Date posted: 1/12/2016 5 min read

Running a business on $1 a day

The cloud has given small organisations the opportunity to buy professional tech capabilities at a fraction of the price

In brief

  • Services such as Weebly give you simple editors, professional templates and provide hosting
  • Dropbox is ideal for some simple document management in the cloud
  • Asana is a cloud-based task management system that is ideal for small teams

By Sean Devenish

For a small business with a handful of staff, how realistic is it to meet all your technology and software needs on just $1 a day?

We are going to run an exercise and attempt to meet all the major technology requirements for our business on this diminutive budget. We will assume that we already have a great internet connection, and have three employees in the business. What do we need and how effective can we be as a small business on this miniscule budget?

This article is far from exhaustive, and I have taken a few liberties with currency conversion, but it serves as a light-hearted attempt at some available solutions to give us an idea of just what can be achieved on a minimal budget in today’s cloud-centric world.

Domain name

You can’t run a professional-looking business in this day and age without a domain name. Given our websites and email system at a minimum will need this, let’s get this up and running as our first stop.

There are a lot of options here, so let’s try Crazy Domains (crazydomains.com.au), A$11.50 for two years, plus another A$18 per year for the ability to use port forwarding, which ensures we can cleanly use our domain name with other services such as our website and email. Total cost equates to less than A$2 per month.

Web presence

To look bona fide, we need a good looking website that doesn’t yell out “amateur”.

Thankfully, we are covered. Services such as Weebly or Squarespace give you simple editors and professional templates to easily create a stunning website, and provide hosting as part of the service. While being simple, they are also powerful enough that some leading edge design agencies that I know of are using them for their commercial client sites.

Let’s use Weebly. While we could go for a free version, we will pay a small amount so that there is nothing that cries “cheap” to any savvy visitor, and get this for A$4.08 per month.

Email

Who better to turn to than the master of all things web? Google. For A$5 per month per user, we get access to Google’s enterprise system, and we can get a comprehensive email system that integrates with some of the other key features.

We can use our domain name with this service so we get professional looking emails, and we get to use other enterprise features, such as team document management, which will come in handy later.

Document management

We could use the longstanding Dropbox for some simple document management in the cloud, and we get a good amount of storage space for free. If we need a little more security, we could also utilise Google Drive (drive.google.com) in our Google enterprise subscription, not to mention Microsoft OneDrive if we are a Microsoft fan.

Between these we can get a fair amount of storage space for the right kind of price — free.

Basic productivity tools

“Productivity tools” is the colloquial phrase used to describe programs that do things like word processing and spreadsheets.

Microsoft Office looks a bit expensive when running this tight a budget. However, we have two other simple options. Let’s integrate with our Google enterprise account above and use Google Docs to manage spreadsheets and word documents.

If we want a more robust and feature-rich desktop solution, we could also look to OpenOffice (openoffice.org), which provides substantial productivity functionality, and is also free and open source.

And if we need a solution to replace Powerpoint presentations? How about trying Prezi? Not only do these look so much better to present with, but they have a great price tag — free.

Client relationship management (CRM)

Even a small business needs a basic way of storing client data and correspondence. CRMs are usually very expensive, but for a lightweight offering for smaller businesses there are some effective options.

Try for example something like CapsuleCRM, Insightly or Zoho. In this case Zoho (zoho.com/crm) will give us a fairly substantial online system with multi-device support for free for up to ten users, and it has a lot of scale to grow with us if we get bigger.

Workflow and team management

We need at least a basic way of managing our team’s workflow, keeping people accountable, and ensuring we prioritise our work.

We could use age-old email, but let’s clean up the mailboxes and use a proper system to manage tasks and keep conversations together around workflow patterns.

Take a look at Asana, a cloud-based task management system that is ideal for small teams. And it is free for up to 15 users.

Accounting and payroll

The market for fully functional accounting software is flooded with competitive offerings. We can comfortably get a good cloud accounting package, including payroll, assuming we have only a handful of staff for around the A$50 per month mark.

This is more than we want at present. How about we go with Intuit Quickbooks Online? We can get this for A$5 per month wholesale through our accountant, and it is fully featured for the small/micro business with free payroll for up to ten employees.

To summarise the results: Per month

Domain Name $2.00

Website $4.08

Email $15.00

Document Management Free

Productivity Tools Free

CRM Free

Workflow Management Free

Accounting and Payroll $5.00

Total $26.08

This is far from a scientific study, but it is fascinating to compare this to the situation ten or more years ago. Small business can now, with minimal funds, run a polished outfit that presents online as if it were a much heavier weight organisation.

Sean Devenish CA is a principal at www.collinssba.com.au

This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of Acuity magazine.