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By Raj Sond, General Manager at First Data

Holidays; a chance to catch up with family and friends, visit new places and most of all to kick back and relax. But switching off isn’t always easy for busy SME owners who are the eyes and ears of a business. With numerous daily tasks and responsibilities, a weekend away or that two weeks in the sun you’ve been dreaming of can seem like a distant, and perhaps even unattainable, wish. Stress levels can soar, not only with endless to-do lists and handovers in the run up to your own time away, but also with a wave of staff holidays!

We know from our research that 49% of SMEs who started their own business said that they did so because they wanted more control, while 44% went solo because they wanted to make use of the flexible working hours. But it seems that this eagerness for control has come with a price-tag, with 42% admitting they worry about handing over the reins while out of the office, restaurant or store. For those yet to adopt technology, like a cloud-based ePos (Electronic Point of Sale) to help with the smooth running of their business, it’s a catch 22 – fail to pass over control, then fail to benefit from those flexible hours.

But SME owners need not worry. Keeping control no longer requires being physically present in the office, shop floor or even being in the same country!Cloud technology means we can do almost anything, from anywhere, with an internet connection and a mobile device. We take advantage of this in our personal lives, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t use this same technology to ease the burden of a heavy work schedule.

By implementing a cloud-based ePos system, business owners needn’t be concerned about taking time away from the business, or become preoccupied with phoning to ‘check-in’ whilst away –  all the information you need from staff hours, to stock levels, to inventories is all in front of you, at the touch of a button, on one easily accessible dashboard.

This type of dashboard is also the perfect tool to dive into useful data and analytics to build relevant promotions and offers and increase sales. For example, a café owner could dig into sales data for the morning and look for product peaks,noticing that iced lattes were selling well. They might then choose to implement an immediate offer from afar – a 2-4-1 happy hour on all iced lattes in the afternoon, for instance. This type of dynamic promotion is an excellent way of using smart insights to drive sales and footfall.

Tapping into data in this way is a great way of understanding your business and the areas in need of some TLC,as well as helping you to get to know your customers better through their purchasing habits, social media interactions, in-store queries and more.

Cloud-based business apps open the door to a world of information, all in one place. One of the key advantages of apps, particularly for small businesses, helping them to operate like a larger business, whilst remaining small and lean. Open platforms (where any developer can add applications) are ideal, allowing business owners to inject innovation into their customer service, and acquire the next big trend as an add-on, rather than committing cash to a whole new proprietary solution.Having one scalable and inexpensive business solution which grows with your businesses is a more attractive option for many, rather than spending time choosing and re-purchasing new technologies in order to keep up with trends and the needs of your business.

Whatever your business is, be it a café, bar, hairdressers, florist, restaurant, hotel or boutique, competition is huge and it can be daunting to take yourself off on holiday in fear of abandoning the business and staff at what could be a crucial time.With the smart use of technology however, you are in no danger of having to take your eyes off the prize but merely adopting a ‘digital team member’ which can help serve as the eyes and ears of the operation while you jet off for a well-earned rest!

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