and higher business performance. Those businesses that said they actively foster collaboration among employees showed a substantial improvement in key business indicators year after year. Specifically, the findings show that compared to those who did not prioritise collaboration these businesses achieved:

  • Over twice the increase in customer retention
  • Over seven timesthe improvement in employee productivity
  • Over twice the increase in operational efficiency
Of course the challenge home business owners face is that, more than likely, their clients and co-workers are geographically dispersed and collaborating isn’t as easy as walking over to the next desk for a quick, informal meeting. The most important factor in overcoming this challenge though, as highlighted by an MIT research report, is having processes in place to make sure each employee can contribute. This is where collaboration technology comes in.

Non-negotiable features to create a collaborative team

The right tools, used in the right way, make collaboration easier. However, many organisations do not necessarily have these tools in place. In the Google research mentioned above, =

Fortunately, when it comes to home-based businesses, there is a wide range of collaboration technology and features available that can support home business owners’ goals. To facilitate a collaborative work environment, home businesses need to take advantage of the most user friendly technology that encourages productivity.

Two key technologies are online meeting and video conferencing software. Online meetings are the backbone of collaboration for remote teams. Home business owners should leverage solutions that allow users to start an online meeting, video call or teleconference with a single click and then invite others via email. Some solutions also include a built in capability that integrates scheduled meetings automatically into a user’s Outlook calendar for example so they can easily keep an eye on their appointments.

Certain software even includes a wide selection of tools to make meetings livelier and more interactive, including video call, chat and teleconferencing. If a business owner hosts a meeting with both employees and clients regarding the strategy for the upcoming quarter, a chat feature would allow them to send targeted messages to just their employees or all participants, and for those taking part in the meeting to ask questions of the owner without interrupting the flow of the presentation. This enhances the collaborative nature of online meetings and keeps participants engaged.

Additionally, video conferencing is a simple way for employees and/or clients to meet face-to-face from any location and collaborate with each other as if they are attending an in-person meeting. Numerous videoconferencing tools have screen sharing and document editing features which help increase the productivity of a video call. This allows employees or clients to work with one another on shared documents no matter their locations. Since they will all see the same items, misunderstandings can be avoided and collaboration can thrive.

To supplement these technologies, home businesses need file-sharing tools. The Google survey highlighted that file-sharing tools are considered the most effective communication and technology innovations in terms of their capacity to improve individual output and performance. Certain software allows users to drag and drop, copy and paste, or use cloud storage to copy individual files or entire folders within seconds to any location. Not only does this technology support collaboration, but it’s also great for avoiding the size limit enforced by email servers.

It is vital that any solution home businesses use also supports mobile workers. Today’s workforce is 24/7, and you never know when you’ll need to connect with co-workers or clients. The flexibility a mobile app provides enhances the ability of these groups to collaborate anytime, anywhere.

Collaboration is central to the future of your business

The combination of these important technology features facilitates a collaborative work environment for those companies that strive to stay connected with co-workers, partners and customers around the clock to create the best experience or product available. Whether a home business owner’s goal is to become the next Apple or beat last year’s annual sales, collaboration is essential. With the right collaboration technology, home businesses can stay connected to their clients and team members no matter their location, increasing communication and supporting business decisions and growth.

By Axel Schmidt, public relations manager at TeamViewer