If you’re a Small Business, or a Tradie, ‘Google Apps for Work’ could change your life!

Have you ever been on site, or away from your desk and not had access to a saved document on your office computer?
Have you ever replied to an email on your phone, only to find that someone in your office has also replied to the same email?
Have you ever wondered how to build systems into your business that can be accesses by anyone, anywhere?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, this blog is going to be a revelation and a complete game changer for your business. 

This is the third entry of the four part series ‘4 Essentials to help Tradies and Small Business stand out in 2015′
Part one was about ‘Web Presence’.
Part two was about building ‘Professional Profile’.
And this article, which is the third entry, is about moving your business into the cloud with ‘Google Apps for Work’.

In this article we’re going to explore the following topics:

  1. What is this ‘cloud’?
  2. What is Google Apps for Work?
  3. Getting rid of your filing cabinet…forever
  4. Security and Protecting your company’s Intellectual Property (IP)
  5. Building an acquirable asset into your company
  6. Synchronising emails
  7. Managing your team with Google Calendars
  8. Communicate for free with your team
  9. Team collaboration
  10. Why Google Apps is the PERFECT stepping stone into the cloud.

So first of all, let’s define what the cloud actually is.

According to Google, cloud computing is defined as ‘the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

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My ‘less-geeky’ definition is, “Making your business accessible to team members wherever they are, whenever they need it”.

So, why is that cool?
Well there are limitless advantages to having a cloud based business, but the key advantages that I can see from a business point of view are that you’re:

  1. Not tied to a location, and
  2. Anyone in your team has access to everything they need, from wherever they are.

Both of these elements alone equate to a more productive business model.

What is ‘Google Apps for Work’?

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition

1. Google Apps for Work (formerly Google Apps for Business) is a suite of cloud computing productivity and collaboration software tools and software offered on a subscription basis by Google. It includes Google’s popular web applications including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.

Here’s a video.

Getting rid of that filing cabinet…forever!

For most businesses, that alone would be a big enough reason to move into the cloud. Filing cabinet systems are seriously outdated and in this day and age pretty much completely unnecessary. Having documents stored in a filing cabinet is very restrictive and it completely ties you to a location. If you want that document, the only way you can get it is by physically being there (or having someone there to get it for you).

Running a paperless business means flexibility and freedom. Tradie Web Guys is completely paperless and most of our customers are also. Part of our focus is on helping companies run more efficiently, and running a paperless operation is the first step in keeping you out of the office.
Our friends at TradiePad have built an entire business model around helping trade related businesses manage their business from the road via their phones, or tablets. Everything from job management and project management solutions, right through to invoicing and onsite payment systems. Like Tradie Web Guys, TradiePad agrees that Google Apps is the perfect stepping stone into the cloud revolution, due to its many features and its established integrations. We’ll talk more about integrations in upcoming points.

How secure is it?

The safety of your companies Intellectual Property (IP) is extremely important. If you’re going to have all of your IP stored on Google’s Servers, as opposed to the server in your office, or maybe your computer at home, you want to be sure that it’s safe.

Firstly, if all of your work information/documentation is stored on the computer in your office, you’re in a VERY vulnerable position right now. If you’re office get’s broken into, or if there’s a fire (heaven forbid), you’re at risk of losing everything. With Google Apps, you can access all of your information, from anywhere in the world, from any device that has access to the internet.

Secondly, lets be realistic about the security of Google’s servers versus your own. Google is a enterprise level, multi-billion dollar company. Their entire organisation relies on security of the highest calibre and it’s pretty safe to say that they have one of the, if not the highest security standards on the planet. When organisations like the US Government trusts storing their information on Google servers, you can rest assure that your plumbing company is going to be in safe hands.

I’d almost go as far to say that with the level of due diligence that these huge corporations invest in prior to adopting any such systems, you can probably save yourself the time and run off their shoulders.

One of the awesome features of Google Apps, is the ability to allocate permissions to various users. For example, if you have an accountant that needs access to your financials, you can share folders, or documents with them and you can give them various levels of access.

Same goes if you have guys on-site that need access to drawings, or OH&S documents, etc. You can update revisions so they’re always working off current drawings and you can share that information with whoever you need to.

Where it gets really cool, is the control you have over locking down permissions. If you no longer want someone to have access to certain information, you have control. Likewise, if you have an employee that leaves your company, all you have to do is log into the administrator console and change their password, which locks them out.

Using Google Apps to build an asset into your company.

At Tradie Web Guys, we work with companies to help them build acquirable assets into their businesses.

In a takeover situation, the company that’s making the acquisition is normally looking for two main things. Firstly, a database of customers/clients/prospects and secondly, systems and processes that outlay the business operations.

For the former, you can check out our ‘Sales Funnel Initiative’ outlined in this FREE video series) and for the latter we use Google Apps for Work’s cloud storage program, ‘Google Drive’ in conjunction with its Intraweb platform called, Google Sites.

Storing your business systems and processes in Google Apps makes things like training new staff much easier. It also gives people, immediate access to information they need, which means they don’t need to be calling supervisors 24/7.

Say for example, you’re a builder and you have a new staff member starting. Your new staff member is fully skilled, however you want to train them to perform tasks your way.

You can create the system (once) on how to perform this task with images and video tutorials if you like. You save it on the cloud and then share it with any new staff member that joins your organisation. This compounds your training process and makes it infinitely scalable. You could bring onboard 10 new guys in a week and train them all at once, by simply sharing a series of systems.

By taking what’s in your head and turning it into a system, you’ve transformed your ‘Intellectual Knowledge’, into ‘Intellectual Property’. You’ve built an asset that can be acquired.

Synchronised emails.

If you’re using programs like Microsoft Outlook, or Apple Mail for your email, you may have encountered this problem before.

You’re out on site and you receive an email on your phone, which you action by replying to. Meanwhile in your office, a staff member sees the same email and also actions it, without knowing that you already have.

This scenario is not only unproductive, it’s also unprofessional. It’s saying to the recipient that your organisation doesn’t communicate and it’s disorganised.

Gmail for Business eliminates this scenario, as your mail is always synchronised across all of your devices. Meaning, if you action an email from your phone, it will show that email has been actioned on your computer also.

If you’re not using cloud email, do yourself a favour and get onto it.

Keeping track of your staff’s schedules with Google Calendars.

Another feature of the Google Apps suite is Google Calendars. This feature allows you to organise your staff members day, while making it visually accessible to your entire organisation. So if you have one of your staff booked in to attend a job, you can enter that job into their Google Calendar, along with all of the job details, address, etc. With the sharing settings, you can make that calendar visible to whoever you like, so there’s no more double booking and everyone knows where everyone else is during their day.

Also, it makes it really easy to amend, or move appointments by simply dragging and dropping that time block elsewhere.

Communicate for free with your team.

Google Hangouts is a feature that enables your team to call, video call, conference call, screen share and chat/text message, for the bargain price of nothing! You can use it on your phone, tablet, or computer.

If your company phone bills are racking up, this could be a great alternative for you. We use Google Hangouts a lot as it enables us to record training tutorials and share it with our clients so they can reference back to it whenever they like. We also use Google Chat to communicate throughout the day as it means we don’t have to send each other internal emails, or text messages.

Team collaboration.

Google Drive offers real time team collaboration, which allows multiple team members to work together on documents at the same time.

Where we see the biggest advantage of this feature for trade based companies is in areas like toolbox talks and tool registers, etc. Staff in the office can add notes to be covered by the supervisor/foremen, while they can see who is in attendance, etc. It’s also very handy in scenarios where collaboration is required on project briefs and other things of similar nature.

Why Google Apps is the perfect stepping stone into the cloud.

Apart from all of the features that we’ve just discussed, one of the main reasons that Google Apps is such a great stepping stone into the cloud is because of all of the available integrations.

When your company starts to grow, you’ll inevitably need to incorporate more systems to help streamline operations and processes.
Maybe you’ll need a job management platform, or maybe you’ll need cloud accounting. Whatever it is, you want to make sure that the solution you choose doesn’t require you to double enter information.

Google Apps has amazing integrations with dozens of programs, so you can effectively allow them to speak with each other.

Summary

If I was to recommend one program to any company, at any stage of business, it would be Google Apps for Work.
Looking beyond the immediate advantages of having reliable, cloud based email, you can’t go past the scalability and collaborative features that the entire suite of apps delivers.

Google Apps for Work is an enterprise level solution, that is perfectly suited for small business and the trades. From companies that run solo, right up to companies that have 100 staff, in my opinion you’ll struggle to find a better product.
As resellers of Google Apps for Work, we’re huge advocates of its features, it’s flexibility and mostly, it’s ability to facilitate growth. And from a profile building perspective, Google Apps forms the perfect foundation.

 

Tell me, what would be the first thing that you’d move from your filing cabinet into the cloud?

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