Category Archives for "Cloud-computing"

Five Skills You Need to Learn Before Starting Your Own Business

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business

Starting a new business is always difficult, especially if it is your first business. In order to give your business the best chance of success, there are several skills that you need to learn. Fortunately, all of the skills needed to run a business can be learned. Here are 5 skills you need to learn before staring your own business.

Time Management Skills 

Time management skills are essential for any business owner, as you will need to ensure that all business tasks can be completed within a set amount of time. One of the best ways to improve your time management skills is to keep a daily log of your business activities.  You can then analyze your log at the end of the week to see where you could be managing your time more effectively. Look at the amount of time you spend on common tasks to see where you could shave off a few minutes.

Self-Motivational Skills 

In order to succeed in business, you need to be able to motivate yourself, as you will have to make your own rules and decisions. Nobody else will tell you when to start and finish working, when to take or break or when to seek help from other people. You will need to use self-motivational skills on a daily basis. In addition, if you intend to employ other people, you will need to be able to motivate yourself in order to motivate your employees. Create a mental vision of where you want your business to be in one, two or five years, as this will help to keep you motivated and focused on your goals.

Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are essential for keeping your business running smoothly. Organizing ideas, tasks and paperwork effectively gives you a strong foundation for your business. Using detailed task lists is one of the best ways to organize your working day, as it gives you clear goals to achieve each day.  It is also important to keep detailed records of all business activities, outgoings and income for future reference and legal purposes.

Research Skills 

Research is one of the most important aspects of setting up a successful business. You need to research the industry in which your business will work, as well as the products and services you wish to sell. You also need to research the competition and your potential customer base. In addition, you will need to conduct research on an ongoing basis to see how your business is performing in relation to your competition. Learning how and where to gain information for your research is one of the first skills you should learn.

 Analytical Skills 

Once you have conducted your research, you need to be able to analyze the results and develop ways to use the findings to your advantage. Analyzing data and public opinion helps you to make decisions that can improve your business and increase public approval. Develop the habit of evaluating your business activities to see where improvements can be made. Listening to your customers is also important for improving your analytical skills, as it gives you a different perspective on the situation. 

Setting up a new business can be a challenging time, especially if it is your first business. You can increase your chances of success by learning the skills needed to run a successful business. Practicing these skills before setting up your own business gives you chance to develop effective ways of working.

Tips for Improving Your Accounts Receivable Process

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

One of the most important parts of running a successful business is making sure that you are getting paid on time by your clients.  Your cash flow affects all aspects of your business and you need a streamlined and efficient AR process to keep the money coming in.  It is a good idea to set up your AR process when you are starting your business so that customers understand your payment terms right from the beginning of your relationship with them.   

Not setting up your AR system from the beginning can lead to extending credit to unqualified customers as well as not following up on past-due accounts in a timely manner. Poor AR practices take time and money from your business that can be easily avoided.  Not paying attention to the accuracy of bills and invoices and not issuing reports to find potential problems can have far reaching consequences for your business.

Optimizing these Accounts Receivable Processes will benefit your business:

Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.

  1. Maintain accurate client data, update contact information and audit accounts regularly to check for unusual payments, credit terms, discounts etc. making sure that all is in order.  Changes should be documented, and controls put in to prevent unauthorized edits. 
  2. Establish a clear and concise credit approval process - extending credit can be good for your business but there must be a system established that includes instructions on when and how to evaluate and override credit limits and when to put accounts on hold.  The process should be regularly reviewed, and changes made if necessary.
  3. Set up an effective billing process that is accurate and streamlined.  Make sure that all pricing and units of measure are correct as errors can cause many problems.  Invoices should be sent in a timely manner, and reports used to identify problem accounts. Setting up a customer portal will allow customers to access their accounts and check the details easily.  Bill clients electronically if possible, this will make the billing process more accurate and cost effective.
  4. Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.
  5. Payments should be applied quickly so that you always know which accounts are current and which are past due.  Monitor your AR at least once a week to quickly identify and correct errors.
  6. Optimize the payment process by offering your customers a number of payment options such as e-transfer or retaining a credit card on file.  
  7. Consider reducing your payment terms, you do not have to use net 30 days you can decide what is best for your company.
  8. Once delinquent accounts are identified your collection strategy should be consistent and methodical, make collections a top priority.
  9. Automate your accounts receivable process as much as possible to avoid errors.

You don’t have to make these changes to your billing and collections process immediately but any steps that you do take will help to optimize your accounts receivable and will pay off in the future.

 

How to Protect your Small Business Data

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

Backing up your business data is vitally important.  Only keeping data on your computer can be a big mistake.  Programs on your computer can be reinstalled but if you lose all your correspondence, documents and transaction details then your business could be seriously compromised.  Having paper copies is not the answer.  If there is a catastrophe such as a flood or fire, then again, your data could be lost. 

If losing your data will seriously affect your business, then you need to set up a more reliable back-up system.  Your business data should be backed up regularly, should be saved on reliable media or in the cloud, and should be kept in a secure off-site location.

Backing up or Archiving your Data

Your data should be backed up for the short term, but data that is no longer in regular use should be archived.  This includes everything from emails to accounting information.  A good reason to use cloud-computing in your business is that you can retrieve your information should something happen to your desktop computer.  

However, cloud services can still be hacked or sabotaged which can cause a loss of data, so it is a good idea to save it to a storage device such as a USB drive or an external hard drive.  Once you have identified the data to be archived you can install a backup software program that will do that for you on a regular basis.

Once again, do not leave these backups on site unless you have a fire-proof safe, they need to be stored elsewhere.  Some businesses will store their backups in a security box at a bank and others at the homes of different friends and family members.   

If you have a local area network, you can back up files to another computer or server, but it should be in a different location that is secure.  If you want to back up a lot of information for long term storage, then tape backups can be the best option as they are reliable and can store huge amounts of data.

Most importantly make sure that you use strong passwords to protect your data and change them regularly.   For extra security make sure that the backup files are encrypted.  If you use cloud storage this is done for you.

Why you Should Consider Cloud Computing for your Small Business

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business

Cloud-based computing is perfect for small businesses because you can get access to all your company data from anywhere, anytime and it is not expensive.  Cloud-based computing helps you to compete with other businesses by giving you access to technologies previously not available to you. 

You have probably noticed that many software companies are no longer offering desktop applications but instead they now offer a monthly subscription-based service.  For a small monthly payment, you have access to many applications for invoicing, tracking expenses and more, so using Cloud-based computing can save you lots of money here’s how:

  1. All of the maintenance of the service or app is done by the cloud vendor, so you no longer need to pay for the installation and updating of software, and management of email servers.
  2. Cloud applications can be cheaper and are more convenient as you no longer have to install software programs on your servers or computers.
  3. Using a multi-application app will consolidate all your needs into one cloud computing service.  You can get email, schedule appointments, create documents, do video conferencing, share files within your company and with clients, and much more.
  4. As you are using the cloud vendor’s server to store your data you can free up space on your in-house computer system or even get rid of some of it.
  5. Cloud computing can make integration of other apps much easier and cheaper.
  6. Cloud computing apps are regularly updated so you don’t have to, and you have access to all the latest features without having to spend money to update your desktop edition.
  7. Cloud applications are browser based so you can access them from your mobile phone or tablet.  This enables you to issue invoices or track expenses at anytime from anywhere.

Is it time to change to cloud-based computing for your small business?

 

Improve Your Business with Integrated Workflow and Financial Software

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

In the business world, time is money, and one of the biggest time sucks in your business is the sharing of information. What are you wasting too much time doing? Examples are downloading content, faxing documents (yes, we still do that especially to government), emailing lost files and simply running across the building to get that important file. Now your staff have less time to actually do what you hired them to do, and even though the tasks don’t seem that important in the overall scheme of things, they do lower productivity and then your bottom line.

Improved Productivity

An integrated workflow and financial (accounting) software system will help to boost the long-term productivity of your business. The reason is that they can directly access system resources, without needing to go to a superior or other source. You have the necessary information right at your fingertips so you are no longer wasting time searching or making pointless phone calls, emails or faxes (one day we’ll have stopped using this archaic transmission feature).

Your employees have everything direct at their fingertips, and with this easy access they’re spending less time from their desks and on needless tasks. With this new workflow system, they can remain focused without the tasks they would normally need to complete. All of this makes it much easier for your business to produce the necessary products and services without spending time on those other tasks that waste time.

Greater Financial Security While Avoiding Downtime

The financial software aspect of this integrated Workflow system is perfect for companies with multiple departments providing financial information. The sales department may need sales figures, while the marketing department must provide advertising costs.

Without the integrated workflow and financial software system available in the business, all data must first be emailed or sent to the financial department, who then compiles the data in order to come up with the accurate financial report. This is incredibly tedious and does leave the window open to possible errors and incorrect numbers, especially if someone forgets to provide their content by the designated time frame.

However, with software, it’s now possible for every department to easily upload their figures, which is fully integrated with the rest of the company and every other department. Your staff no longer have to run around collecting data just to create and finish that financial report. The software automatically collects this data and allows the financial department to quickly produce the financial report.

Reduce Waste

It’s important for any business to reduce waste as it allows it to focus this time elsewhere on other tasks, which in turn improves productivity and the overall number of necessary tasks completed. It may not seem much of a waste of time running around to various departments to gather files and reports, but over the course of a year that can definitely add up. Having an integrated workflow and financial software system in place is exactly why you can reduce this wasted time considerably. Everyone can complete their tasks, upload it to the system and even gain access to the files which they need without ever having to leave their desk.                                                                                                          


Improving productivity is always important, which is why applying such a system has very favourable meaning for the business. By integrating workflow into the financial structure of your business, you can save time, cut costs and boost productivity. All of which comes back and helps boost your bottom line.


You may be thinking, I’m a small business and don’t have departments as it may only be your or maybe a few employees. However, you still have departments as you have employees doing certain jobs and you can break up tasks accordingly and using integrated workflow and financial structure system can help you relieve the work maybe only you’re doing. You can achieve this with QuickBooks Online and Hubdoc (or Receipt Bank), and other software that works with QuickBooks Online. This can help sales people do invoicing as it happens or work orders are entered and the worker can turn it into an invoice.

Clean up Your Invoicing Practices

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

Surprisingly, many small business, and maybe yours, are making it hard for your clients to pay, improper invoicing can slow payment, which could bring your whole operation to a halt. You may even get much less than you expected, simply because the client found a hole in the deal. The following ways can help you improve your invoicing and keep your company healthy.

Short Payment Terms

Stay away from 30-day payment terms as they aren’t good for your business. Those kinds of terms mean you wait an entire month for your revenue and this increases the amount of capital your company needs to function, because you don’t immediately recoup your expenses. With today’s technology, you don’t need to wait that long. You can email the invoice and many accounting programs allow the receiver to just click a button and pay. There’s also e-Interac®Transfers, online banking, and credit cards. In this day and age there’s no real need for payment terms anymore. Always, encourage your customers to pay right away, or better yet, prepay.

Bill Clients Regularly

Your business is probably like most that you can get away with requiring payment right away. If you’re in a situation where that’s not possible due to the nature of your business or clients, you will have to determine when you should bill your clients. There’s no one set of rules that apply to all companies, but there are some best practices, so check with others in your industry and see what they’re doing, and those practices may depend on the region you’re in.

No matter how often you send invoices, shoot to send them when their inboxes are less full, like a weekend. Barring that then Tuesday is usually the best bet.

Automation

Invoicing can be a time-consuming, though albeit very important, task. Rather than slaving away at your invoicing, you should automate it as much as you can. The time savings allows you to work on other aspects of your business, especially if you have recurring invoices. As we work on a value-based pricing model, we bill out the first of the month, and apply to a credit card, and thanks to QuickBooks Online this makes it very simple.

Set Your Payment Terms in Stone

Before you even sell your product or service you need to set your payment terms in stone, too many small businesses make this mistake when starting out. Without clear rules, either party could start trying to get more out of the deal, possibly hindering the process or turning it into a worthless endeavour. Every contract should answer things such as payment options, invoicing, as well as any other incentives.

Never Hold Credit

Once you spend your money, you’re not getting it back until you get paid for your product or service. By holding credit, accounts receivable, for your clients, you’re putting your business in pickle. Holding credit can impede you from meeting orders, and if you don’t get paid on time, it could affect your relationships. Your suppliers may not look favourably on your business if you can’t pay them. Ensure your customers know this from the beginning.

If you can’t get paid quickly, and on-time, your small business will never survive. Overhaul your invoicing and ensure you get what you deserve.

Drive Your Business to Success with Smart Outsourcing

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

You’re going to go through many challenges while running your successful business all the while wearing multiple hats during your work week. There comes a point where you’re spread out so thin that it starts to harm the business, and you need to outsource some work to allow you to focus on the main reasons why you originally got into business. In your business where can you start outsourcing?

Credit Control

As a small business, you have the dilemma of being subservient to your cash flow, but probably don’t have the funds to have a department devoted to making customers pay on time. You could look at a factoring service (where you sell your invoices to a company), which solves the issue of outsourcing your credit control operations and the administration that goes with that. Invoice factoring also greatly strengthens your cash flow. With invoice factoring you get a part of the invoice right away, with the remainder paid upon collection less a fee. By combining the improvement in cash flow and lower administration costs makes credit control your first choice when outsourcing.

Staff Recruitment

Finding the right employees is the essence of a successful business, nevertheless finding and hiring able staff is tedious, and it’s usually not a skill most entrepreneurs have. A recruitment agency can help you find, interview, and select the best candidate for your business that’ll boost your human assets hugely, and for comparative little cost in both your time and money. Remember to hire slow and fire fast, don’t rush to hire someone just to fill a vacant position.

Digital Marketing

Your online presence via a website and social media as given rise to a new term, digital marketing. You could never be expected to keep on top of this whirlwind that is digital marketing, however, it’s a crucial part of success in today’s commerce. Finding the right agency will take time, and you probably will devote much time to finding that professional that is a fit; however, this can totally pay off by driving profitable business for years into the future.

Public Relations

While public relations is related to marketing it is a separate practice than can have a huge impact on your business success. A good public relations agency is continually on the lookout for ways to develop favourable publicity for your business, incorporating your reputation into the fibre of your niche. A PR agency has the expertise, experience, and carefully refined contacts list to promote your business in ways you probably wouldn’t have thought, thereby, allowing you to concentrate on getting your business ready to convert this exposure to profit.

Office Cleaning

You may not think it, but cleaning is a crucial approach to running your business, which is often underestimated as to its value. First impressions count whenever customers or others visit your establishment, and a messy office can suggest a carelessly managed enterprise. Now you’re probably thinking you don’t have the funds to hire a professional cleaner on your tight budget; however, when you do it yourself it’ll always drop down on your priority list. We all want our work place to be pleasant, and outsourcing the unglamourous activity of office cleaning to a professional cleaner can be cost-effective, and repay itself by improving your company’s image.

You started your business to carry out your passion and satisfy a drive and then these day-to-day nuts and bolts get in the way constraining your company when it should be flying. Smart outsourcing releases you, letting you concentrate your energies to drive your business forward toward success.

Is it Time to Outsource Your IT?

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Consulting , Freelancing , Small Business , Technology

Technology is very important to businesses today, and when it fails, it can be an utter disaster. You have two choices when it comes to your Information Technology (IT) operations. Do you hire someone in-house to install and maintain your servers, and train your staff on the latest software? Or, do you outsource it to an external IT expert? The choice of the latter has many reasons to pick and smart business owners recognize the value of outsourced IT.

The benefits of outsourcing your IT can be quite clear, however, some are not as clear. Here are ten benefits to outsourcing your IT.

Lower Costs

You can lower your overheads with outsourced IT, as you’re just renting the equipment or space on a server, and pay a monthly fee rather than having to outlay tons of money for in-house equipment. You end up paying only for what you need.

Enhanced Security

Data security is crucial for your small business, and managed service companies are experts at protecting your data safe. These IT providers can easily increase data security, and make expensive data breeches less plausible.

Decreased Training Costs

It can get quite costly keeping your IT staff up-to-date on the latest operating systems and other software, not to mention the constant updates out today. Outsourcing your IT can reduce or eliminate these costs lowering your overhead even more.

Hiring Issues are Gone

Most business owners are not techies, and you’re probably not either, so hiring an IT person can be difficult when you don’t understand what it is they do. These hiring challenges can be eliminated by outsourcing your IT.

Dependable Backups

You have so many things on your mind as a business owner that backing up your data may fall on that list way down. You may have a setup where your data is backed up automatically, however, are you checking those backups. Managed service companies ensure that backups are done regularly and that those backups are usable. You’ll definitely be pleased about this when something goes wrong.

Technical Abilities

You’re an expert in what you do and the niche you’re in, however, IT is probably not one of those. Through smart outsourcing of your IT to an expert, you can focus on what you do best, and not have to worry about your IT.

Better Budgeted Costs

You can better budget what you’re spending on your IT each month as you just pay a fee based on the infrastructure or services you bought. When you have in-house staff, that’s much harder to do, as when something breaks down, you’re responsible for paying for it.

Easier Scaling

With an in-house IT staff, it can be much harder to scale up, however, with outsourced IT can be as easy as letting them know what you want. Is your business in a growth phase? Then you’re perfect for outsourced IT.

Better Productivity

The goal of any business is to be productive and efficiently serve customers, and that’s much easier when you outsource your IT. If your goal is higher profits, as I’m sure it is, then better productivity and lower costs ensures those profits.

Give Yourself a Fighting Chance

As a small business owner, you can keep up with larger competitors by outsourcing your IT. Outsourcing has always been a great way to level the playing field, and outsourcing IT lets you win in this global world of ours.

Finding ways to do more with less is the way of the startup as well as the growing business. A great strategy to do more with less is for your business is to outsource your IT, it has ten great advantages as mentioned above.

Is it Time for the Annual Clean-Up and Backup of Your Files

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Cloud-computing , Small Business

The end of the year is a good time to put some time and attention into cleaning up and backing up your files. Cleaning up your files lets you clear up physical, digital and psychological space so everyone can get more done. Backing up is essential in case something goes wrong.

Here's how to do your annual file clean-up and backup.

Delete Clutter from Project Management

If you still have old projects open in your project management software, delete them or archive them now. People on your project management software should only be seeing projects that are actually relevant to their work right now.

Archive Physical Files

If you have a lot of physical files lying around that aren't being used anymore, archive them. Small businesses can open a small storage facility to store their archived files. Larger businesses can open an account with a file archive facility.

What to Back Up

At least once a year, you should back up:

§ An entire copy of your website. You should have the "front" end of your website, including the CSS and HTML code, as well as the "back" end infrastructure (e.g. server code) all backed up somewhere.

§ Your entire database should be backed up as well.

§ Your email list and newsletter list should be backed up, along with any mailing sequences.

§ Your customer list should also be backed up.

§ Your forums or any other communication channels should be fully backed up. You should be able to restore your community if anything happened.

Basically, anything that could critically cripple your business if it disappeared should be backed up regularly.

At Least Three Backup Sources

You should have at least three backups of all your most important data. Each offers a different level of protection.

§ Online backup - Online backups work well for small files and for files stored on personal computers.

§ On site backups - These can be done as frequently as once a month. Simply take all your digital data and dump them on a hard drive, then store that drive.

§ Off-site backups - On site backups can't protect your data against earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters that could affect the physical devices your data is stored on. Off-site backups will hold your data for you, so you're protected in case of a disaster.

Just one level of protection isn't enough to protect you against a catastrophe. Higher levels of protection require more work and are generally performed less frequently.

Change Dropbox Passwords

At least once a year, ask all your employees to change their Dropbox, Google Drive and other backup passwords. Passwords now need to be more complex, and best are ones that are 16 or more characters.

If you perform these tasks regularly, you'll be well protected against disasters in all forms.