Monthly Archives: August 2015

Do You Have a Team or Service Providers?

Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or a small business owner with an employee or two or ten, you are working with at least a couple of outside business professionals in your business. None of us do it completely alone.

The most common professional would be your insurance broker, second would be your tax preparer. Many solo entrepreneurs and small business owners also work with bookkeepers, payroll providers, attorneys, etc.

Now the question is, are they team members or just service providers? What’s the difference you may ask? Well, I would describe team members as actively helping you grow your business through advice, counsel, and regular communication. Service providers come in do what they do and leave. You may only want service providers, and that’s ok, there is nothing wrong with that. But, if you want a team, and aren’t sure if you have one, here are some questions to ask yourself to evaluate those professionals.

When was the last time your insurance broker called to see what was new? Did they shop your policies at renewal time for the best pricing? Did they ask for updates before renewing the policy? Or, did you just get a renewal notice in the mail with a new premium?

Does your tax preparer work with you throughout the year? Do they answer your questions when you reach out? Do they encourage you to talk to them about large purchases or changes to your business BEFORE you make them so that you can realize the best possible tax benefits & breaks? Or, do you see them once year in March or April, and that’s it?

Is your bookkeeper only a data entry whiz, or do they talk about what is going on in your business? Do they consult with your tax preparer? Do they talk about upcoming changes in software and whether they make sense for you or not? Do they answer your questions when you reach out? Do they encourage you to talk to them about larger purchases or changes to your business BEFORE you make them so you can leverage your cash flow?

Do you have an attorney? Have they reviewed your contracts, both the ones for your customers/clients and those you are entering into with vendors?

If you want a team, and currently don’t have one, then you need to have some potentially uncomfortable conversations. Ask your current providers if they can get more involved, if they want to be on your team. If they do GREAT! You can move forward. If they don’t, or can’t, or feel like they already are and you disagree…then go find the ones who will. Remember it is YOUR business, you should only be working with people who share your vision, your values, and who want to help you and your business.

My List of Go To Software for Running a Business

In May of this year (2015) I reached my 10 year anniversary of being in business. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what I’ve changed over the years, what I’ve learned, and what I want the next 10 to look like. On the topic of what I’ve learned, some of the software I started out with, I am no longer using and have found some others that I now cannot imagine running my business without. So, here is my list of go to software/apps that I would recommend if you are running a business.

  1. QuickBooks I know, you’re thinking, that this is a no brainer for a bookkeeper, and you’d be right. However, I don’t just mean the desktop (QBD) version, although that I what I use for my personal bookkeeping. But I also mean the newer QuickBooks Online (QBO). QBO has come a long way since it was first introduced, and although I don’t think it is right for everyone, I have recommended it to clients who I believe it will work well for. EVERY business owner needs to keep financial books. It is necessary for tax returns, for planning, for growth, for everything. My personal recommendation is 99.9% of the time a QuickBooks product.
  2. Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft has come out with a way to have the full Office platform (with cloud capabilities included) at a reasonable cost for small businesses. Depending on the plan you choose you are currently looking at around $10 per user/month. This gives you all the office products (word, excel, outlook, publisher, one note & power point) as well as 1TB of cloud storage and the option of Skype & business class email (the premium plan). No more out of date software, you are always using the most recent version from Microsoft. You can download the programs to your computer and use them like you always have, or you can use the cloud versions and have them wherever you are. There are two of these products I want to talk about in a little more detail.​
    • OneNote I am loving OneNote. If you read my previous blog, “Wrangle Those Receipts” you will find one way I am using this product in my business. I also use it to track notes on clients, projects, ideas, to archive information, and to keep a running shopping list of supplies or errands I need for the business. You can also substitute Evernote here. If I didn’t already have (and was paying for) OneNote, I’d most likely have chosen Evernote & their paid platform.
    • OneDrive I’ve opened up so much hard drive space on my computer by moving documents to OneDrive. My OneNote notebooks sync here so I always have access to my information. I can move files from computer to computer if needed by just uploading to OneDrive, and downloading when I get back to my office. And, with my documents stored in the cloud, I can access them on vacation, or if something happens to my computer I still have everything. (NOTE: I still strongly urge you to back up your system regularly, even if you are using OneDrive.)
    • Outlook I feel like Outlook gets a bum rap because of Google Calendar and Gmail, but I personally like it. I have recurring tasks, I have all my contacts readily available, I can color code tasks, appointments, & contacts, and all my emails are nice & organized, and lastly I can save them to folders for future needs. Gmail may do the same thing I don’t know, for me personally, I like Outlook.
  3. Google. Beyond the obvious search engine usage, Google offers a number of useful apps for the business owner. One of the biggest benefits of Google is the cost – Free.
    • Chrome The one Microsoft program I truly dislike is Internet Explorer. I’ve tried Firefox and it is downloaded on my system, but I use Chrome more often than not. It works well and works with all the other Google platforms.
    • Google Docs My clients & I share documents, each making changes and updating information while we are each in our own offices.
    • Chrome Remote Desktop This is great for one time remote access for training or trouble shooting. No need to download a full software platform, and it works either way. I can share my desktop if I am running a training, or my client can share his/hers if I need to troubleshoot a problem.
    • Gmail It isn’t just @gmail addresses anymore. Many website platforms are now using gmail as the email server platform. So even if you see, it may very well be a gmail address in the background.
  4. Remote Access I use two different remote access platforms.
    • LogMeIn Although they no longer offer a free option, this platform is still very reasonably priced, reliable, and easy to install and use. You take over the full computer, so on the positive side you have access to whatever you need, on the negative side no one can use the computer while you are connected.
    • TeamViewer Very similar to LogMeIn, easy to download it costs quite a bit more, but if you are only looking to access your own computer (say a desktop at the office from home) then they do offer a free version for personal use.
  5. Social Media. Lastly there are the social media platforms I use for marketing. Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter are my regulars. (And sometimes my distractions.) I find the Groups on LinkedIn to be full of useful information and resources, Twitter is the one I use the least but can find news and information there, and Facebook is where I keep up on the day to day goings on of my clients and business associates.

These are what I use almost every day in my business. If you have any questions about how I use them or if you want more details, please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly. I’d also love to hear what ones you use every day.