For any business owner in Singapore, you would have heard of the Productivity & Innovation Credit (PIC) Scheme.
It was introduced in the 2010 Budget and lets enterprises enjoy up to 400% tax deduction or allowances or get 60% cash payouts when they invest in any of its six qualifying activities.
These qualifying PIC activities include the training of employees; acquiring and leasing of IT and automation equipment; the acquiring and in-licensing of intellectual property rights; the registration of trademarks, designs, and patents; activities involving research and development; design projects that are approved by the DesignSingapore council.
Business owners didn’t take long to leap onto the scheme.
In my previous business, we leverage on the scheme to buy new laptops, IP phone sets, and subscribe to cloud solutions such as Exchange365 and a CRM. In totality, it helped us tremendously to do more with less.
We also wasted money on rather redundant stuff that didn't help us at all, including an internal file server, two backup servers, and a faster photo-copying machine.
What other businesses are doing
Recently I reached out to a few friends from the recruitment industry to introduce a new tool I learned of. They came back to thank me and to arrange a catch-up. I sent them a public calendar link for them to pick a date.
In less than ten seconds, I easily have an appointment arranged compared to a long process of messages since we do not have access to each other’s calendar. And to many of them, this is "too high tech".
Perhaps in my recent exposure to HR tech, this is something I take for granted. But it also got me thinking about my endeavor to optimise my work process by highly leveraging on technology. And it must be the right technology. It is pointless to get cash payouts from a scheme like the PIC only for the business owners to buy a faster fax machine.
To compound the reason why I started this article is a recent meet-up with a client. She has a huge server, battery backup, switch and all in boxes, ready to be installed in another office of hers. Essentially her own data center.
In a world where Dropbox and Google Drive is dirt cheap, having your own is just over the top. Even if you can afford it, the maintainance is going to be a nightmare. Think about the security, the bandwidth, the cooling. It can become a full-time job.
Spending your (final) PIC meaningfully
The premise of PIC is to raise productivity. Guess what. Not only did we not increase productivity, we are in fact regressing. Over 2012-2014, our labour productivity was at an average of -0.3%.
With PIC coming to an end by YA2018, business owners in Singapore have little time to maximise the returns from the choice of their adoptions. In the startup world, they are always talking about a 10x return. If you invest $1 in a startup, you expect to get $10 in return.
Applying the same principles, are you getting a 10x return from your faster fax machine? If not, it might be time to do a thorough review of what you are paying for.
5 areas to instantly gain higher productivity
And where else better to start than your sales department since that is one area that will have a direct tangible impact on your bottom-line.
Here are the tools that you can invest in with your PIC meaningfully:
1. Lead generation
Every company needs to generate new leads to convert them into new clients and make more sales. Traditionally you would finger through Yellow Pages and just call them one by one. That doesn't work anymore as phone calls get screened and hard copies of Yellow Pages can no longer be found.
So how does one identify prospects effectively and efficiently in today's world? Even if you manage to find them, what is the most cost-effective way to learn their interest?
Dux-Soup is a browser plug-in which works with Google Chrome and it will become your virtual assistant on LinkedIn. By auto-visiting a given list of leads, it could help to add notification alerts on your recipients. Because those notifications are different from the usually congested connection invites, they tend to get more attention.
Any view back to your account with a strategically printed headline could convert into an inbound connection invite instead – a much more efficient way of lead generation.
Once you have the leads, the next thing you want to do is to get in touch. In the good old days, sales people would pick up the phone and make a cold call. But your target executives today have better technology to screen calls out.
Fortunately, screening of emails is still not up to mark. And unlike a phone call (which you can only speak with one person at one time), email allows you to scale up and reach out to hundreds of people at the same time.
Reply automates one-to-many communication for you and your team – dramatically scaling your outreach capability, while keeping it 100% personal.
And you can preset your email drips so the next few ones will go out automatically if there had been no replies. But if there are, the chain will break, making it look as natural as a human being.
3. Appointments setting
Setting appointments is a pain and so expensive. If you can afford a PA to help you, that’s fine. But what if you can’t? Do you want to spend half an hour dealing with email tags to find a time and day that fits everyone’s calendar?
mimetic.ai is a deep technology startup headquartered in Singapore and its first product is a scheduling assistant named Evie. Utilising groundbreaking techniques in natural language processing and decision making, Evie behaves like a human assistant and can handle all the back and forth negotiations that is part of organising meetings.
Use it by Cc'ing firstname.lastname@example.org in your email. Her access into your Gmail or Office 365 calendar will help her propose the days and time for your prospects. All they have to do is to reply accordingly and Evie will send out a calendar invite for everyone. And if that is not enough, Evie will send out an email reminder on the day of the meeting.
Sales can always be closed at the first meeting, says no sales person ever. The truth is the sales cycle is typically long regardless of the product or services you are selling. Your clients would want to do more research, compare with other competition, and may have more questions. Following up at the right time is crucial to getting the deal closed.
FollowUpThen is a simple email reminder service. All you need to do is add a specific FollowUpThen email address to the Cc or Bcc fields when replying to a conversation. This integration doesn't require installation within Help Scout.
Alternative: Boomerang for Gmail
Photocopies – the term that should have gone extinct together with faxes. In our haste to do things quickly, it is a bummer to find a photocopy machine and wait for the printer to warm up and spit out a few copies that are blanks because the black toner is empty. A quicker way is to digitise the document with a snap of your phone camera.
Scannable transforms documents into high-quality scans ready to save or share.
Alternative: Microsoft Lens
Productivity isn’t an abstract term, nor does it mean you need to cut a cheque with many zeroes behind. Many times it just calls for resourcefulness to search about the pain point you or your team is experiencing. The Internet will show you the options to look at.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Adrian Tan is CEO of The Resource Group, a boutique HR Consultancy that focuses on helping SMEs. Before this, he was the MD of RecruitPlus which he co-founded in 2004 and led to two HR Vendor of the Year award. He was named the HR Entrepreneur of the Year by SHRI in 2013.