Not a day goes by without a new app being released to help us deal with some aspect of our lives more efficiently – it’s a massive
However, it can be overwhelming and you sometimes wonder whether online tools are such a big help after all or just a massive time-sink of fiddling about! And then there are the costs – £6 here and £24 there soon mounts up.
My feeling is that like most things it’s a question of being selective and choosing systems (paper and electronic) that suit you and how you work.
In this article I have chosen seven common ‘pain points’ which businesses face and looked at some options for how web tools can save you time, effort and money. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – post-it notes are still one of the most useful tools in my office!
1. Pain point: Documenting agreements – More money is lost and more disputes arise as a result of not documenting agreements than you can imagine. With email this is inexcusable – it is so easy to send a confirming email.
When something more formal is required, rather than spend £800 with a lawyer, you can try looking at a service like Simply-Docs. It costs about £40 a year and you can get legal templates like terms of trade.
2. Pain point: Banking – Online banking is obviously a fantastic facility that’s essential to any business, especially when you can download your transactions into your accounting software. However, it can be a pretty impersonal experience and not that great when you need help. I recommend looking at some of the new-style banks which really focus on service, such as Metro bank and Handlesbank, to get the best of both worlds.
3. Pain Point: Raising Money – Yes this is another pain but it’s pretty important too! Here the web is making fantastic use of the peer-to-peer model, matching individual lenders and borrowers – check out Next Generation Finance Consortium to see some of the lenders who are offering these innovative new forms of lending on the web.
For equity investment, though, I think the old-fashioned method of meeting and pitching to an angel investor still has legs. And in any event, 80% of early-stage funding still comes from friends and family!
4. Pain Point Expenses – There are some great apps out there for managing your expenses on the move, such as MyBizTracker. This one also has the added bonus of built-in reminders about upcoming compliance dates and a warning if you’re approaching the VAT registration threshold.
Some people still prefer to use an old envelope, making headings for office and travel etc. and then numbering and analysing the receipts before putting them back in the envelope – low-tech style! You have to be very careful not to lose your receipts, though, and not to let them build up to too much of a paper mountain!
5. Pain Point: Accounting – Web-based accounting systems have really come of age and offer a number of advantages for entrepreneurs. With online accounting software, you can collaborate more easily with colleagues and with your accountant. You can also access your accounts wherever you are so you can get your invoices straight out. There is a free trial of QuickBooks Online so you can try online accounting out for yourself.
With related apps like QuickBooks Online Mobile, you can even invoice from your phone as soon as the work is done. Don’t forget, the early bird gets the worm!
6. Pain Point: Contact management – Keeping track of contacts from your phone, email, newsletter software, shopping cart etc. is a nightmare…luckily, there are lots of useful contact management web services – you may need advice on set-up but to get an idea you could look at High Rise or Karma CRM.
7. Pain Point: Debt collection – And finally, if it all goes wrong with a customer, as a last resort you have online debt collection agencies (typical cost 8-10%) or you can do it yourself via Money Claim Online for about £80.
What are your favourite online tools for managing your business? Are there any old-school tools you simply wouldn’t swap for the high-tech version?
Want to find out more about online business management tools?
I will be talking more about managing your business online at:
- Web in Feb: Manage your business on the web – British Library & IP Centre: 19th February 6pm Book your place
- Running your business online – Intuit free webinar: 20th February 12pm Sign up now
It would be great to see you there!Image courtesy of cooldesign/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net