Smartphones have come far in the past decade, but could you ditch your laptop and run your business entirely from a smartphone? Many entrepreneurs have considered a mobile-first business model to provide themselves and their employees with more flexibility so they can work from anywhere. But there are many factors to consider if you’re thinking about running your business only on mobile devices.
In the right industry and with proper planning, running a business from your smartphone is absolutely possible. Most people already own a smartphone, and using it for business could save you the expense of a laptop purchase. For many, working from a cell phone may be preferable to running a business from a computer. Going mobile gives on-the-go business owners the opportunity to stay connected anywhere. Plus, depending on your line of work, anything you can do on a laptop, you can probably do on a smartphone.
With all of the apps geared toward remote work, a mobile-first business may even be more convenient. Emerging smartphone apps are supporting the notion that, from a hardware standpoint at least, small business owners can run their companies with a mobile device and a host of helpful apps.
If you ask a tech-savvy business owner whether they can run their business from their mobile phone, they’ll likely tell you yes. Expect that chorus to grow louder as more advanced business-friendly mobile apps hit the marketplace.
“Yes, absolutely, you can do so,” said Sinan Eren, enterprise mobility expert and vice president of Barracuda. “Actually, you can especially run a small/midsize business with mobile apps much more effectively over legacy desktop software. … Contract drafting, payment processing, all the way to e-signature apps are the mainstay of scaling an SMB business.”
Even though it’s possible to run a business from your smartphone, it does require some planning and logistical considerations.
First, you should establish whether your business tasks can be done completely on a mobile device. For example, a business that provides marketing services may have an easy time performing job functions on a mobile phone, whereas a graphic designer would probably need special programs or tools, or even just a bigger screen.
If you decide you can complete your work on a mobile phone, you’ll need the right apps to get the job done. Do some research to find apps that will help organize your business’s goals and priorities. There are great CRM software resources available for mobile devices; these apps can provide you with helpful features, like sales tracking, lead management and campaign building.
Get used to working with a smaller keyboard, too. Try using apps such as Slack or Zoom, which have video calling options, so you can avoid errors when typing and have more efficient conversations.
Most importantly, don’t forget to back everything up. Save a backup of all your important files, data and conversations. Using cloud storage could be a great option for mobile-first businesses.
Yuval Scarlat, former chief executive of California-based computer software firm Capriza, said small business owners can easily run their businesses from their mobile devices, and growing businesses are actually the ideal candidates to go mobile-only. However, for a small business owner or an entire business looking to transition to a mobile-only approach, a mindset shift is required, Scarlat added.
“For generations, corporate information was built by the business to serve the back-end office, but [businesses] missed out on providing an easy-to-use experience for a regular user,” he said. “In our personal lives, we expect a user-centric experience on our mobile devices and mobile apps, and this same expectation is now being carried into the workforce. We’re in the midst of a mobile revolution – one that could very well make everyone mobile-only in the next few years.”
Before smartphones existed, we needed several devices to do what one smartphone can now accomplish. Those devices included cameras, scanners, calculators and printers, not to mention all the travel or commuting required to have a meeting or attend networking events. Now, we can take pictures, scan and sign documents, host meetings, and do pretty much anything else a business needs right from the palms of our hands.
Using a smartphone to run your business will help cut down on costs, which is especially important if you’re a new business owner who doesn’t have the extra cash to spend. For example, you’ll save on the cost of a laptop, an office, and even Wi-Fi if your phone has a strong 5G connection. If you hire in the future, chances are, most applicants will already have smartphones, too, thereby cutting the cost of a necessary home-office budget.
Choosing the right phone plan could help you save even more money when running your business on mobile. Look into different carriers before you make your decision.
Apps have come a long way in the past few years, providing us with even more ways to connect, entertain and do work. Many of the apps that help business owners market to and reach new customers are free. For instance, social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram are great for businesses to connect with potential customers.
There’s also an app for just about everything else you could ever need for your business. For example, Trello helps you organize your projects and keep track of clients; Zoom allows you to make video calls and host or join meetings from anywhere; Google Calendar makes sure you won’t ever miss a meeting; and DocuSign lets you send documents back and forth for reviewing and signing.
“The rapid handling of order flows saves businesses and their employees from repetitive and tiresome clerical work,” Eren said. “You also have painless legal contracts, payroll and benefits management, simple payment processing and invoicing, [which] all come in a mobile package nowadays. These apps perform as good, if not better than, their legacy desktop counterparts.”
It may take a little research to know which apps will work best for your business, but once you have the right tools, you’ll be ready to succeed.
When Scarlat co-founded Capriza in 2011, he decided to practice what he’d been preaching and run the company from his phone.
“Over the past 25 years, I’d grown frustrated using too many different systems of record in the workplace, spending unnecessary time trying to find pieces of information,” he explained. “I realized that instead of needing in-depth access to the various back-end systems, software and applications at all times, what mattered was having snippets of information readily accessible to me. Essentially, having a one-minute experience through an app on my mobile device was much more productive than sifting through multiple systems on a desktop.”
While working at Capriza, Scarlat controlled every aspect of the business from his mobile device. Whenever he opened his phone, he’d see a snapshot of the company forecast, sales leads, marketing dashboards, and approvals and associated costs, he explained.
Running the business from his phone actually allowed him to be more productive. For instance, if he was waiting for a flight and he wanted to see how different departments were doing, mobile apps made it easy to do so. When he needed to urgently approve something, he just pulled out his phone rather than trying to find a Wi-Fi connection and get his laptop up and running, he said.
He was also able to customize his work experience by setting up mobile apps and his device the way he wanted, not the way IT dictated.
It’s happened to all of us: You’re in a meeting or in the middle of a project, and a text notification pops up. Suddenly, it’s been 20 minutes, and you’re still mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Although features such as “focus mode” can help you stay on task, it’s easier to get distracted when your phone is already in your hand.
It can be especially difficult when you’re working with distracting applications in a professional capacity – for example, if you’re creating content for TikTok or working with augmented reality. Even if you’re on the app for work purposes, it’s easy to quickly become distracted by a TikTok dance trend or the perfect virtual shopping experience.
One of the most compelling reasons to work from your smartphone is the flexibility it offers. You can truly work from anywhere at any time of the day. However, this may also be one of the biggest challenges for mobile-first business owners.
Creating a work-life balance is important for your mental health and your employees’ satisfaction. When you work from your smartphone, you may feel like you’re constantly on the clock; there isn’t a clear separation between free time and work time, because you always have your smartphone with you. You may be tempted to answer one last text or to pick up a late-night phone call simply because you have your phone at the ready.
Establishing these boundaries and sticking to them may be challenging for many business owners, especially those who are just starting out.
One potential downside of relying solely on smartphone apps is that there is a risk of cyber theft. Although the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks, “businesses can be exposed to increased risk of data theft due to lost or stolen smartphones,” Eren said. Thankfully, this risk can be effectively managed.”
To get your mobile-only campaign rolling, Scarlat advised knowing exactly what a mobile-first working environment looks like. “That can be the first major obstacle,” he said. “A major reason is that for mobile employees to be productive, applications need to be user-centric instead of business-centric.”
Scarlat said many of the systems businesses have in place were developed with little thought given to user experience. But in a mobile environment, the user experience is vital.
“Considering how to best condense business functions into one-minute experiences that can be accomplished on a mobile device is pivotal to any mobile strategy, and shifting to a user-first model is the first major challenge many companies, regardless of size, face,” he said.
Given fears that corporate data could be stolen or leaked through a mobile device, Scarlat said it’s important to select mobile software and applications that have security built directly into them. “In addition, the process of transitioning existing applications and software into mobile apps can be costly and time intensive if the business relies on numerous different legacy on-premise or cloud systems,” he added.
Overall, most business leaders say the benefits of running your company on a mobile phone outweigh the risks. However, it’s important to give thoughtful consideration to your business’s specific needs before you decide that this approach is right for your company.