Microsoft Office is a versatile and powerful software suite that can enhance the output and ease the workload of any office, in any kind of organisation. But it isn't just for offices - and certainly not just for traditional offices, large companies in tower blocks and factories. The range of software available can benefit even the smallest business, whether based at home or elsewhere, every bit as much as a large organisation.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform records that there are some 3.5 million sole traders in the UK - that is, businesses where the owner is the only worker in the company. This amounts to just shy of three quarters of all private sector British businesses. If you run a business single-handedly, or if you are interested in doing so, Office can transform how your enterprise is run, saving you time and money in the process.

Managing your accounts

Income, expenditure, quantities, tax, and all manner of number crunching come inevitably with any enterprise, large or small. But for sole traders, these obligations rest upon the same individual who is doing all the work. This can create stressful demands on time, needing to fit in financial housekeeping between all of the other requirements of maintaining your own business; if you've had plans to set up on your own, then adding numbers and subtracting others probably wasn't where you saw yourself.

Of course, if you could spend less time poring over the books, you could spend more time doing just whatever it was that you did see yourself doing, be it working to build your business, or, better still, spending more time away from work. And Excel can allow you to do just that; from your entering the basic figures (using a straightforward interface), Excel can instantly do all the adding, subtracting and any other equations you may need.

What's more, Excel has tools that can markedly improve how the financial side of your business is handled. The 2007 edition includes an array of clear and versatile instruments to display trends in your figures, and help create a clearer picture of your business today, and projections for the future. If one aspect of the enterprise is moving ahead of or falling behind the rest, Excel can show you this instantly and in a very clear and easy-to-understand manner. Charts can be created at the touch of a button, transforming dense figures and equations into a visual and comprehensible picture of the progress of your business.

A face for your enterprise

Word, the market-leading word processor, has been an integral part of the Office suite since its birth in 1989. It may seem that very little explanation of its benefit to the sole trader is necessary. Of course, you might need to write the odd letter, and you would expect a word processor to be there for that purpose.

Yet there's far more besides that Microsoft Word to your business. An immense range of templates can be used to generate letters, invoices, forms or whatever you may need - and create them very easily, very quickly, and with a highly professional appearance. If needed, images, charts or any other data can be swiftly brought into your documents to make them more appealing, professional and informative.

The role of Office in giving your enterprise such an improved appearance on paper does not end with Word, however. With Microsoft Publisher, you can create leaflets and flyers to promote your business and communicate with existing customers in a stylish and effective manner, or business cards to ensure that potential clients can always access your services. Taking advantage of Publisher can give you the competitive edge over rivals that all businesses look for.

Looking after key information

As a sole trader in a competitive market, having all your customers' information to hand can make an enormous and positive difference to the success of your enterprise. An Access database can manage all this information for you, allowing you instant access (hence the name) to the data you need about your all-important clients. More than that, though, Access 2007's collection of Prebuilt Solutions can help you, quickly and easily, to track contacts, events, issues, assets and tasks, ensuring that whatever information you need is available as soon as you need it.

Also found within the Office suite is OneNote, Microsoft's versatile and powerful tool for storing and organising any kind of information. Its ability to convert handwritten information into text, that can be searched and sorted with ease, allows you to always have your documents, invoices, letters, reports, and any other important papers at hand; so, no more scrabbling through ring-binders and boxes to find a vital scrap of paper!

Making the most of Office

When you consider all the aspects of Office that work in tandem to bring great benefits to the small business - including Outlook, to better manage your email, your diary and your time, and Office Live, which allows you to access your Office documents from any computer, anywhere - it becomes clear that any sole trader with the skills to work these applications in conjunction with one another, to make the most out of the suite as a whole, lies at a distinct advantage to his or her rivals. But where to find those skills?

A training provider can offer a wide range of courses for all ability levels that can enable you to revolutionise your use of MS Office - and to revolutionise the management of your business!