S.M.A.R.T. Communication- S.M.A.R.T. Article #1

Smart Communication

The Best Applications to Improve your Personal and Team Communications for Small Business Owners

How can I do things better, faster and more efficiently using innovation and technology wherever I can? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for as long as I can remember. As a CEO, tech entrepreneur, and mother, I’m the type of person who wants to make smart choices with the technology I use, and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. 

Over the last two decades, I’ve used a LOT of applications. A handful of these have really made an impact on my work and personal life. These applications do not impede processes for me, they simplify my life. They make it easier for me to communicate with my team, to work with my clients, to conduct business, to manage my time, and also to take care of my health. 

In the next few blog posts, I will share my own take on some of these technology applications in hopes that this information might enlighten fellow entrepreneurs and work-from-home professionals in their own journey. 

In this first post, I’m going to focus on the tools that have helped to improve communication both personally and within my teams.  These tools fall into the following categories:

  • Team Communication / Chat
  • Meetings / Webinars
  • Virtual Phone and Fax Systems

As a side note, it was really interesting to see that several of the apps that I list here are mentioned in a Business Insider article written by Rosalie Chan titled ‘Here are the 10 fastest-growing work apps of 2018, according to $9 billion security company Okta’. So kudos to you, Rosalie, it looks like we’re in agreement.

Team Communication / Chat

The adoption of technology has to be company-wide. Without everyone using it, it just becomes another useless tool on your system – an additional layer of complexity that adds to the problem. This is especially true with communication tools. 

Despite all the email filters that I have set in place, I get around 200 emails a day – client communications, subscribed lists, marketing emails, internal team communications, even requests to meet the love of my life (Ha!) in <insert foreign country>, etc. So when my team needs to get in touch with me, I need them to be in a communication ‘mode’ that doesn’t result in their messages getting lost in the sheer volume of emails. 

Slack 

Slack is the communication tool that supports this crucial role within our organization. Slack has become so popular that it is now a verb (but not painful) – “Just slack me about that issue so I can address it.”

Why I like Slack:

  • Allows me to quickly see and respond to important internal messages within our organization 
  • Reduces the number of internal emails and the excessive cc-ing of people which results in more chaos 
  • Allows me to create public and private channels in which the communication history can easily be accessed
  • Sends me desktop, email, and/or mobile notifications – my choice
  • Makes it extremely easy for me to drop in images and links 
  • Allows me to indicate my availability status – in a meeting, on vacation, out for the day, etc. This way, I’m saved from the burden of having to send an additional email to inform people of my availability 
  • Integrates with other applications I use frequently – Google Calendar, Wunderlist, Zoho, and many others… 

Meetings / Webinars

The ability to ‘meet’ remotely has been one of the most significant and disruptive technology changes in the past decade. Online meetings and webinar applications have revolutionized the way we work these days. I do, however, believe that it’s vitally important to choose the right app to conduct online meetings and webinars. And to me, the most important thing that a meeting or webinar application must have is exceptional voice quality. This means there should be no instances of people complaining about echoes, voices breaking, and static noise during calls.

I have found myself using two different applications quite frequently for online meetings – Join.me and Zoom.  Both have consistently excelled with voice quality and have nice features. I keep both so I have two options. Which one is better? I’ll let you choose. 

Join.me

We use Join.me within our company to conduct our online internal meetings and demos. We have had a lot of success with this tool, and I believe that the simplicity this tool brings to your remote office lifestyle cannot be overstated. 

Why I like Join.me:

  • Allows me to schedule meetings using the same link and the same phone number for regular recurring meetings
  • Allows me to start internal meetings and get people to join them with the least amount of friction 
  • Makes it very easy for me to pass meeting controls and presenter roles 
  • Has a nice meeting recording feature 
  • Integrates with Gmail and sends a very nice email with the link and connection phone number 
  • With a Pro account, lets me share my meeting with up to 50 people 

Zoom

Zoom is also quite easy to use and comes equipped with an impressive set of features. I haven’t been using it for as long, but the quality and features are very comparable.

Why I like Zoom: 

  • Lets me have 1-on-1 calls for as long as I wish with a basic, free account 
  • Has an impressive and easy-to-use recording feature that doesn’t seem to be intrusive 
  • Provides scheduled and recurring meeting features
  • Offers paid plans that are quite affordable 

GoToWebinar
When we’re doing a webinar for a large group of people – more than 50 – GoToWebinar works wonders for us. The set of features that GoToWebinar comes equipped with makes it the closest thing to an actual real-life seminar.  

Why I like GoToWebinar: 

  • Has an impressive recording feature 
  • Makes it very easy for me to mute and unmute attendees
  • Let’s me know whether GoToWebinar is on the active windows of my attendees – allowing me to gauge how engaged my audience is 
  • Allows me to easily identify and mute any interference coming from specific attendees

Virtual Phone and Fax Systems

Every company still needs to have a “business phone” and employees within our company need extensions.  I don’t want to give out personal cell information for me and my employees. But the days of having a phone system in an office for small business owners is out the door. They’re too expensive and all the equipment costs way too much and everyone is using their cell phone anyway.  A virtual phone system allows me to have a business phone presence without the overhead of a business phone system.

RingCentral

RingCentral serves as an all-in-one phone solution for my company. By using RingCentral, a virtual PBX, we now have a very professional phone communication system without spending a lot of time or money in the configuration and ongoing management of it. 

Why I like RingCentral: 

  • Allows me to manage my company’s extensions and all our personal extensions – from routing to messaging
  • Lets me control what each person’s out-of-office message says, what their voicemail says, how voicemails are routed, how calls are routed when multiple people need to be involved, and how long people hold or wait before they are automatically taken to voicemail 
  • Helps me establish business hours for everyone that’s receiving calls
  • It has a really nice feature called Voice-to-text with accurately transcribes a voicemail into text which is sent to me in an email. So if I’m in a meeting, I can respond via email or route the call to the right person without having to stop down in the middle of a meeting to pick up the phone 
  • Has excellent voice quality 

MyFax

While RingCentral also offers fax capability, I have chosen to use a separate faxing service, MyFax, whenever I need something very confidential to be faxed.

Why I like MyFax: 

  • Is very easy to use 
  • Lets me log in and quickly upload items within MyFax for sending
  • Sends faxes directly to my email account along with the attachments

These are just a few of the apps that have helped to make my communications a lot more efficient.  I’ll discuss apps to help manage the Sales Cycle & improve Marketing Efficiency, Personal Productivity apps and even several personal and lifestyle applications I like in upcoming blogs.

About the Author

Karen Perkins is CEO and Co-Founder of Vault Rooms, an online document storage, sharing and tracking platform.  She is also champion of Super S.M.A.R.T. Women – Smarter Choices.

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