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Sep 17

Is There an App for That?

Posted by Edwin Monteiro on Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The technology side of business is rapidly changing and expanding.  There is no shortage of new and innovative software applications springing up to help small businesses automate their processes and save time and money.

The best way to gain from all of this innovation is to first identify where you can best make use of technology in your business.  Here are three places to look:

1. The Paper Chase

Which business tasks are you still using pen and paper for?  Look what’s on your desk or in your filing cabinet in the form of paper, and that will be your next opportunity for automation.  For example, are you still hand-writing checks and processing vendor’s paper invoices?  There are apps for that.

Sticky notes and to-do lists have been replaced with online notebooks and task management apps.  Business cards you collect can be scanned into a CRM (customer relationship manager).  All of your accounting invoices and bills can be digitized and stored online.  Paper statements and bank reconciliations can be eliminated with electronic real-time reconciliation.

Make a list of all the manual and paper processes you do every day and look for apps that can make tasks faster for you.

2. Fill the Gap

Take stock of what systems you already have in place.  The opportunity to fill the gap is where you might have systems that should talk to each other but don’t.  If you need to enter data into two different places, there may be a chance to automate and/or integrate the systems or data.  For example, your point of sale or billing system should fully integrate with your accounting system.  A few other integration examples include

  • Accounting + Payroll

  • CRM + Accounting

  • Inventory + Accounting

  • Project Management + Time Tracking

  • Time Tracking + Payroll. 

The more your systems integrate and work as a suite, the better. 

3. Mismatch

It could be that you do have your systems automated, but the systems are not the best choice for your business needs or scalable for growth.  If your systems don’t meet many of your business requirements, it may be time to look for an upgrade or a replacement.

If you are performing a lot of data manipulation in Excel or Access, this might also signal that your systems are falling short of your current needs.  Look to where that’s happening, and you will have identified an opportunity for improvement.

Look at these three areas in your business, and I bet you’ll not only find an app for that, you’ll also find some freed-up time and money once you automate. 

We work specifically with some of the best apps in the market, so contact us for help.

Jul 07

Does Your Small Business Need a CRM?

Posted by Edwin Monteiro on Monday, July 07, 2014

Have you ever stayed at a hotel and then returned for another stay, finding that they've stocked your room with everything you asked for the last time you were there?  Your special allergenic pillow was already waiting for you, you were asked if you would like a dinner reservation made just like you always do the first night, and there were even extra hangers because you always need extra hangers.  None of this would be possible for the hotel if it didn’t have a CRM (customer relationship management) system in place. 

Would your clients be impressed if you remembered all of the details about your last conversation, their last purchase, or their preferences?  If so, your business might benefit from a CRM system.

Businesses that have more than 30 or so clients may benefit from a system that allows you and your employees to enter detailed information about each client interaction that they have.  It can work for both current and future clients, i.e., prospects.  A CRM is basically a great big customer database at its core.  It contains master file information on a customer or client, such as name, company, address, contact info, and custom fields. It is also transaction-driven in that you can log activity such as calls, meetings, proposal dates, and more.

A good CRM system is also integrated with your other internal systems, such as your accounting or POS system or both.  In some CRM systems, you can see invoice and payment history, so that when a client calls in, you can also take a peek to see whether they owe you money or what goods they ordered that they may be calling about.

There are literally hundreds of CRM systems to choose from.  The gold standard for large companies is; however, some small businesses use it as well.  SugarCRM is the largest open source CRM, meaning its programming code is available to customers and developers.  ZohoCRM is one of the largest small business CRMs and offers a suite of products for small businesses.  And CapsuleCRM is also very popular and plays well with Google Apps and other systems.

Before choosing a CRM, decide what you want it to do and how you will be using it.  One of the most important aspects of profiting from a CRM is to make sure it gets used, and that takes some habit-changing from you and your staff.  Once you have your requirements, you can evaluate the software options available, and choose the one that works best for you.

When your clients start talking about how great your service is and how much attention you pay to the details they care about, you’ll know your CRM is paying off for you.

Apr 22

Five Browser Productivity Tips

Posted by Edwin Monteiro on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

As systems and applications we use for our business and personal pursuits are increasingly cloud-based, most of us spend a lot of time online and already have a favorite browser we normally use.  Google Chrome is the most popular browser with roughly 40 percent market share.  Internet Explorer follows with about a 30 percent share and Firefox is third with less than 20 percent.

Since most people use Google Chrome, we’ll use that browser to describe our five productivity tips. If you don’t use Chrome, you can still look for the features we list on your browser of choice. 

1. Better with Bookmarks

Do you have a half dozen or so sites that you visit every day?   If so, bookmark them on a toolbar so that you have one-click access.  In Chrome, click the icon with three horizontal lines that is located on the web address bar at the top of your browser. We’ll call this the Chrome Commands button from now on.  Mouse over “Bookmarks,” and make sure “Show Bookmarks Bar” is checked.

Type in your favorite site URL.  To add it as a bookmark on your bookmarks bar, click the star on the right side of the web address box.  It will turn gold, and then you can name your page as well as select whether you want it more prominently in the bar or simply in your list of bookmarks. Repeat this for each of your most visited sites.

Now that all of your sites are listed on your bookmarks bar, you can access them quickly in one click.

2. Enlarge the Page

If a page is too small and you want to enlarge the entire view, you can do so with your mouse wheel.  On your keyboard, hold down the CTRL key and roll your mouse wheel away from you while you’re on a web page. The page will get larger. Roll your mouse wheel toward you to reverse the effect and make a page smaller.

You can also customize your fonts by going into Chrome Commands, Settings, Advanced Setting, and Web Content.  You can find your font options there.

3. Download Redux

Do you need something you downloaded earlier today and forgot where you put it?  Access it again by typing this into the web address box: chrome://downloads/.  Or select “Downloads” from the Chrome Commands.  Hey, even better, if you need this a lot, make it a bookmark. 

If you’re a history buff – that is, if you closed a browser screen and find you want to re-visit that page, then look for the "History" command under the Chrome Commands button.  It’s super-handy and will save lots of time when you need to backtrack.

4. Autofill

Tired of filling out forms?  Chrome will do it for you by remembering certain fields and matching them up with their form fieldnames.  You can have Chrome remember addresses and credit cards; however we can’t really recommend the latter for security reasons.  Manage this feature and its settings by clicking the Chrome Commands button and Settings.  Scroll to the end and look for Advanced Settings, then look for the Autofill area and Manage Autofill Settings.

5. Instant Dictionary

While browsing, have you ever come across a word or phrase you don’t know or want to know more about?  If so, highlight it right there on the web page and then right-click.  Select “Search Google for “the phrase you highlighted” to bring up the information you want.

Most of us have never had a formal class on our browsers, but it’s not a bad idea. Hopefully, until you can get to that class, these tips will help you discover a little more about the browser you use every day.

Feb 19

Is Your Business Using the Right Accounting System?

Posted by Edwin Monteiro on Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Have you ever tried on a shirt or jeans and found they didn’t fit at all? They looked great on the hanger, but that was the end of it. Accounting systems come in all sizes, shapes, and colors just like clothing; and just like clothing, some accounting systems fit your business better than others. It’s not that easy to spot in a mirror when an accounting system does not fit a business, but there are other signs that will give it away. Here are five of them:

1. Numerous Workarounds

A workaround happens when your current system cannot do all the things you need it to do. A workaround can take the form of a spreadsheet, a report, a program, or a database that is created with extra time spent every month so you can get the information out of your system and manipulate it the way you need it to run your business.

Since no accounting system is a perfect fit for any one business, it’s normal to have some workarounds in place to meet your unique business needs. If you have too many, it might signal that you’ve outgrown your current system and need to find an accounting system that provides you with more functionality.

2. Downtime or Wasted Time

If you are unable to access your system when you need to do your job, then you are experiencing downtime in one form or another. You may be waiting for a file to be fixed, or the system may actually be down. If your system runs slowly, then that’s another form of downtime that wastes your time. If you have to take time to make backups and perform restorations, this type of activity does not add value to running your business. When you have too many of these time-wasters, it could be time to look for a better way.

3. Old Technology

If your accounting system is more than about three years old and you’ve chosen not to update it, then you may be missing out on newer time-saving features that could help you reduce the amount of time you spend doing your accounting. If your accounting system is more than six or seven years old, then you are definitely losing productivity. It’s time to bite the bullet and learn a new system so you can experience better profit margins in your business.

4. Limited Users or Security

If your current accounting system does not provide you with enough users, then you might have more expensive employees doing lower level jobs, which is costing you more in payroll expenses.

You may also need certain user permissions to be more granular than they are in your current system as you grant access to certain parts of the system to different users.

We find that user access is a hot button with a lot of business owners, so if it’s true for you, please reach out and let’s have a conversation about this.

5. Limited Physical Access

If your accounting system is located on a private PC or server in your business, this limits access to your files. If you have more than one business location, you like to work from home, or your employees work from their homes occasionally, then you may want to look for a system that accommodates “anywhere, anytime” accounting. This is a pretty easy fix too, as this requirement is now quite common with business owners today.

The same can be said for mobile access. New apps enable many accounting features to be completed from your mobile phone, such as checking bank balances, approving a bill, and taking a picture of a receipt and uploading it, to name a few. If you want to do your accounting from your mobile phone, ask us about mobile apps that we can link to your system to enable this functionality.

Boosting Your Accounting Productivity

We might be a little biased, but accounting has gotten to be a lot more fun in the last few years with advancements in technology. If you see any of the signs listed above, it might be worth a conversation to see if your accounting system is the best fit for your business. Just reach out anytime.