Posts Tagged ‘tips’
Can you run a business out of something that can fit in your back pocket? PC World says yes. Running a small business from your smartphone — virtually — is possible with the many apps available, on iTunes and Google Play, like videoconferencing programs and PowerPoint assistants.
You can sell products, keep track of mileage, calculate the amount of time spent on a project, build spreadsheets and complete other tasks, too, with a variety of apps.
What apps would best serve a small business owner who wants to rely more on a smartphone? Forbes has several suggestions for making a business productive this year.
If you’re a traveling sales representative, you could use EchoSign to manage, send and sign documents from your smartphone. EchoSign alleviates the need to carry large paper contracts because users access documents from the mobile device instead. If you’re a small company of 1 to 5 users, the app is free, otherwise you’re looking at spending $299 to $399 for a global or enterprise license.
The Right Hosting Service
Email is definitely a business necessity. You should get reliable VPS hosting, which allows business partners, employers and customers a fast and secure way to share files and data. VPS hosting at MyHosting.com provides email benefits such as push email, which decreases a user’s reliance on SMS Messaging, a dated technology. Customers’ emails, contacts, tasks and other information also are saved on the server. This data can be automatically synched on a new device.
Forbes’ David K. Williams recommends Evernote for Business because it’s a multi-platform app that specializes in note-taking. Improved support, simplified billing and business notebook features all for the small price of $10 per month (premium version), per user. It’s great for capturing and organizing everything from photos to emails to web sites. It’s the ultimate brainstorm tool and you can download for PC, Mac, Android and iOS platforms.
PayPal and Money Center Smartphone Apps
Most major banks and PayPal have advanced smartphone apps. Even some of the smaller regional banks have good apps. As an entrepreneur on the go, make sure you have your bank’s app and understand the features. Many will even give you a free dongle that will allow you to swipe a credit card using your phone.
Speaktoit is the top-rated virtual assistant for Android or iOS/Windows, according to Forbes. However, the app will target productivity for businesses this year. More features are being added, including calendar/meeting scheduling. Users can schedule meetings via voice through their Assistant. The app will remind users of their daily agendas, also via voice. Reminders can be given so users will know to book an airplane flight or a room in a hotel. Speaktoit also will partner with financial news services to give automatic updates on financial news and stock quotes.
So far, we’ve highlighted apps to help you run your business. Now, we share a company that can create a custom smartphone app for your business. Having your own app enables you to connect with your customers wherever they are. Custom app creator company Vandrio does this well, and the costs are incredibly affordable for a small business to have a custom app.
Long gone are the days when business people were tied to their desks with their traditional land-line phones, large personal computers, paper calendar and a cumbersome file cabinet filled with space-hogging documents. Although office time probably is a necessity for most business people, mobile apps and smartphones make it easier to take on many tasks, while growing their business on the open road.
Health care reform has been one of the hot topics of the 2012 Presidential election, at times more fiercely debated than issues surrounding the economy and job market. Health care costs far exceed taxes for many people, and can mount quickly without insurance coverage. Furthermore, coverage may not provide sufficient financial relief if you do not have the right type of policy for your budget and medical needs.
Fortunately, companies that sell private health insurance through partnerships with multiple carriers can provide you with a broad range of coverage options. The result? You truly can customize your plan so that it is both affordable and comprehensive. Here are three strategies to evaluate.
Bridge the Gap with Short-term Coverage
Short-term coverage offers a solution to several different scenarios including finding yourself in between jobs and waiting for employer sponsored coverage to kick in after starting a new job. These policies offer coverage anywhere from 6 to 12 months. The point of short-term plans is to offer protection against unforeseen accidents or illnesses. As a result, services like immunizations, preventive care and screenings are not covered by most short-term insurance policies. It is important to note that this type of plan does not typically cover pre-existing medical conditions.
High Deductible = Low Premium
Provided you do not need ongoing medical care, a health insurance plan that carries a high deductible could be an attractive option because these policies offer low monthly premiums. In exchange for the advantage of extremely low premiums, you must pay all of your medical expenses until you meet the high deductible, which can mean thousands of dollars out of your pocket – except for preventive care, which insurers must cover 100 percent under health care reform. Therefore, high deductible plans are a good route to take for those who are healthy and do not have any pre-existing conditions.
Talk to Mom and Dad
Health care reform provides an especially nice advantage to young adults, who can now remain covered by their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26. So if you are fresh out of school and still looking for a job, or your entry level salary is not as robust as you anticipated, just give mom and dad a call.
Keep it Simple but Make Sure You Do Your Homework
Online resources like our partner, GoHealthInsurance, offer you the chance to access information on a variety of plans, and better yet, review quotes based on the criteria you enter. Today’s resources are designed to be time efficient and simple to digest, so there really is no reason to select coverage that is not right for your particular situation.
From the “Ask ActSeed” files…
What is your advice on starting a restaurant?
How would you approach it?
1. Check out the resource documents on the site: “The Restaurant Wizard“, where you can find introductory information about food and labor cost control, reporting, setting up a chart of accounts, and more.
The site’s owner, Scott Armstrong, is a consultant to restaurant owners and based in southern California. If you like his articles, he may be a good consultant for you to consider engaging. These articles have a lot of helpful business tips unique to operating a restaurant.
2. For the general business-starting issues, join ActSeed’s Entrepreneur Group. Here, you have a blueprint for starting any business – restaurants included. Even if you are just in the idea stage, this will help you. ActSeed generates scores for the preparedness of an early stage business in 7 core areas, so you can quickly determine where you need some additional preparatory work before launch and during the first few years of operation.
Here’s a link to a 5-page overview about ActSeed’s business blueprint process and how it will help you get your company off the ground.
The business world is a sea of constant change. To survive, entrepreneurs and businesses have to be proactive and adaptable to the changes.
Recently, there was a debate on Capitol Hill regarding another bailout for the United States Postal System - an entity that has repeatedly refused to adapt its strategies to accommodate the current market.
I won’t debate if the post office should be granted further subsidies with our tax dollars. Nonetheless, the recent request from the USPS did stir some thoughts on their continual failure to remain both competitive and profitable. This led to a recent discussion I had with a colleague regarding how much more effective private companies are doing the same work than an organization funded with tax dollars does.
A prime example is United Parcel Post. UPS is a massive organization in the package delivery business. Similarly to post office, UPS has longstanding ties in this country; both have labor unions to negotiate with, and other similar operating costs. While UPS and USPS have many similarities, only one, UPS, has been profitable. In 2010, UPS posted a net profit of almost 3.5 billion dollars while USPS reported losses of over $300 million. This amount is even more remarkable when you consider that despite billions of dollars in Federal bailouts, the post office can’t seem to make a profit. On the contrary, UPS has made steady profits for decades in spite of growing competition from Federal Express and other carriers – including the Post Office. This is a prime example of the private sector working more efficiently than a publicly funded entity and that, in this instance, bailouts have not worked.
But how does UPS succeed where the Post Office doesn’t?
I would argue that innovation is fundamental for entrepreneurs to to survive greater competition. Innovation forces even large companies like UPS to continually usher in change to its corporate infrastructure. When was the last time you heard the post office inventing something as oppose to always playing catch up with everyone else?
So how can a small business, or startup, or any private company be innovative with new businesses techniques and avoid the trap of catching up? There are many answers but I routinely utilize the following:
- Think outside the box. Looking at a situation or problem from all sides and taking it apart can lead to new breakthroughs and answers to questions or problems.
- Hire people that question the organization rather than simply saying “yes sir.” The best employees I have ever had argue and challenge me. It also demonstrates to me they care about the company enough to take on “the boss” and not just blindly comply for the sake of a paycheck.
- Look at what your competitors are doing. You don’t have to be the one who created the mousetrap to be successful – just make it better. Apple never invented the mouse for the computer.
Looking at the history of UPS, I am sure you will find many instances where creative thinking, a staff that questions the status quo, and inventing better products and services has made them far more successful than the Post Office.
[NOTE: Thanks to Michael S. Duell for this guest author contribution. Mr. Duell is the Director of Business Operations at Ruyle & Ruyle, a firm that includes small business corporate law as one of its specialities. If you are looking for a good boutique law firm that caters to small businesses and startups, consider Ruyle & Ruyle.]
Looking for wisdom? So are your competitors and fellow entrepreneurs. Here are some thoughts about how your company can increase its odds of landing in-demand advisors.
Recently, we received a question from an entrepreneur: “We are a technology startup and have got to a level of mild traction with a user base that’s engaged. Now that we know that we are creating value its time to transcend to the next level and get a great set of advisers on board and we are not looking for big names but advisers who are proactive and interested in what we do. Any tips on going about and getting great advisers on board would be useful.”
The tactics for attracting good advisors are similar to the tactics for attracting a top team. Be prepared to compensate them.
Sometimes equity is enough of a lure, but most advisors don’t get excited about a single digit or fraction of a percent ownership to really dig into an advisory role. Compensating the advisor with even a nominal consulting fee is a strong signal that the advisor is valued and is viewed as a signal that value is expected from the advisor in return.
Good advisors are usually in high demand by many more startups than can be served; therefore, it’s important to understand that relevant wisdom isn’t a commodity, but rather a scarce resource. In today’s economy, cash is king more than it used to be. Investors want to see customers paying cash, not consuming free services. Employees want to see cash, not just stock options in expectation that a small slice of equity alone will be worth something material in the future.
Establishing a solid core advisory board – formal or informal – means choosing a select few (not trying to “collect lots of names for the letterhead”) and treating them like a co-founder. Engaging them equally. Listening to them equally. Compensating them properly. Expecting value accordingly.
Founders who don’t understand this should consider just asking an occasional cold-call question to various subject matter experts, but not expecting an advisory relationship with much substance. Too often, founders don’t manage or engage or compensate advisors properly and then blame the advisors for not being useful, helpful or valuable. Too often, the founder-advisory board relationship is structured for failure or at best, it turns out to be a mild distraction to all involved.
You may find advisor candidates who are interested in what you do, but you still must find the right amount of equity and/or cash compensation to make those who are interested also proactive and committed.
Instead of a conventional perspective of “seed money is the first step towards validation”, the mantra today is likely the converse: “validation is the first step toward seed money.” In more than half of all startups nowadays, the initial validation comes from the wallets of the founders (i.e. first phase is bootstrapping). If the marginal costs of starting a business includes some compensation to key individuals in the budget, the prospects of beating out a competing startup for that same wisdom is very good, and this early tactic sets the pace for startup success, just like proper planning and preparation does.
In summary, wisdom is often a scarce resource. Like anything of value, be prepared to pay a fair price for the advisory expertise you need and your chances of acquiring that wisdom will increase.
Make sure this book is in your own entrepreneurial library.
This book explains how the good steak can sizzle without leaving you with just an aroma. “Marketing that Works” was written by some of the best minds in startup marketing who have held prominent positions in blockbuster startups, idealab!, Wharton and venture capital: Howard Morgan of First Round Capital, Leonard Lodish of Wharton and Shellye Archambeau, former president of Blockbuster’s e-commerce division.
This book includes practical approaches (not just theoretical!) to developing business ideas, pricing, market validation, distribution and channel strategies, product launches and more.
To buy a paper copy or download a Kindle version from our bookstore partner, Amazon.com, click here.
Entrepreneurs, small business owners and founders of startups tirelessly work toward turning their business vision into a commercial reality, and possibly a metaphorical gold mine. While the destination and even the journey can be rewarding, it’s often lonely and frustrating to the point entrepreneurs often give up. If this describes you, then read “Three Feet From Gold” before making your final decision to throw in the towel. It may be a life-changing choice.
Hill’s principals have been artfully brought into today’s business landscape with the book, “Three Feet from Gold”. ActSeed champions books and individuals who can both educate and inspire. Sharon Lechter and Greg Reid do this well.
When you buy this book, buy a notepad, too. This is one of those books that inspire you to take notes and then muster the tenacity you need to pursue your own purpose.
As the book states, the greatest reason for failure is quitting. Don’t even consider quitting until you have read this book.
…is from customers!
A great way to grow your business: find new customers using daily deals from GroupPrice. ActSeed likes Group Price because they enable you to increase your sales with no upfront marketing expenses while cutting your costs with daily deals from other small businesses.
One of the growth problems for startups is getting more cash coming in than is going out. Cash is the fuel that powers a business. Not receivables or IOUs, but cash in the bank. You must positively impact your cash two ways:
- Increase revenues by attracting new paying customers
- Reduce expenses by finding great deals for the business services you need
ActSeed has partnered with GroupPrice to help you tap this innovative marketplace to boost your business in two important ways:
- Spark an increase in sales by tapping new customers without any upfront marketing or advertising expense.
- Find daily deals on products and services aimed at your start up or small businesses with discounts up to 80%.
How to Maximize the Benefits from the ActSeed-GroupPrice Partnership
Two steps. Both are free.
1. Register with GroupPrice so you can buy and sell on the GroupPrice marketplace.
2. Register with ActSeed where you can access exclusive promotions and discounts from our leading partners like GroupPrice.
Like Fox Business TV, we think Group Price is like Groupon® – but dedicated to entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses.
ActSeed and GroupPrice are aligned in a commitment to helping you find sources of capital and streams of revenue. Cash is king. Heck, cash is also queen, prince and the whole royal court.
Forrester Research has identified that “daily deals for business is a persistent and growing trend.” Startups and small businesses – the backbone of the US economy – have been badly weakened by the recession, but sites like Group Price are helping them recover and grow.
Raise your revenue. Cut your costs. Do both using GroupPrice.
…Now that’s an obvious partnership that ActSeed can champion.
Thoughts for your first pitch:
Relax and enjoy the experience.
Let your passion come through, but keep it simple and concise, and don’t get defensive if you “cross nerves” with your audience.
Make sure you can quickly and clearly explain: what customer “pain” you’re solving, why your solution will sell, how you make money (and when), and how your investor can expect to realize their return on investment.
It’s ok to not have answers for everything. If you don’t have an answer, offer that you will get back to them with the answer. You might even acknowledge that their question is a good one and ask them if they have any insights to share toward converging on an answer.
Things we suggest not saying:
- “We have no competition.”
- “Our revenue projections are conservative.”
1. Investors may only listen when you tell them about a good idea.
2. Investors may “open their checkbook” if you (A) have a good idea and (B) can demonstrate that you have a plan to implement that good idea and turn it into a profitable one.
We champion all of this and more within our ActSeed.com community.
This note was originally a reply to a young entrepreneur on LinkedIn who was about to make his first investor pitch and was looking for advice about pitching.
In addition to our quick response to “making the first pitch count”, we also recommend buying the book, “Pitching Hacks“.
Now, go out there and make every pitch count!