Accounting software has made a positive and transformative impact for small businesses ─ especially those that did not traditionally possess the funds necessary to staff a department of accounting professionals.
As a small business owner, it’s worth your while to consider whether your small business should be using an accounting software solution. Please keep in mind that there are things an accountant can provide that software cannot. However, if you decide to use a software solution, consider the following information to help find the one for you.
Entrepreneur magazine, a publication devoted to small-business owners, explains that accounting software can help companies to step into the modern era of operational management, notably when it comes to having a workforce that resides outside of the office. Because the technology improves access to accounting information, such as payroll and other workforce-related financial matters, it boosts the flexibility of management for your company.
According to the news provider, these solutions can also dramatically reduce the number of errors in recordkeeping, as well as the time it takes to complete accounting tasks. Because many small-business owners will end up having to take care of their company's finances rather than having a professional on hand, these benefits might be the most important of all.
Which one should you use?
Options are abundant, and here are a few accounting solutions that can be particularly effective for small businesses:
Winter can be a risk to the continuity of business operations. Small business owners should be ensuring that their assets and operations are protected against the elements of the season. A strong handle on risk management can help to maintain stability during this season.
Here are three wintertime risk management tips for small business owners:
1. Deter threats to the physical workspace
The biggest risks typically are frozen pipes and flooding during winter months.
2. Mind the building's exterior
Another major risk ─especially for smaller retailers ─ is the prospect of icy sidewalks and parking lots that cause slips and injuries to your employees or customers. If someone falls due to hazardous conditions on the sidewalks and parking lots around your business, you can be held liable for taking care of their medical bills.
The New York Times explained that some cities will penalize companies even if no one does fall. In New York City, the newspaper points out, the sanitation department handed out 10,000 tickets last winter to those who did not clear up sidewalks in front of their buildings, with fines ranging between $100 and $350. Make sure these pathways are clear and safe at all times.
3. Have a contingency plan for operations
Small businesses might already have a telecommuting policy in place to best serve the demands of the modern workforce, but wintertime needs to be a point of focus for this policy. Companies should also have a plan in case a major winter storm or other event makes travel to and from the physical workplace unsafe for employees. If you do not have a remote work or telecommuting policy in place and reside in one of the nation's northern regions, your company might miss several days of worker productivity. This is especially true for companies outside the retail sector.
Make sure that you have a reliable method to communicate with all staff members efficiently when a storm is in the forecast. Allowing workers to work from home can allow operations to continue on regardless of weather conditions at the office.
Be safe this winter, and ensure you plan ahead to keep your business thriving well into spring!
LinkedIn pages are critically important for businesses and professionals alike.
To get the most out of your customer, colleague and personal networks, you have to ensure your LinkedIn pages are aligned with best practices. This will vary depending on whether you are an individual employee or a company's owner.
Here are five things your LinkedIn page might be missing for each group:
LinkedIn for organizations
Here are the five lesser-used things you should have on your LinkedIn company page:
These steps can help a business, but what about professional pages?
LinkedIn for professionals
Along with making sure your profile is up to date and complete, here are five things you need to add to your LinkedIn page today:
Business owners know the value of insights, intelligence and knowledge related to their industries, target markets and day-to-day operations. However, many leaders won't have quite as much time as they would like to read magazines, newspapers and the like. Luckily, if you are one of these individuals, you can take advantage of the ever-expanding realm of podcasts.
Here are the 10 top podcasts for various interests:
1. Entrepreneur On Fire
The Huffington Post ranked this podcast as one of the best for business owners interested in learning about how they can make the most out of their budgets, as well as general management tips.
2. The Clark Howard Show
Entrepreneurs also need to be experts in personal finance. To be keen in these matters, the Clark Howard Show is a great choice.
3. HR Happy Hour
Talent management service provider Capterra named HR Happy Hour as one the best human resources podcasts active on the airwaves today. Learning how to best manage talent is critical for business owners.
4. Intelligence Squared
Innovation is one of the more important aspects of business ownership today. Business magazine Forbes asserted Intelligence Squared will actually transform the ways in which leaders approach innovation and creative thinking.
5. TED Radio Hour
Hosted by nonprofit media membership organization National Public Radio, the TED Radio Hour presents a range of ideas that can help business leaders think outside of the box and discover new methods to improve their companies.
6. Marketing Over Coffee
Unbounce, a provider of web-based advertising services, ranked Marketing Over Coffee as the best marketing podcast online today. This podcast can help business managers and owners craft stronger marketing strategies.
7. Improving Customer Experience
Spoken Communications - a communications technology provider - recognized The Improving Customer Experience Podcast asamong the best for customer relationship management tips and tricks.
8. HBR Ideacast
Spoken Communications also recognized HBR Ideacast, which is hosted by acclaimed publication Harvard Business Review, as great for all types of business advice.
If you need a little humor on your commute or during the day, digital media website Mashable suggested tuning into Nerdist, which is a good-old-fashioned comedy podcast.
10. RMA Podcast
The Risk Management Association, a financial services industry trade association, hosts a podcast regularly updated with new content that can be an exceptional resource to help business leaders learn how to mitigate threats and minimize losses.
When screening potential employees, it's important to not overlook important accessible information. Even if a background check and drug test all check out, key information that raises red flags may slip through the cracks. To more effectively cover your bases, you may want to analyze their online presence, particularly as it pertain to social media.
The number of employers who use outlets like Facebook and Twitter for screening has exploded over the last 10 years. For example, in 2011, only 11% of businesses used social media for background purposes.
Today, the rate has soared to 60%, according to polling data from online job search engine CareerBuilder.
"Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter," said Rosemary Haefner, chief of human resources at CareerBuilder. "And with more and more people using social media, it's not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well."
49% found info that made them think twice
Frequently, social media has clued employers into details that they may not have known otherwise. Nearly 50% of hiring managers who use social media to screen hires say they've decided against extending job offers after learning of something unsavory, the poll found, including the use of illegal drugs, discriminatory comments as well as inappropriate photographs and/or video clips.
While some may claim that business owners' and hiring managers' using social media in the hiring process is an invasion of privacy, others say it plays a crucial role that may be the difference between making a good or bad recruitment decision.
"Employers can minimize the legal risks and maximize the business benefits of social media if the screening is part of the reference or background check that is made before extending an offer or after extending a conditional offer," said Jonathan Segal, an employment practices attorney and contributing editor at HR Magazine.
In some cases, you may find information that substantiates why hiring applicants is a smart move. Nearly one-third of employers in the CareerBuilder poll indicated as much, with 44% saying the venue enabled them to confirm candidates had the necessary job qualifications.
Using social media for screening purposes is an effective tool, but it can land you in hot water if you overstep your boundaries. The Society for Human Resource Management has several suggestions that can help you find the right balance.
Social media is a growing giant in the marketing realm. One eMarketer report called for $23.7 billion to be spent on social media ads in 2015, which was a 33.5 percent increase from the sum invested in 2014.
Let's take a look at which social media sites are best-suited to various industries, going by the most popular platforms.
Professional services firms, legal entities, technology companies and those in other industries that involve content-heavy sales and marketing campaigns find a potent platform in Twitter. Inc. magazine, a publication for growing companies, reports 70 percent of marketers leverage blogs in their content strategies, and Twitter is among the best platforms through which to promote these articles. Twitter has also incorporated more effective video and image sharing capabilities, allowing marketers to diversify their content marketing campaigns on the site.
This is the most widely used social media platform in the realm of marketing, as Inc. magazine notes 93 percent of companies are active on the site . Simply put, every business, regardless of industry or target market, ought to use this platform for both marketing and customer service purposes. As of this June, Facebook had1.13 billion daily active users and 1.6 billion monthly active users on average. Use this platform to share all content types, including video, images and blogs.
Hootsuite reports Instagram is best-suited to - and most widely used by - retailers. This is also an exceptional platform for competitors in the food and beverage industries, as posting images and videos and products can help to drive brand recognition. Make sure your business takes high-quality photographs, keeps captions brief and engages users in a highly mobile-centric fashion.
Much like Twitter, LinkedIn is an exceptional platform for professional services and specifically business-to-business industries. Blogging on LinkedIn can help to cement executives and company owners into the stature of thought leaders, boosting an enterprise's legitimacy in the process. To be more specific, organizations that rely on the images of their salespeople, project managers, leaders and others in the public eye are best-suited to this platform.
Make sure you don't spread yourself too thin in social media. A powerful campaign on one platform will always be more effective than lackluster ones across all of the sites. Also, keep an eye on the sites that become more prominent in the social media sector.
Businesses have an arsenal of tools available to build their brands today. But, unless those tools are used correctly, they will be of little use and could even tarnish the image a company may hold in the eyes of current and prospective clientele.
Here are 10 quick branding tips for your business, courtesy of the pros:
1. Audience knowledge comes first
Forbes reported that companies like Nike have had immense success because of their "customer obsession." Make sure you know your clientele better than they know themselves, as this will help you to remain relevant at all times.
2. Focus on employee engagement
Satisfied, engaged employees are the best champions of a brand. Entrepreneur magazine contributor Sam Bahreini called poor employee engagement the "first step down the bad-service rabbit hole." Make your employees happy, and your brand will be far better positioned to excel in the marketplace.
3. Understand and illuminate your position
Inc. Magazine suggested focusing on the development of a strong brand position that aligns with market preferences and expectations, then ensuring that position is coherently expressed in all branded materials.
4. Strike the right chords in voice
The voice of a brand shines through in all marketing, sales and customer service activities. Just Creative, a marketing firm, urged business leaders to diligently craft a voice and stick to it at all times, citing a quote from The Guardian that read "It only takes one-tenth of a second for us to make up our minds."
5. Be intelligent
Data analytics technology is becoming more powerful. MilesHerndon, a branding agency, recommended "auditing your brand"frequently, looking at metrics related to its performance in the marketplace and success of each marketing campaign.
Ceros, an advertising firm, pointed to the importance of not only being unique in the context of the market but also knowing exactly how the business differentiates from competitors. Once this is understood, build the branding strategy atop this unique foundation.
Forbes pointed out that today's consumers are far more likely to engage with businesses that remain at the cutting edge. Never underestimate the powerful returns that come from innovation-related investments.
One of the most important aspects of enterprise risk management is employee training. When your employees do not understand their responsibilities, how best to complete them, and how their actions will impact the company at large, the chances of experiencing preventable disasters will be inherently higher.
Employee training can have profoundly positive impacts that go far past the bounds of risk management, though, including improved productivity, efficiency and engagement among staff members.
Here are three of the most important lessons you should be teaching your employees in training programs today:
The Wall Street Journal reported that employee error became the most popular source of data breaches in 2015, citing statistics from a study completed by the Association of Corporate Counsel. This translates to roughly 30 percent of all breaches occurring because of an employee error - not even counting insider threats. Employees have purposefully gone into systems to steal valuable data from their employers.
Make sure you are training your employees in the best practices of cybersecurity. This includes how to spot spam email, malicious websites, and the best practices of password management.
2. Emergency response
Let's say a major hurricane hits your company. Sure, insurance can help to foot the bill for some of the damages, but can that coverage completely erase the losses due to an outage of operations? How will your customers respond to your brand if it does not properly handle emergency response and management responsibilities in the event of a disaster?
Make sure that your employees are not only well-versed in your policies related to disaster response and emergency management, but are prepared to carry out their responsibilities in these adverse situations. Consider combining classroom-based training with experiential activities, effectively simulating a disaster and allowing employees to practice responding properly.
This could mean holding a planned outage of core systems and evaluating how employees respond.
Whether it is communications devices or data storage systems, technology has become more centrally important in the average workplace. However, your investments into technology are not going to actually come back with returns - let alone high ones - should your employees not understand how to use them and why they are useful.
Always make sure you are training employees in each of the solutions, tools, devices and other technologies entering the workplace as early on as possible.
Better, more comprehensive employee training can have dramatically positive impacts on your company's risk mitigation and operational performances.
Employee training can be tricky to get a handle on, but these sources can help you to gather the knowledge you need to succeed:
Ensuring business continuity is a proactive matter. Whether you are trying to get the right insurance to defend against loss and damages or protecting your company from a legal standpoint, you need to take action before problems arise to truly avoid disruptions. Finding a good lawyer can be tricky, especially for small and mid-sized businesses that are new to the marketplace.
Here are some tips to help you find a good lawyer for your company:
Yahoo! Finance recommends being thorough in the search, diligently evaluating an attorney's history, performance and records before finalizing a contract. Remember, you need to get a lawyer for your business before a legal issue arises to be proactively protected. Think of hiring a lawyer as similar to getting insurance - put in the legwork early to remain out of harm's way in the long run.
Mobile apps are truly aplenty in today's tech savvy society. It's difficult to pinpoint just how many apps are available for download, as new ones are being developed daily, but conservative estimates put the total at well north of 1 million - and that's just in Apple's App Store.
Grouped by category, app choices are especially plentiful under the business banner, providing both everyday consumers as well as professionals with tools that can help them organize. And when you own your own company, organization is absolutely essential for the multitasking that business owning so often entails.
The following are apps that you might want to consider downloading to your mobile device to keep your business operating smoothly:
There are over 28 million small businesses in the United States, virtually every one different from the next. But one thing that they all have in common with each other is expenses. As it's name suggests, Expensify aims to keep expenses simple so number crunching doesn't leave you numb. For as little as $5 per month, the app performs a variety of functions that are especially useful for frequent travelers, like keeping track of miles traveled, uploading receipts to financial reports, as well as cataloging any credit card data your company uses to pay off expenses.
Speaking of credit cards, just about every consumer owns one, providing greater convenience for buyers. However, not every business accepts credit cards. All that can change with Square. This app allows users to accept credit cards from virtually anywhere, even in places where an electrical outlet isn't readily available. Food trucks swear by Square, as do other mobile-based businesses who don't have the means - or the desire - to lug around bulky credit card processing stations.
Don't deny it: You've checked your work email away from the office before. Just about everyone has, as it doesn't take long before the inbox gets backed up. If this sounds like yours, AwayFind is your new letter carrier. After setting up the appropriate filters, AwayFind allows you to separate the wheat from the chafe, where via text, you're informed of the important emails to reach your inbox.
Think of Evernote as your own personal secretary. Compatible with various mobile devices, laptops and desktops, Evernote assembles all the notes you've jotted down - through a variety of means - so that they're all together. Furthermore, it also catalogs other important notations you've made that are in the non-written form, such as videos, pictures and recordings. You can send recorded data to colleagues for their reference as well.
There's only one of you, so you can't be everywhere at once, though surely you've tried. That's why time management is absolutely critical when you're a business owner. While the RescueTime app may not give you superhero-like omnipresence, it will keep track of how much time you spend doing various activities in a given 24-day period. Then, it will offer tips on how you might want to apportion your time in the future so that you can make the most out of your day.
Check out Nerdwallet as well as Kabbage for a few other apps to add to your mobile library.