Let the latest technology tools make not only your business more efficient and successful, but your life easier too. Tina Weeks explains more.
Are you still carrying out paper fact finds or buying brown paper folders for clients? If so, it might be time for your firm to consider embracing technology more.
I’ve been in financial planning for nearly 20 years now and I have always been interested in technology but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really embraced it. It’s not just because I am that way inclined (I am) but using the right technology tools for your business can save so much time and help with efficiencies and ultimately, long-term success.
Our business, Serenity Financial Planning, is a completely paperless office, which means no row upon row of filing cabinets. We scan all documents we receive and shred all post. We limit what we print out and the complete client file is saved electronically.
We actually have seven offices across the country and if we weren’t paperless, it would be a nightmare to share information and communicate internally which is really important for our business.
My top technology tools
Thanks to technology we use, I can work anywhere. All I need is my laptop or even my phone, so here are a few of the tools we find most useful:
Dropbox - We use dropbox to hold both our client and business information. All our virtual folders sit on dropbox where staff have access to them and share folders as appropriate. We back everything up externally so we never have a problem losing information.
Gmail and gmail apps - We use gmail for business emails and our calendars and intranet is also based on gmail where we have a forum for discussions and announcements. We also use quite a few of the gmail apps that you can load onto gmail. I use one called Rapportive, which links to my email. Every time someone sends me an email, I can hover over the email address and find out all the available information on that person online. It also gives me the option to connect to people on Linkedin and other platforms with one click.
Boomerang for gmail – Boomerang is a brilliant tool that helps you time when your emails can be sent out. If you are working late one evening (not that I do that very often!), you can schedule a client email to be sent out at 9am the next morning. Boomerang can also send you an email reminder if you have not heard back from an email you have sent out.
Yesware – Yesware is a really useful tool for our business. It’s an email tracker that lets us know if a client has received an email from us, if they have opened it and how many times they have opened it. It just gives us some really helpful information.
FreeAgent - FreeAgent is an accounting software package for small businesses which takes on the role of bookkeeper and we also spend less money on our accountant’s fees! From a business point of view, I am constantly on top of the financials. The software links up to my bank account too and automatically uploads and categorises all transactions. It’s really simple and saves so much time. There’s also a mobile app for it called mobileAgent where you just literally take pictures of your expense receipts and they automatically upload onto your accounting software. I can also run my payroll through it and if you are registered for VAT, it does that too.
Dashlane – Dashlane is a brilliant password manager for your IT security needs. It sits on your browser and protects all your passwords.
I am very much a list maker and my 'to do' list helps me manage my day. I actually use my email as part of my 'to do' list. In gmail you have the option of adding a star to emails and this then creates a separate list that I can work through. I also use the reminder app on my iphone where I have set up various lists that I share with relevant people.
Of everything, one of the biggest time savers has been learning how to manage my email effectively. I could write a whole article just on that! My first tip is to set up filters and rules so that emails are automatically filed away, forwarded or deleted. This means that you only have to deal with a small number. I also use Unrollme.com – a great service that rolls up all your emails into one email each day and I do this for the less important ones. It also helps you unsubscribe from emails easily.
Be savvy with social media
The biggest benefit of social media is that it gives propsects the chance to find out more about our firm. I have found that people will watch and observe an adviser firm before engaging with an adviser.
It’s also good for exisiting clients; it is important to have a presence online as clients get reassurance from the fact you are in business and that you understand technology enough to engage with them in whatever context suits them.
I’m a big fan of twitter and I’ve picked up quite a following. I have learned so much through twitter just by talking to other advisers.
We want our clients to feel we are open to all methods of communication and we do carry out a lot of meetings via skype or facetime, just whatever suits our clients. Our biggest source of business is through referrals and not everyone is technologically savvy. We have to be able to be flexible to cater for all our client needs when it comes to communication.
These tools are all about making your life easier and your firm more efficient. So to make sure you are making best use of technology, find some firms that are ‘doing’ technology correctly and ask questions!
Just because these tools work for me, doesn’t mean it will work for all firms. Social media is one of those things where you can’t just tick a box to say you have done it. You have to put the effort in. If it works great; if it doesn’t, find something else.
And the best things about these technology tools? They cost virtually next to nothing or are absolutely free!