Build Your Business:

Palm Power: Take Advantage of Mobile Business Management

December 5, 2012

(Editor’s Note: Impressions does not endorse any of the products referenced. The information provided is simply for your convenience in researching applicable products.)

Business technology is increasing in leaps and bounds, such that it’s easier than ever before to be successful with a seat-of-the-pants management style — literally — by turning that smart phone in your back pocket into a mobile command center. If you are one of those people who still think a cell phone is just for making phone calls, then you are way behind the business technology curve.  

Modern business success comes from the ability to manage and respond to both opportunity and crisis on an around-the-clock basis. The ever-expanding collection of smart phones (dominated by Android mobile devices and Apple’s iPhone) are fully capable of delivering the information and resources you need to get the job done. Regardless of whether you are a screen printer, embroiderer, digital printer or sublimator, these palm-sized mini-computers can take your business to a higher level if you incorporate the right apps and hardware. To help you get a handle on things, here are some useful business tools that can work for every decoration business.

Credit Card Processing
One of the most exciting recent developments in smart phone technology is the add-on credit card swipe unit, which allows credit card processing on the go. This can be ideal for retail and mobile operations, and even has some applications for more traditional fulfillment operations — like collecting payment from a customer upon delivery of an order. Several companies are offer this technology, so pay close attention to things like charges and fees, as well as hardware compatibility. Intuit, best known for its QuickBooks product, is one such company. A quick Internet search will yield even more vendors.

Business Card Capture
I tend to collect a lot of business cards, no matter where I go. Using a capture program, I no longer have to manually load them into an address book or database. There are quite a few apps available that make use of the phone’s camera function, combined with an optical character reader (OCR) program to scan, capture and file contacts. To be honest, I haven’t found one yet that does a great job each time, but the results have been decent with most of them.

CamCard has gotten a lot of positive reviews from the Android market. Similar programs exist for other types of phones; just search through your app provider for more sources.

Even the most basic cell phone is equipped with a camera, but when it comes to what you can do with that camera, smart phones are light years ahead of other devices. For the most part, you are carrying a pocket-sized scanner with you wherever you go. Though the phone is small, the images it can capture are many times larger in size — and in turn, very useful for dealing with fine details and tiny text. There are a variety of apps that let you edit, tag, sort and categorize the images you scan for easy retrieval. But it’s not just about taking a picture and storing it as a .jpg; this tool has all kinds of useful applications.

For example, if you are on a sales call and the customer is interested in embroidery, you could scan his logo and send it to your digitizer for a quick stitch estimate, allowing you to give a full quote on the spot. Check out CamScanner, which is available for both Android and iPhone.

Expense Tracking
If you travel a lot, you already know the importance of keeping up with expenses, receipts and mileage for IRS purposes. Apps like ProOnGo take advantage of your phone’s scanning system to copy, track and categorize your expenses and receipts. In fact, it can convert the scanned data into files that can be imported into Microsoft Excel and Quick Books, which saves a lot of time when compared to manual entry. But it’s not limited to scanning receipts. This amazing app makes use of your phone’s GPS to track your trips and calculate mileage logs.

Some other neat apps for expense tracking include:
Cash Book Expense Tracker
Easy Money
Certify Wallet

Mobile Printing
Up until now, one of the limitations of smart phones was finding an easy way to print information. Typically, you would need to email a file to a standard computer that was connected to a printer. Now, with apps such as PrinterShare, your smart phone can connect to virtually any WiFi-enabled printer. Of course, there are some limitations and not every phone or printer is necessarily supported, but they do allow you to run a test printing before buying the app so you can be sure it’s compatible with your equipment.

Mobile Fax
Seeing as how mobile technology affords you the capability to scan and print, it only stands to reason that your smart phone should be able to fax, too — and yes, there is an app for that. A prime example is Mobile Fax Free, which lets you scan documents then fax them to any phone in the United States or Canada (phone charges may be incurred, depending on your cell plan). Most of these services have limits on how many pages you can send for free, so if you send hundreds of faxes per month, it could be costly. Be sure to read the fine print on this one, as you are getting more than just an app, you are subscribing to a service.

Hands-Free Action
Keyboarding and driving do not go hand-in-hand, but who says you can’t tell your phone what to do via verbal commands? Apps such as Voice Actions and Dragon Dictation provide all kinds of hands-free functions, such as sending texts, searching maps, playing music and finding contacts.

On the downside, voice-to-text programs still tend to have a lot of bugs and routinely confuse words, so you should carefully test any system to see how well it recognizes your speech before depending on it to any degree.

Manage Office Documents
Though it’s kind of tedious to do any real work with a Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint document on your phone, it is possible to do so using programs such as Documents To Go.  The free version only allows viewing, whereas the paid app gives you the ability to edit documents. This can be very handy if you need to make some quick updates to a price list, presentation or quote when out of the office and away from a conventional computer.

Customer Management
Your smart phone can easily become a memory enhancement tool for your brain, as it allows you to store a tremendous amount of information about your customers that can be accessed at the click of a button. As a beginning point, most smart phone contact lists allow you to compile a small history for each listing — things like full contact information, notes, pictures, call history and more.

Another tool to consider is SalesForce Mobile, which is geared toward managing your leads and sales opportunities, rather than just cataloging information about your clients. There also are apps that allow you to link your phone to your customer database when you are working remotely from the office.

As you can see, a smart phone is so much more than just a cell phone. It truly can be a palm-sized control room for your business operations — if you choose to take advantage of all of the options available to you as an entrepreneur. Whether you are using an iPhone, Android, Windows phone or something else, there are literally thousands of apps that can simplify your life and increase your efficiency, and many of them are free. Take some time and search through your app source for programs that make sense for you and download them for a test drive.  

Before you know it, you can be engaged in seat-of-the-pants business management from anywhere in the world.

MORE: Got any apps to share? Visit the Impressions Facebook page to post a review and let us know about it!

Award-winning author and international speaker Jimmy Lamb has more than 20 years of apparel decoration experience. He currently is the manager of communication for Sawgrass Technologies, Charleston, S.C. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jimmy at