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The Three-Step Office Escape Plan (Going Mobile, Professionally)

If there’s one thing the mobile revolution has taught me about small business professionals, it’s this: They really don’t like fluorescent lighting. (Or anything else about the stereotypical office environment.)

Thanks to mobile devices, business apps and cloud services, we are now free to work, create, meet, collaborate and even close deals from anywhere, anytime. And according to recent SMB surveys from online fax service eFax® and its parent company, cloud-services provider j2 Global®, we’re increasingly likely to use mobile technology to get out of the office, find more enjoyable places to be productive, and improve our work-life balance.

In fact, according to the j2 Global 2013 Year-End SMB Survey, 43 percent of small business professionals see exercise and improved health as their top goals this year. In other words, their primary New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 have nothing to do with business.

And the eFax survey, The Art of the Deal, found an incredible 84 percent of SMBs have closed at least one deal outside their office using online faxing — at restaurants, on trains and even in airplanes.

So, yes, mobile technology has freed us to get business done anywhere. But just because you can take a client’s call, attend a videoconference or sign a contract wherever you are, that doesn’t mean you should — at least not without first ensuring you’re as ready and professional as you would be back at the office.

Here are a few suggestions for using your mobile devices wisely to do business.

1. “Single-task” when there’s a lot on the line
According to an article in Psychology Today, “The True Cost of Multi-Tasking,” when we multi-task, we’re far more likely to make errors than if we just did one thing at a time.

Yes, now you can pop open a contract on your mobile phone, sign with your finger across the screen, then reply with an executed deal, even while ordering a coffee or hailing a cab. As one survey respondent indicated, with online faxing and a digitized signature, you can sign and send an important fax while attending a Paul McCartney concert.

Sure, you can turn around the deal without hesitation, but why rush, especially with something as important as a contract? Resist the temptation to run fast just because you can. Take the time you need to review the document carefully. Responding in minutes, instead of seconds, is still impressive.

2. Ensure a quiet background before taking a business call
Thanks to your smart phone, you go to your kid’s ballgame and still be accessible to clients, colleagues or anyone in your business network.

But be careful. Projecting professionalism is just as important as being responsive. So before you take or return an important call from a prospect, find a quiet place, away from the cheering fans and “Get your hot dogs!” screams.

My experience: sometimes the car is the perfect remote office. You can still see the field, but with a little silence and the passenger seat for a desk if needed.

3. Be ready for your close-up
Yes, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can use your smart phone or tablet to “meet” face-to-face with your staff or an eager prospect by video.

But are you actually prepared to do so? You wouldn’t show up for a client meeting wearing a sleeveless shirt and holding an ice cream cone. Nor should you present yourself that way for a videoconference just because you’re on vacation. Change clothes, check to ensure the visual background within range of your device’s camera is appropriate — and then join the conference looking ready to do business.

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