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Mastering Financial Apps: An Ultimate Guide for SMBs

According to the Small Business Administration, only 50% of enterprises opened at any given time will still be around 5 years from now. A decade after that, the number of businesses still in operation is further halved.

It may only take a week to start a business, but it can take a lifetime to make sure that it stays afloat. Although there’s no definite formula for business success, saving money where you can and using financial software programs can make a huge difference, especially for small business owners running their businesses with an equally small team. Such financial software programs include the following:

Accounting

Money plays a critical role in any business – it is its lifeblood. It allows businesses to hire the best people, grow the enterprise, pursue and adopt innovation, and promote products and services, among other things. Managing and tracking your business’ money is crucial to its success

What an Accounting software program can do:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Analysis of financial data
  • Generation of various types of financial ledgers
  • Creation of invoices to request and record payments
  • Track and age Accounts Receivable
  • Generate financial reports

This type of accounting software also makes auditing much easier and more efficient as it will generate a “paper trail” that is easy to follow, points out obvious discrepancies and makes the overall accounting practices of your business more secure from collusion or mismanagement.

Examples of Accounting software programs:

  • Quickbooks
  • Sage One
  • Zoho
  • Yendo
  • Intuit

Invoicing

Many accounting software programs already include invoicing. There are, however, still a number of businesses that want to keep their accounting and invoicing business processes separate from one another. It’s also possible that they have an accountant on retainer or in-house, and all they really need is a basic invoicing software program to make the accountant’s work easier and more efficient.

What an Invoicing software program can do:

  • Complement other financial software, such as supply chain, CRM, e-commerce, and accounting programs
  • Generate invoices for customers in batches (unlike manual invoicing, this program allows you to create as many as hundreds of invoices in the same amount of time)
  • Schedule recurrent collections
  • Compute sales taxes
  • Create a paper trail

Examples of Invoicing software programs:

  • FreshBooks
  • Zoho Invoice
  • Billiving
  • InvoiceOcean
  • Sleek Bill

Taxation

One of your responsibilities as a business owner is to pay your taxes both on time and correctly. But understanding taxation and keeping up with the myriad rules and regulations that apply to businesses is not the easiest thing to do. There are several types of deductions, exemptions, and credits that you have to claim before you file your tax return. Due to the strong taxation regulations, there’s very little room for errors and the penalties for mistakes are stiff.

Still, nothing can replace the sound advice and guidance from a professional, so it is strongly recommended that you hire a tax professional that specializes in your particular business as your enterprise grows. Nevertheless, a taxation software program can still be quite useful.

What a Taxation software program can do:

  • Electronically file completed tax return forms
  • Save previous tax returns for reference
  • Compute deductions, exemptions, and credits
  • Complement invoicing, billing, and supply chain software for taxation purposes
  • Analyze final taxes to be paid
  • Store electronic signatures for quick and easy filing of tax returns
  • Generate required tax forms
  • Significantly minimize errors in tax form preparation

Examples of Taxation software programs:

  • TaxAct
  • TurboTax
  • Block

Supply Chain

If your business involves manufacturing, retailing, purchasing, distribution, and/or the sale of goods, to include raw materials, then you need a good Supply Chain Management software.

What a Supply Chain Management software program can do:

  • Manage every component of the supply chain, such as inventory management, procurement, ordering, and returns
  • Minimize fraud since the software can identify key people involved at any phase of the supply chain
  • Fill in the inventory management gap that often exists between procurement and sale of products
  • Forecast and analyze figures related to labor, manufacturing, sale, and distribution costs
  • Make both domestic and international logistics more convenient to manage

Examples of Supply Chain Management software programs:

  • U Route
  • Snapfulfil
  • Fishbowl Inventory
  • TradeGecko
  • Abas Distribution

Personal Finance

One of the golden rules in running a business is to never mix corporate profit with your personal finances. These should be treated as separate and different entities. Otherwise, it can create a huge negative impact in the cash flow of your business, as well as landing you in hot water. It also makes it more challenging to keep track of how much you’re really spending for personal as opposed to business expenses. The IRS won’t like it either (that’s why you can claim deductions and credits ONLY on those expenses that are related to your business).

What a Personal Finance software program can do:

  • Generate and track your budget
  • Make bill repayments easier and more manageable since you can set up alerts or even automate these repayments
  • Monitor your individual expenses, especially your credit cards
  • Organize your bank accounts
  • Produce an analysis of your spending habits (e.g., which expenses consume most of your income)
  • Help estimate the salary you should give yourself (although other factors, such as the actual income earned by the business, should also be considered in this decision)

Examples of Personal Finance software programs:

  • Mint
  • Check.me
  • YNAB
  • OfficeTime

Financial Resource Planning

All companies, even those that have already made it to the Fortune 500, run on limited resources: money, time, people, etc. Thus, it’s very important that these resources are allocated correctly – to business processes that generate the most profit, help the business take advantage of opportunities, minimize business losses, and allow the business to remain competitive or even be the best in their industry.

What Financial Resource Planning software programs can do:

  • Create forecasts based on the available historical data
  • Provide a more in-depth analysis on revenue, cash flow, and expenses
  • Complement the other financial software programs listed above
  • Generate different sets of analytical reports such as SWOT
  • Store historical data for future reference

Examples of Financial Resource Planning software programs:

  • SAP Business All-in-one
  • ECI M1
  • NetSuite
  • Intacct

Inventory

One of the costs that any business needs to keep to a minimum is inventory. The cost to hold an item on the shelf for any length of time can often exceed the original cost of procurement.

What an Inventory software program can do:

  • Keep track of how long each of your items stays in inventory
  • Identify fast- and slow-moving products
  • Complement accounting, e-commerce, supply chain and invoicing software
  • Compute actual cost of inventory
  • Manage inventory for multi-branch businesses or multiple stores
  • Manage item-of-supply data (e.g., create unique IDs for every product)

Examples of Inventory software programs:

  • inFlow
  • Inventory Power
  • Small Business Inventory
  • Stock It Easy
  • iMagic Inventory

By using software to help manage these crucial areas of your company, you will find that you will become much more proficient, effective, productive and confident in running your business. Over time, you will see improved results in your bottom line, as these financial programs will allow you to keep closer oversight of your day-to-day operations and see that your money is being used wisely and to best effect.

This is a guest blog post from FluidReview.com.

 

A Week at CES

I spent all of last week at the Consumer Electronics Show.  From CES Unveiled to the obscure companies located at the edges of South Hall, I got a chance to see it all.  There are few trends that became apparent after being there for nearly six days.

The Smart Home

At the LG Press Conference on the 7th even before the official show began, LG held a press conference.  Besides patting themselves on the back about the Optima G, they also talked a lot about smart homes.  A whole slew of appliances this year will be released with features like Smart ThinQ. Smart ThinQ is a NFC (Near-Field Communication) system that allows you to upload and download information from your large appliances like washing machine.  For example, you can look up what wash cycle is best for your stained shirt with the LG Washer App and then place your smart phone near the NFC tag on the washer and boom it goes.

The Z-Wave Alliance also made an appearance at CES. They showcased a plethora of devices ,including the Fibaro Home System 2, that work at the 900’s MHz range known as Z-waves.  If you installed everything they were selling you’d be able to control your windows, thermostat, doors, lights, and anything else that used electricity in your house via your smartphone.

The trends is that more consumers want control over everything, including the very walls they live in.  I know they say this every year, but 2013 may be the year of the smart house.

More Companies Making a Play for the US Market

The Chinese company Hisense made a bit of a splash by taking over Microsoft’s old floor space in the Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  That came front, center, and in force. They unveiled the XT880 and XT900 which are both 4K TVs.  They also showed off a smart fridge.  This is a big move because Hisense is the manufacture behind Dynex and Insigna TVs.  Now, they’ve gone full hi-end when entering the US market, unusual when dealing with a Chinese company.  However, it might not be a risky move since Hisense had over 2 billion in overseas sales in 2012.

Does CES Still Matter?

With Apple and Microsoft leaving CES for their own shows, CES has had to take a few hits.  However, it’s becoming a place for smaller and mid-sized companies to show off their wares.  Maybe not on the show floor where space can cost $20,000, but at the smaller events like Digital Experience and Show Stoppers.

I managed to attend the LG and Hisense press conferences.  At both, they tried to sell a life style rather than introduce a lot of new products.  That seems to be the trend for larger companies.  Selling a lifestyle insures a repeat customer, showing off their personality through their purchases.

All-in-all, CES had a good showing this year.

Does Your Business Need An App?

Confucius once said that the inferior man knows what would sell, while the superior man knows what is right.  Any small business owner will tell you that it’s much easier to be the superior man, because it’s hard to pin down how to sell.

What we do know is that technology often goes hand-in-hand with increases in business.  From the cash register to shipping tracking codes, technology can lower the barrier for a business transaction to occur.

It’s just common sense that the easier something is, the more likely we are to do it.
So, is launching an app a good idea for your small business?  It all comes down to: What do you want?  Apps for a small business can be boiled down to three varieties.  They either, supply information, increase exposure, or deepen consumer loyalty.

We live in the information age.  An app can supply information about your products and services.  In planning on making a purchase, knowing is half the battle.

Increasing exposure is similar, but differs in one important way: exposure is just getting eyeballs on your company.  It doesn’t have to provide any information.  It only needs to grab someone’s attention.

Finally, there are a variety of apps that deepen consumer loyalty.  Rewards, promotions, heads up on special offers all fall under the purview of enhancing loyalty.  The best of such apps create almost the air of mystic around the perspective customer.

When choosing a pre-made or designing an app for your business be sure to make sure that it favors at least one of these categories.

Enough Apps: Will Windows RT Survive?

Analysts say that for the near future, Windows RT will stay afloat.  Most of this positive outlook comes from the fact that RT rolled out with 9,000 apps.  Tablets, Microsoft’s Surface, live and die by their app stores.  The restrictions to their size simply dwarf any hardware that can be shoved into their handheld frames.

However, 9,000 apps, 5,200 of which are available to US users, are not enough to stave off the tech reaper forever.  The Surface has only been the on market for less than a month, not enough time to see if the tablet will outlast HP’s Touchpad and RIM’s Blackberry PlayBook.  Those two failed tablets were essentially dead on arrival, but the Windows RT and its source, Windows 8, are just out of the gate.

Microsoft rolled out with huge cheeks for app developers.  But will it be enough?  Only time will tell.  For now, we will simply have to suffice with the slightly substandard, but innovative hardware of the Surface.

If you’re planning on upgrading to Windows 8, be sure to have enough IT staff on hand.

Getting Into Your Customers’ Pockets

Over the last few years it’s become inescapable. More and more people can’t seem to go for a half hour without pulling a phone out of their pocket and checking to see what’s new.

Practically every business wants to find a way to make their name show up on their customers’ little screens, but many are confused about how to do it. Do you need an app? A mobile optimized site? Must you tweet, or is Facebook enough?

The answers to these questions will be different for every sort of business. Twitter is a fantastic tool for anyone hawking impulse buys. The food truck that tweets its location and daily specials has become a staple of many urban areas. Facebook is a great place to engage people in a conversation about a new product you’re selling, and many small businesses find Foursquare is an excellent way to build up customer loyalty. For many companies, the best bet may be to throw the same information up on multiple platforms since it doesn’t take much more time and may reach different audiences.

Where social media is free, getting an IT consulting firm to build you an app or a mobile-optimized website can get pricey. The businesses that have the most use for their own apps are those, like banks, that customers need to interact with frequently. Mobile sites can be helpful if your regular site has a lot of complicated information that could get confusing on a tiny screen.

In general, though, there are some easy ways to make sure your main website looks good on a smartphone. It’s important to make sure words are actually text, not part of a graphic, especially key information like your address and phone number. Avoid flash, since a majority of mobile devices won’t play it. The best way to figure out if your site works for mobile devices is to try it out. But don’t just use your own iPhone. Borrow a friend’s android phone, your sister’s iPad and whatever else you can get your hands on and check how good your site looks on them all.

Once you’ve got a decent mobile site, and a social media presence to drive traffic to it, you can be confident that everywhere your customers go, you’re riding along in their pockets.