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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Best Small Business Accounting Apps

A large part of being a successful small business owner is managing the financial accounts including: invoices, billing, expense reports, financial reports and reconciliations. For many business owners this part of the job can be stressful and may cause you to want to ditch the confusing spreadsheets and financial reports in search of something better.

What you may be looking for is an easier way, with less headaches, in an easy-to-read, affordable format. That is where small business accounting apps come in to play.  While there are seemingly millions of accounting programs out there (just Google it,) there are some that the experts tend to recommend more than the others. Here are the top accounting apps that made the cut: 

  • FreshBooksOf all the accounting software we looked at this name kept coming up over and over again. FreshBooks wins for its ease of use, excellent customer service, and for offering all the features small businesses need to manage their finances on the go. FreshBooks allows you to quickly create professional-looking invoices and set up credit card payment support. Other features include repeat invoicing, estimation, and one-click snail mail sending.

  • QuickBooks Online is an accounting app with a walloping set of features presented in one of the simplest accounting interfaces ever.  Quick Books handles accounting, billing, and invoicing, all from the same spot. Its colorful, user-friendly interface is home to a powerful set of features. These include estimates invoicing, time tracking, accounts payable, reporting, inventory, contacts, sales, and tax.

  • Wave With more than two million users, Wave is one of the most successful online accounting services – and it’s completely free for accounting, invoicing and receipts, although if you want personal technical support you’ll need to pay for it.
  • Zoho – Zoho Books offers all the basic features microbusinesses need, as well as advanced tools that grow with your business. Furthermore, compared with other accounting software for really small businesses, Zoho Books has the best price for all of its capabilities.

Still confused about the specific accounting software you may need to stay organized and in the black?  Check out Accounting Software Reviews for a complete list of the top accounting apps used by small business owners. They break down the cost, features and can link you to free trials. 

How to Grow Your Small Business

So you started your own business? Each sale, each new client and each business connection you make grows your small business just as you dreamed right? But maybe you want to continue to broaden your client base.  There are many options to consider when thinking about expanding and growing your small business no matter what field you are in.

What are some of the most effective small business expansion tips to grow a business beyond its current status? Let’s take a closer look at steps you may want to initiate to grow your small business. 

  • Social Media – If you are looking for a fairly cost effective and easy way to reach more of your targeted audience try a social media campaign. Do some research on which social media platform attracts your  demographic and start posting in that medium. The more your name is seen the better.  Social media can be an invaluable tool for engaging with consumers and expanding your brand recognition.
  • Open Another Location – This is often the first way business owners approach growth. If you feel confident that your current business location is under control, consider expanding by opening a new location.

  • Merge With or Acquire Other Businesses in Your Market – There are bound to be other companies in your field who may have similar goals. Explore merging, partnering or possibly even acquiring those companies as a way to expand. 

  • Stay Competitive – Technology changes so rapidly these days that it would be easy to be left behind if your new company does not keep up with the latest and greatest technology. This is especially true if your company is in anyway related to the tech world or relies on technology to provide a product or service.
  • Target Other Markets –  Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? Probably. Use your imagination to determine what other markets could use your product.
  • License Your Product –  This can be an effective, low-cost growth medium, particularly if you have a service product or branded product

  • Diversify –  Small-business consultant McGuckin offers several ideas for diversifying your product or service line:

    • Sell complementary products or services
    • Teach adult education or other types of classes
    • Import or export yours or others’ products
    • Become a paid speaker or columnist

Website Metrics 101

When it comes to websites, gathering data on who visited, how long they stayed, what they looked at and the average session duration, the data can quickly get overwhelming.  Tracking even the most basic of numbers relating to your website can give your business a big advantage over competitors. How, then, can you tell what data is meaningful for the success of your company and what data is extraneous? What scientific measurement, also known as web metrics, should you be most interested in?  Here is a cheat sheet of sorts to help you make sense of your website metrics and hopefully make your company more successful due to them.

Metrics You Should Be Most Interested In 

  • Visitors or Traffic to your Site – How many visitors visited your site on a daily basis?  The number of unique visitors should be of greatest interest to you. Unique visitors represents the count of individual people that visited your site regardless of the number of times they visited your site. So, if person A visits your site once and person B visits your site five times, you will have two unique visitors and six total visits. this number will give you an overall view of the health of your site.
  • Sources of the Traffic – While it is important to know how many  people are visiting your site, it is equally important to know where they came from or how they found you!  Google Analytics breaks down your traffic sources into four broad categories: Organic Search: traffic coming via the search engines, Referral: traffic from another website, Direct: traffic typing your domain into the browser, or Social: traffic from social media. Each source of traffic will tell you a few important snippets of information about your website.
  • Bounce Rate – How many people visit your site but then leave it immediately? This means that a visitor did not find what they were looking for on your site. This “bounce rate” is the equivalent of someone walking in the front door of a store, taking a quick look around, and immediately walking back out the door. The goal of understanding this web metric is to find ways to decrease this number.
  • Conversion Rate – The conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action such as: the number of people who buy something, fill out a contact form, or view a certain page on your site. The reason conversion rate is so important is that it is the ultimate measure of how successful your site is.
  • Average Session Duration – This metric records the average length of a session in hours, minutes, and seconds. The more relevant your site is to the visitor, the longer the average session duration will be since a visitor will spend more time accessing information that interests him.

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Benefits of Having an Internship Program

If you don’t know already, small and medium sized businesses have been reaping the benefits of internship programs for years. These programs have the potential to be a win-win relationship for both the intern themselves and the company for which the intern is working. So, is your company taking advantage of these rewards?  Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of developing a successful internship program for your business.

If your business is contemplating starting an internship program realize that while there are definite obligations and responsibilities, there are also a multitude of advantages for both the intern and company hosting the program.

For the Company: 

  • New Perspective – Many businesses have a natural routine and organization to them. Using an intern can mean a new perspective on the “old grind”. Having a younger member of the team who is fresh and optimistic may mean that they question why something is done a certain way or have a fresh perspective on how something within your product or service can be done more efficiently or can better serve the customer.
  • Knowledge of Technology – Let’s face it, interns tend to be better in touch with the latest and greatest on the technology front especially social media, and the most recent gadgets. Using that knowledge can give a boost to your company.
  • FREE Labor – While interns do take considerable effort to mentor, they also are free labor which means your employees can be freed up from the more mundane aspects of their job to do more meaningful work.
  • Future Workforce – Close to 68% of interns are offered some sort of position in a company post internship. That means that the time during an internship is a great opportunity for employers to see the talents and skills that can be added to their company – very much like a test drive before buying.

For the Intern: 

  • Exposure and Experience – Two of the main reasons why college age students pursue an internship is to gain valuable experience and exposure to a given field that they otherwise would not gleam through regular studies. This resume building experience makes it just that much easier to get a job post graduation.
  • Marketability – Students who have completed an internship tend to get jobs faster.

    On average, only 30% of graduating seniors have job offers before graduation; however, after completing an internship, that figure rises to 58%. 

  • Contacts – Even if an intern is not offered the dream position in the company in which they interned for, they have had ample opportunity to build a strong list of contacts.

Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses

Turn on the news and its almost guaranteed that you will hear about the most recent hacking or cyber attack. Typically, however, the news only covers high profile companies, government entities and global businesses. Think this means your small or medium sized business is not at risk?  Think again. Small and Medium sized businesses make for prime targets because they usually have the least protected websites- making a cyber attack a relatively easy job. The U.S. Small Business Association along with other security experts have compiled a great list of tips to consider when setting up your business’ cyber security solutions. Here is a synopsis of the top five steps you can take to secure your business:

  • Train Employees on Security Protocols – Security protocols are great but they only work if every employee is on the same page.  Have regular security meetings detailing appropriate Internet use guidelines, email use and password protection. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.
  • Back Up – Back Up – Back Up – Regularly backup the data on all computers. Have a plan that covers disaster recovery including how to keep your company running in the event of a cyber attack.
  • Passwords – Practice secure passwords on all access points to your business. Require employees use strong passwords and change them often. This includes every employee. Also consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.
  • Secure your networks and WiFi – Safeguard your Internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting information.  If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and hidden.
  • Create a mobile device action plan – Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks.