Considering adopting Google Apps? This post should help you!
For small businesses and charities wanting to keep things lean, Google Apps offers a great opportunity for a single, simple ecosystem of products. Google has been steadily innovating across its Apps products and has almost reached a point where an organisation can adopt their suite of products wholesale. Adopting Google Apps will require compromise in some areas but will offer massive savings on training, IT support, per user purchase cost, integration issues and centralised control.
There are so many great ideas and thinkers out there that if you are running a business, charity or enterprise of any kind and you haven’t dug into the wealth of books available, your are missing a trick. Here is a list of the books that I have found most helpful.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
There are a few books on this list that count as classics and this is one of them. First published in 1989 it has been republished countless times. It’s not really a business book in that it takes a fundamentally holistic approach seeing business as just one part of life that is most effectively approached by developing a deep understanding of the principles that drive you as a human being. It is then packed with practical tips on how to let those principles drive everything you do.
Being pretty old, there are lots of cheap second hand copies floating around (check out http://abebooks.com). Or if you want to find this or any of the other books on Amazon just click the images.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
Even more of a classic, this one was first published in 1936 and it’s crazy how relevant it still is. You many assume from the title that the book is in some way about manipulating other people to get what you want. In reality , this short book simply explores a range of common human characteristics and draws from them lessons about how to get the best out of other people by understanding how they think and act.
For most people running small businesses, the last thing they want to spend money on is legal fees. However, the alternative is often equally uninviting: writing your own contract.
Keep your website contract simple!
During my pre-business days as a contract lawyer I developed a deep loathing for lengthy overly defensive contracts. In my experience, what really mattered was clarity and what invariably led to disputes was the parties failing to think through the contractual arrangement before signing up. For exactly this reason, long contracts are often counterproductive. It is much better to have a contract that your clients actually read rather than try to sneak in every clause under the sun and hope they don’t bother.
Get my contract for free to copy and re-use
To save you a bit of time I thought I would share the standard contract that I use at White Fuse. Of course, you likely need to tailor this slightly to your circumstances, but it should form an adequate starting point for most consultancy or design businesses.
The document works in tandem with a clear description of scope. You should make sure that the description of scope refers directly to the standard terms and that you provide the client with both documents at the time they sign (or agree by email, which is fine as long as it’s an unambiguous approval).
Those of you familiar with the Pareto Principle will be well aware of the notion that 80% of your profit often comes from 20% of your customers. In a similar way it is often the case that 20% of your customers create 80% of the headaches in your business.
If that doesn’t immediately resonate with you, take a minute to think about the customers who give you most grief. Almost all businesses can name a few. Now ask yourself ‘are these my most profitable clients’? Intuitively you might expect your most profitable clients to be the hardest to service but this is rarely the case. The opposite is more often true.
Every day this week I checked my email once per day. I run a busy web agency with 11 employees and I’m currently managing 5 or so active projects while pushing along a similar number of active sales leads, managing the team and various other bits and pieces. So I can assure you this is not a symptom of a lack of potential email traffic. In fact, I used to drown in email.
Getting sales is obviously crucial to running a profitable web design business and to sell websites you need to know who your customers are. Capsule’s main strength is its simplicity. There are LOADS of alternative CRMs out there (Batchbook, Pipedrive and Insightly to name just a few I have tried but I prefer Capsule because of its simplicity and wealth of integrations. If you are interested you can read my post exploring the best small business CRM web apps.
In the early stages of running a business you can get away with a pretty ad hoc approach to salaries but as your business grows you need to move to something more systematic.
For the first few employees it is possible to get by with rough benchmarking, tested by whether or not you attract applicants. Salary reviews can often be reactive affairs in response to dissatisfied or ambitious employees pushing for more money.
Once you get past a handful of staff everything starts to get more complex lack of a clear strategy can quickly become a headache. Before you know it you can find yourself facing multiple salary-related challenges.
There are a huge number of good CRMs out there which are priced to make them accessible to small businesses. I’ve spent a lot of time searching these out, giving them a try and even running with them for a while in one of the businesses I’m involved in.
I work with a number of contact (or ‘customer’/’constituent’) relationship management systems and have tried many more. Capsule CRM stands out for its blend of simplicity with a select range of powerful integrations.
At the extremes of the CRM world sit Highrise (from 37signals) and Salesforce. Highrise is unashamedly simple. 37 signals eschew complexity and cross platform integration but instead provide an open API which leads to the development of third party apps. Salesforce, is increasingly working to draw its customers into a world where everything they do from email to social media engagement is done through Salesforce software.
This is a big topic and if you are pretty new to accounts there is a lot to learn.
This post is aimed at small business owners who aren’t accountants but want to engage seriously with their finances. It’s easy to think that management accounts is something you can forget about and just leave to your accountant once a year. This is fine if you are just trying to get by. It’s fine if you are running a ‘lifestyle’ business. But if you want to grow your business you need to understand what is going on. Continue reading “How to prepare a set of management accounts (the basics)”