“Google your Small Business.” Most business owners know what I mean when I say that to my workshop and seminar audiences. It’s important to Google yourself, right? You know there’s information out there about you and your business that’s good for you to be aware of, or even correct or keep up-to-date (like social media profiles, business directory listings and review websites). You can easily search Google.com to find all this relevant business and personal information. However, there’s a whole other meaning when I say you should “Google your Small Business.” Google is one of the largest providers of software for business, organizations, education, and even enterprise and government today. With over 500 products and countless integrated services tailored for publishing, working and interacting externally and internally, Google is a natural fit for handling almost every aspect of a business’ infrastructure. While I don’t expect you to learn and implement all Google products to manage and market your business, there are many that can satisfy your current and future needs. All you need to do is look around at software or systems that aren’t working or are missing something; Google can likely fill that business need. In this post, I’ll highlight the basics and provide resources to many others so you can learn more about the power available to you as an organizing professional to truly Google your Small Business, or your client’s.
Business, meet Google Apps for Work
Google began as a Search Engine Provider (SEP) in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, PhD students at Stanford University. I can only imagine that never believed their originally nicknamed “BackRub” search engine/research project would turn into the global, multibillion-dollar enterprise it has today. On the other hand, Brin, Page and the executive team at Google did have the foresight to start amassing products within the company to help Google Search users with their productivity. The two reasons were to understand their audiences better and the other to build a stronger relationship with those users. For example, if I used Gmail (Google’s email product), Google Calendar and other Google tools, I was likelier to use Google Search as well. It was the value-added benefit of being a Google user, and that naturally blended into others’ business and professional lives.
These services, which I’ll speak about momentarily, combined became a strong business feature set. Google took notice and built a real edge in the market when they launched Google Apps for Business in 2007, renamed last year to Google Apps for Work. This software suite on its surface includes 12 base products, including productivity software for communications, collaboration, online storage and sharing, and administration of files and access. The productivity software includes Google Drive, Documents, Sheets, Slides, Forms and Drawing (which would equate generally to their well-known competitors Dropbox, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, SurveyMonkey and Microsoft Publisher/Visio, respectively). This technology comes with more powerful functionality than the native desktop applications since you’re able to collaboratively live-edit, share and control access and comment on the files within Google Apps for Work. Below, I’ve provided a chart of the 12 base products and their general capabilities; I’m scratching the surface here on their feature set, but it should give you an idea of where you can start with Google Apps for Work and how it can become such a strong foundation for any business or organization.
In fact, this reduces most Small Business IT infrastructure needs down to a smartphone, any computer with a Web browser connected to the Internet, and Google! In all reality, I could run my entire business from either my laptop, smartphone or a mobile tablet device running Google’s Android or ChromeOS operating system from almost anywhere for $500 or less. In comparison, what used to cost a Small Business on average about $10,000 in startup technology infrastructure (plus maintenance, IT labor and other incidental expenditures over the course of the lifetime of a business), Google has wrapped this all up into $5 (or $10 which includes unlimited storage, Admin Console and Vault) per user per month.
Quick Overview of Google Apps for Work Base Products
Email communications in highly customizable, threaded (or non-threaded) conversation views with IMAP.
Instant messaging (text and photo/video sharing), video and voice calls from your desktop or laptop and your mobile device.
Schedule events, allocate resources (like conference rooms or equipment’s), and set staff schedules.
Google’s seamless, advertising-free Social Network and Identity Service for business.
Download and install Google Drive to have the ability to drag any file on your computer and synchronize it across all your computers so you always have them available.
Write and edit privately or collaborate with others live in your Web browser.
Enter data and process, format and synthesize that data however you would like, plus share/collaborate with others. You can build full business applications (like accounting, financial reporting and document automation software) within Sheets.
Create that next presentation for your sales meeting, outline your Human Resources to securely share with your new staff, or create slides for sharing on your website to demonstrate your new product.
Develop and publish online forms and surveys privately or publicly for different audiences to collect and analyze data.
Draw a graphic or design other marketing visuals for your Google Document, Slide or Sheet, website, or print or digital marketing collateral.
Launch a website, intranet or extranet in a matter of minutes. No programming skills needed.
Manage all your users and Google products from one dashboard from your computer, smartphone or tablet.
Manage all your document organization and retention policies in a streamlined interface.
Over the past several years, I have delivered over 50 Web-based seminars on Google products and other Web management and marketing topics through the Virginia Small Business Development Center (Virginia SBDC). Virginia SBDC is a non-profit organization with regional offices throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia providing no-cost marketing and management counseling and education to Small Business owners. (If you’re outside of Virginia, there’s an SBDC near you as well.) So, whatever Google Apps for Work product you’re looking to get started with, there’s likely a Webinar in the archives, or one upcoming soon. I wish you good luck with your and your clients’ business journeys, and I hope Google is the backbone of your businesses help
Ray Sidney-Smith is a Web & Mobile Strategist, the President of W3 Consulting (providing training, seminars and a variety of domain, WordPress hosting and development services), and the author of SoLoMo Success. When he’s not teaching business management and technology, he’s teaching and training businesses and professionals about productivity and technology.