When I was at college I took a weekend job in a petrol station to raise some cash to keep my student standard-issue VW Beetle on the road. At the end of each shift I had to log how many litres had been sold at each grade of fuel. This seemingly harmless task appears to have afflicted me with a mental version of RSI since to this day it remains indelibly burned in my memory that in 1987 a litre of petrol used to cost 38.5p.
This useless fact, no matter how hard I try to unthink it, always flashes across my consciousness every time I fill up my car. Lately though, what used to be just an annoying mental twitch now also makes me sigh with utter exasperation in the face of ever escalating fuel costs in the UK.
Even accounting for twenty-odd years of inflation, that same litre of petrol should only cost about 95p today, but prices in some parts of the UK are now nudging an eye-watering £1.50 a litre – that’s getting on for almost £100 to fill up a family sized car.
Some travel is genuinely unavoidable but web technology can play a ever growing part in mitigating the need to jump in the car to do business.
So, here’s a short list of some of the web tools and tricks the Xero UK team uses to keep a lid on the cost of doing business here without suppressing our productivity or our growth – these suggestions won’t work universally in every business context, but you might be surprised…
- Coffee Shops : This is one of my favourite tricks. Aside from now serving up great flat whites, most UK coffee shops offer some kind of wireless internet access if you don’t already have it through a mobile phone tether or a 3G data stick. So, rather polluting the atmosphere and hurting your expense account with a customary journey to the office, if you’ve got a half-day of solitary report writing, spreadsheet wrangling or just some billing in Xero to do, set up camp in your local coffee shop and do it there. Less travel, better coffee – everyone’s a winner.
- Skype: If you don’t have Skype – get it. It’s totally free unless you make calls to regular telephones, runs on virtually anything – including smartphones – and alongside free audio chat (including free multi-party conference calls) it also offers useful instant messaging and presence awareness for both your colleagues and any Skype connected customers. Skype won’t completely replace physical meetings with co-workers or customers, but if it eliminates just one in four car journeys, that’s a 25% cost saving and with today’s sky high fuel costs, that kind of saving could rack up very quickly.
- GotoMeeting: Skype is ideal for ad-hoc 1:1 calls or with small groups, but what if you need to share more structured information with a larger group of people? Web presentations or webcasts are an excellent way of scaling up from Skype. Affordable tools like GotoMeeting are perfect for hosting things like regular sales calls or presenting data to groups of people, or just sharing information with any group of staff or customers. Cutting down on travel costs where large groups are involved in this way can also return huge cost savings.
- EchoSign: We use Echosign as an efficient way of capturing someone someone’s signature on a contract without jumping in the car, burning costs on a courier or wasting valuable time using regular mail.
These are just a handful of obvious webby things to try, so if you have any other suggestions or ideas that work for you, please drop them into the comments below and I’ll certainly give them a shot.