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3 Simple Ways To Go Paperless In A Weekend

Where is the paperless society we were promised? Perhaps, echoing the memorable words of Mahatma Gandhi, we have to become the change that we wish to see in the world. Using the cloud, it’s easy to go paperless. You can use it for data backups, mobile workforces, document storage and retrieval, and many other things.

Although modern technology makes it easy to go paperless, the idea has not caught on in society. This is not because of the invalidity of the idea, but because of inertia. The idea of a paperless environment is rather similar to how the metric system has not been completely adopted despite its superiority to earlier measuring systems. Although, the metric system is the system of choice in science and it is a standard in Europe because it is a much more exact system than measuring things in inches and weighing them in ounces, it has not caught on in the United States

One reason for the lack of enthusiasm in going paperless, perhaps, is that people have just not noticed how much paper is being used for almost all their written communication. In fact, as a society, we are drowning in the stuff. It is the number one source of clutter in homes and offices. There is so much paper that it often takes up huge filing cabinets, fills up drawers, and spills over on to desks, tables, and counters.

Here, then, are four suggestions on how to go paperless on the cloud.

  1. Use Google Drive to store all your written stuff.

If you have lots of written notes, journals, scripts, and other paper documents, you probably don’t just want to throw them away. However, what you need is the information and not the medium on which is stored. If, for example, you’re a writer with reams of notes for your novel, you can store it on the cloud with Google Drive. Simply scan it and store it there.

But what if you have reams and reams of paper—everything from your emerging doctoral thesis to all your receipts, contracts, DVD instructions, and so on. Again, the answer is simple. Hire out the work to a document scanning company. This way, you don’t have to spend days running everything through a scanner yourself. One company, Scantronix, includes OCR conversion and e-document storage in their list of considerations.

Naturally, if you don’t like Google Docs, there are plenty of other cloud-based services out there to use. For instance, you can use Dropbox.

The basic idea is that you need a service that offers a clean, uncluttered interface, rather than one that has so many features; it’s like piloting a plane.

  1. Use Evernote to avoid reams of notes.

Instead of using paper to store all your written notes use an application like Evernote to store all diary notes, memos, to-do lists and journal entries. If you are someone who likes to use paper to track what you’re doing or what you’ve done, then Evernote makes it easy. You can even keep a daily almanac on it if you like to keep meticulous records of how well you’re doing with any particular self-improvement plan or business development project.

  1. Use Flickr to organize all your pictures. You can convert your paper-based pictures into digital images to store on Flickr. You can, of course, also use Google Drive for this. What’s more, they will be organized and easy to find when you need them.
  2. Use Crashplan or Bulldog to backup your data.If you want to backup your digital data, you don’t have to print out endless reams of paper on all your projects as a safeguard. Instead, you can simply use a data protection plan. Again, there are many services that do this for you. You could use something like Crashplan or Bulldog to do it. Once you have it all setup, it can be done automatically. Often people waste lots of ink printing out copies of all the important documents they generated on their computer. With data backup solutions, its not necessary to waste time and money on this antiquated method. What’s more with 2 factor authentication, SSL, and easy access from any computing device, your stuff is probably safer on the cloud than if it is lying around your home or office.

Conclusion

Although it may seem like it would be hard to do, going paperless is no more difficult than housecleaning on your day off. There are so many services to help you do the job well that it’s amazing that so few people stop to think about it. Imagine, a clutter-free environment where you can find any document, image, or other piece of important information in a few minutes instead of ransacking through file cabinets or digging through drawers.

 

4 Reasons Print Marketing Is Not Dead

Print is dead. That’s what people all around the world have been saying for years. Yet despite the untimely demise of print, I still see newspaper stands on street corners, product catalogs, and informational marketing booklets for businesses. Publishers still produce millions of books a year. People still buy magazines at grocery stores. The question is, if print is dead, why does this still happen?

The answer is simple: Because there is no power as great as the printed word.

As the popularity of online advertising started to take off years ago, and social media sites began running ads, there was a decline in readership of the printed word. It was only temporary.

Let’s look at this from a business standpoint now. If print is in fact alive, should you invest in it or not? The answer is simple: yes. And here is why.

It’s tangible — There is nothing as powerful as having something tangible in the hands of potential customers. They have longevity that online ads cannot touch. Magazines, brochures, and newspapers can sit around for weeks, months, or even years. The information and ads in them is accessible as long as that medium still exists. Online ads just can’t touch that sort of longevity.

Less Print Ads — Consumers are inundated with online ads. They come into email boxes, show up on social media, sidebar on Google searches, and consume most business and private websites. Even apps are not immune to ads. With so many ads assaulting consumer eyes, most of them are ignored or not noticed at all. This gives print ads two major benefits over online ads.

  1. Cheaper prices. Print ads and booklets can often be printed at a discount because the companies need more clients.
  2. More Engagement. A study done by Research by Mail Print showed that people are 40% more likely to try a new business from direct mail.

Why not capitalize on a potential increase in audience and sales, and try custom printing here?

Integration – While print may be more effective at getting the attention of the right audience, you still can’t forget about online marketing. The beautiful part of print is that it can be integrated online easily. If you have brochures or booklets, they can be directly uploaded to the internet as PDF for people to download. Now they can either print it themselves, save it on their device for later, or just browse the information online. It’s harder to do it the other way around.

Credibility – Anyone can write an article online. Without proper links to research that supports the article, credibility of the content comes into question. Credibility of online articles and promotional materials uncertain. On top of that, scams online are significantly more frequent than those in print. The world of publishing is not such an easy nut to crack though. That means that printed words often hold more weight to readers than anything they see online.

Still not sure that print is the right investment for your advertising dollars? Read the article by Forbes, explaining the benefits of print advertising.

Print marketing can be important to increasing the audience of your business. For real success, you need to find a way to balance both mediums.

Top 3 Tax-Friendly Tips For Your Small Biz

Small business owners have several things to worry about every day. And before you know it, paperwork has piled up and deadlines come knocking at your doorstep.

Sounds familiar?

Don’t let important operations go behind the scenes simply because you’re immersed in bigger plans. It is imperative for you to stay on top of things when it comes to endeavors like tax management. Otherwise, you could be suffering the same faith as those 6.8 million small business owners who had to face $4.6 billion worth penalties for the year ending last September, according the IRS published data.

Here are some tips to prevent such issues:

Keep track of expense receipts

Failing to save copies of expense receipts can result in cash flow, accounting, and tax related problems. How many times have your bank statements included anomalous charges? Is it a personal expense, supplies or a business meal that you paid for with your business credit card? If there is no receipt available about the charge, it can lead to a higher tax bill and incorrectly reported tax expenses.

Therefore, you need to develop the habit of keeping receipts for every business purchase. To take out the inconvenience from the process, you can pay for business expenses using your bank card or credit card, and have a small tax folder or envelope for keeping the receipts. You can also utilize an expense tracking app that lets you attach digital copies of the receipt as well as add expenses from your smartphone.

Take professional help

Small business owners often try to do their own taxes to save on costs. However, not taking professional help can result in big bucks lost down the road; you may miss out on all deductions your business qualifies for, or you might undervalue your tax bill – resulting in asset seizure, penalty fees, and even frozen bank accounts.

Consultants at Authority Tax Services caution that back taxes and unfiled tax returns can even lead to your wages being garnished. Ignoring the IRS can make matters worse. So getting professional help means you’ll be partnering with experts who know the common tax filing issues faced by businesses. Such resources can help you plan ahead and apply the right tactics for the financial situation of your business. At the end of the day, the tax-season success of your small depends will depend on the financial accuracy of the paperwork.

If you choose to hire a business like Authority Tax Services, be sure you check them out before hand and read any consumer reviews left behind.

Keep record of receivables

Receiving payments is one of the most exciting aspects of running a business. What’s not so exciting, however, is keeping track of these receivables. When an invoice is issued, a receivable is recorded, implying that someone owes you money. The invoice is marked as paid when the money has been received. It looks simple in theory, but is easier said than done in practice; the deposits often face delayed reconciliation as there is not enough time in a single day.

And at tax time, there are some deposits mentioned in your revenue account and a cluttered report for receivables. The result is time wasted on updating listings, higher bad debts, and overpaying taxes. To avoid this from happening, apply payments to invoices regularly and make it a habit to follow any receivables. This can be easily automated with a cloud accounting software.

Finding The Right Business Partners

Most people, when they hear the words “business partner” think of one or more individuals who help build a business from the ground up. In today’s world, though, business partners don’t necessarily have to be that involved in the process. In fact, in many respects, “business partner” refers to an individual or company to whom you have outsourced some of your company’s duties (like marketing, accounting, etc). They are, literally, businesses you have “partnered” with to help make your own project or company more successful.

Figuring out which companies with whom to partner can be tough.  Here are some of the criteria that you should use to help figure out which companies are worth your partnership and which aren’t.

1. Understand the Difference Between a Partnership and Outsourcing

It’s okay to want to resist the idea of outsourcing. Today we place such a premium on “shop local” and supporting local businesses that the idea of outsourcing has taken on an incredibly negative connotation. The reality is, though, that whenever you send some of your own duties to someone outside of your company—even if that other company is in the same office park as yours—you are outsourcing. In a lot of cases, outsourcing can be great for your company because it helps you build your network.

Partnering on the other hand, is giving someone quite a lot of control over your company. The Small Business Administration defines “partnership” as a single company in which two or more people share ownership. So, for this article, technically what we’re talking about isn’t partnering, it’s outsourcing. What sets this type of outsourcing apart, though, is that it is a mutually beneficial situation. For example, maybe you’re agreeing to partner with an accounting company—they take over your accounting and tax needs while you provide all of their web and graphic design needs.

2. What Do You Want to Outsource?

So what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Using our previous example, if you know that you’re good with creative projects but are terrible with details, you might want to outsource or find partners for your accounting and legal needs. It will be tough giving up some of that control but in the end your business will be better for it.

A lot of companies will outsource to freelancers or contractors for everything from simple data entry to content creation and design. Your job is to figure out what you absolutely have to keep in house and how much control you can stand to give up over the rest.

3. Research a Company’s History and Reputation

There are literally hundreds of companies out there that will be happy to partner with you for whatever it is that you need. It is important, before you take a single meeting, that you spend some time researching the history and reputation of each potential candidate.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to find a marketing firm to help drum up some business for your design company. Matomy has an office in your area but before you decide whether to meet with a representative, spend some time looking at Matomy’s social media profile and find out whether they have a wiki or a Wikipedia page.

Also, search for companies in your Secretary of State’s business directory and with the Better Business Bureau. Find out everything you can and if you have questions, write them down! You can ask those questions at your first meeting.

4. Your First Meeting

It is important that you meet with a potential partner or outsourcer in person—or at least face to face (Skype video chats are a great substitute if you’re thinking about hiring someone who works abroad or cross-country).

If you’re going to be meeting with several potential partners, try to schedule those meetings on the same day but not necessarily back to back. Give yourself at least a half an hour or even an hour between them. This way you can really think about your impression of the person and the company that person represents…and you don’t have to worry about competitors running into each other in the hallway.

During each meeting, make sure you cover the following topics:

  • Rates
  • Turnaround times
  • References and examples of work (ask to see any creative person’s portfolio)
  • Availability
  • Personal attention (how much will you get, how much will your clients get)
  • Anything else that might feel important to you.

Write down a list of the questions you know you absolutely want to ask. For instance, if you noticed a “ding” against them when looking them up with the Better Business Bureau, make sure you jot down a reminder to ask them about it. Writing these questions down ahead of time ensures that you won’t get caught up in conversation and forget to ask about your concerns.

5. Give Yourself Time

Give yourself time to really think about the meetings you just had after you have them. Then consider doing a second or even a third round of meetings as you narrow down your pool. You might have other decision makers for your company (your business partners or members of your board if you have a board) sit in on future meetings.

In general, getting multiple perspectives can be very helpful when you need to make important decisions like these.

6. Making the Offer

Make sure that every offer you extend and every agreement you work out with someone is captured in writing. This keeps both of you covered legally and can prevent future problems about what can and cannot be expected of your partnership.

Remember: a lot of this is instinct as well as numbers. Pay attention to how you feel about each candidate as well as how impressed you are by their numbers and portfolios. Good luck!

 

Ingredients for Entrepreneurial Success

There is a very big difference between the number of people who dream of being an entrepreneur and those who actually take the leap and do it. That said, the former suffer from a host of issues; from a limited self-image to fearing the loss of security that comes with being an employee and receiving a steady paycheck. Those who take the leap act in the face of these issues. They have a grand vision, and they cannot simply contain it within the realm of fantasy—they want to turn it into something tangible. If you fall into this latter category, congratulations on the bold decision to make your dreams a reality, to pave your own path in this world—you are a relatively rare bird.

Whether you are just starting out, or are already chugging along, and are in need of some helpful tips to ensure your efforts are a success, here are just a few worth your time.

Learn How to Be a Leader

Most entrepreneurial efforts rarely just involve one person; whether you are building a whole company, or just have a few people under you, it is important you learn how to lead as effectively as possible. How you relate to the people working for you is a crucial element of your success, and its importance cannot be overstated.

Simply being in charge does not mean you are a ‘leader.’ There is no one ‘best’ way to lead—so many individual factors come into play, from your individual personality to the nature of your business. It is important you identify your strengths and play to them, as well as honestly assess weaknesses, and how you can improve upon them. While you can certainly learn a lot from good old introspection, make use of the myriad resources available to you. Read books, attend seminars, consider working with professionals who offer leadership development coaching, and take advantage of any other boost you may find. The end goal is to foster a positive environment in your workplace; make your employees feel they (and their contributions) are valued. When you are feeling doubtful about your ability to lead, take a moment to think of all your accomplishments to give your self-esteem a nice boost.

Successful entrepreneurs are always willing to learn, whether it is about becoming a better leader, or anything else that will help their business. You must make learning a life-long habit.

Work on Yourself, Not Just Your Business

One thing that becomes glaringly obvious as you study people who have achieved great professional success is the focus on personal development as a primary means of achieving entrepreneurial success.

Being that you already have started your own venture, you are ahead of the curve compared to most people; but your work is almost certainly not done. This type of work never is. Goring further, it is not about becoming a perfect person who is free of any flaws. It is about becoming a better person, about continually finding ways to improve. Do better and be better.

Being a successful entrepreneur is about so much more than business savvy; it requires the development and consistent application of certain habits and behaviors; it requires a mindset that is pretty much the exact opposite of what has been instilled in most of us since we were very young. Not all of these things may come naturally to you, and it requires work to develop these elements.

Identify Your ‘Why’

People who build successful entrepreneurial ventures have done so because they have identified their core desires and values while setting out to build a life that includes them. To succeed you must clearly define your ‘why.’ You have to get beyond the vague reasons of wanting more money or wanting to be your own boss. What are the deeper desires driving you in this direction? If you don’t identify these deeper reasons for wanting what you want, you will have a hard time powering through the tough times, and obstacles that will inevitably pop up (especially if you are at a point where money is scarce). You will find a hard time getting motivated when you are just not feeling it; you may even give up altogether.

Striking out on our own, and making our professional dreams come true, can bring with it a great sense of fulfillment and purpose. But, it is not always easy. And that’s okay–it really isn’t supposed to be a cakewalk the whole way. We need to find a formula for success, and the exact ingredients can vary amongst us. But, tending to these three matters can form a very solid foundation for your strategy.