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Ask the Experts: Making technology work for your business

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent
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While learning new technology can be intimidating, mastering a few apps can make operating a business more efficient.

Hilary Broadway, chairwoman of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and broker-in-charge at Allen Tate Mooresville/Lake Norman, regularly leads seminars about how to integrate technology into business.

She said she is fascinated by technology and enjoys trying out new applications. In the real estate business, she has found that applications for mobile devices allow agents to conduct business quickly and from anywhere.

Previously, agents regularly drove to and from their offices retrieving documents and could wait days for signatures.

She now can use apps on a tablet device to import contact information from a business card, accept signatures and access all of her documents.

“A lot of people think the iPad is a sort of toy, but it is a highly effective business tool,” she said.

Here are a few of Broadway’s favorite apps:

ScanBizCards: Use the app to photograph a business card, and it automatically uploads the information into your iPhone address book and Outlook contacts. It can send a LinkedIn invitation to the contact with one touch and offers additional features for organizing contacts and related information.

Evernote: This app saves and organizes everything from note to images to Web files. It collects information from anywhere, including photographs, texts and favorite websites, into a single place.

DocuSign: To get signatures from people who are not in proximity, users can add documents from many file formats, including Word, Excel and PDF, and then email them with “sign here” notations.

Notability: This note-taking app allows users to record information using handwriting, audio recording, typing and inserting media into notes. The app also contains tools for organizing and sharing information.

Dropbox: A storage site that allows users to access photos, documents, videos and files from anywhere. Folders also can be shared by sending links or inviting others to view them.

Recipients can return the documents with an electronic signature, which means they can sign with a mouse, upload a scanned image of a signature or type in their name and choose a signature style.

Most of the apps that Broadway recommends are free. The biggest challenge can be learning how to use them.

“I think that people are eager to embrace technology, and I think people are intimidated by technology,” she said.

She tells people that if they are overwhelmed with information about apps to pick one or two and decide what they want to accomplish with it. Many people often want an app that will save them time or help them stop duplicating efforts at work.

“To learn to use it, you just dive in,” Broadway said. “Many of these apps have wonderful tutorials.”

Websites for apps often offer videos and descriptions of how to use the app, and some provide customers’ descriptions of creative ways they are using the app. A quick search on Google or YouTube also can pull up helpful instruction.

“There is a lot of help out there,” Broadway said. “People truly do not know where to start or how to start, but once they get in there, they find it’s so freeing to be able to use them.”

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce regularly offers technology workshops for members. For more information, visit http://www.lakenormanchamber.org/

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