There’s a difference between communication inside of a big corporation and communication for small businesses. In both cases, the simpler and more clear that the communication is, the more effective the business will run. But in a corporate setting, there are a lot of layers of people for a message to go through, whereas in a small business the owners and managers will likely be in direct contact with nearly all of their employees, all the way up and down the ladder.
Communication tools for small businesses
The internet makes communication for small businesses so much easier. You no longer have to think about calling into a switchboard in the basement of the building and being connected to other offices or departments directly, now it’s just a click away. In-office email and messaging systems makes things incredibly simple, and it improves productivity since you can leave someone a message to see whenever they have a chance instead of calling and interrupting them.
Some small businesses use social networks, either the major ones like Facebook or Google+, or smaller custom-made solutions to help them communicate. Some prefer to avoid this, because it can also reduce productivity if employees are getting distracted. And let’s face it – most social networks are filled with distractions. Custom solutions can help with this, since you’re able to monitor employee activity and to make sure they’re not wasting time or communicating about non-business related things.
Basecamp and Trello are two great project management solutions that can fit into most businesses. They work great for communicating the expectations on a project, keeping track of to-do lists and assigning tasks to specific people. They’re also very useful for tracking progress and sharing important files, especially with Dropbox integration which can ensure everyone has access to the latest version of a file at all times.
Now that we’ve discussed practical ways to communicate, it’s important to look at communication in terms of someone knowing who to talk to when there’s a problem. Even in a small business, employees will have issues with one another and with managers from time to time. Or they may simple have a suggestion of how something could run more smoothly. Employees are on the front lines, so they’re often the ones who will see the ins and outs of every process, and as such they’ll know what’s working and what isn’t. It’s important to have open lines of communication to take advantage of that. Smaller businesses might not have a dedicated human resources department that employees can go to in order to help resolve conflicts, but it’s still a good idea to have somebody designated as such.
Having open communication in a small business is important because if just one person is unhappy and doesn’t know what to do about it, this can have an impact on the entire organization. That impact is felt much more deeply in a small business than in a large corporation, so make sure the doors of communication are always open! Having regular staff meetings is a good way to keep communication open and to hear everyone’s grievances, along with their suggestions on ways to improve things.
Final thoughts on small business communications
If Facebook Groups, Trello and Basecamp aren’t your favorite options for using technology to communicate, there are a lot of other options out there so take a look around and find the one that works best for your business. You can always use headsets or conference phones and talk directly to your clients and coworkers. It’s not a bad idea to try out several and to get feedback from your employees about which ones work the best for them and why.
Ultimately, if you listen to the concerns of the employees and address the problems, things will run a lot more smoothly. Nothing is more frustrating than building up the courage to talk to your manager or boss about something that’s bothering you, and feeling like your concerns are falling on deaf ears.