Category Archives: Small Business Management

smallbusiness.com – A Wiki for Small Business

Small BusinessSmallbusiness.com was created as a collaborative, participatory project, "the information found on Smallbusiness.com is contributed by users like you" and can be added to by anyone using a wiki.  It looks like a really good resource for those looking at starting a business and will really benefit from any tips from those who have already been there.

Some Good Pages

Because it is a collaborative project, it’s success depends on the community, if you want to get something out of it, add something to it.

 

Turning Stereotypes on Their Head

Over the past few years, we have encountered a fair bit the perceived importance of presenting ourselves as something other than what we are. We are a young company, I am a female, we don’t really like wearing suits if we can avoid it, we’d rather work from a beach than an office.

Regardless of the quality of service you provide, in this world, the way you dress, your gender and your age still can impact the success of your business, in a small business, it’s all deemed a part of establishing credibility.

The Non-Stereotypical CEO 

9rulesIn Bypassing Prejudice Paul Scrivens writes about his experiences as the CEO of massively successful Web 2.0 company 9 Rules, who has encountered not only flack for his age (he looks about 19, and doesn’t divulge what he really is), but for his race – basically he isn’t the 30 something white guy everyone expects. Anyone who is defying stereotypes in their own area, will identify with a lot of what he has to say.

 

Web Office VS Desktop Office Apps

One of the critisisms of evolutionone was that it was before its time and small businesses would struggle with the idea of managing their entire business on the web. I suppose we are young enough and technical enough to have always been involved in businesses where management through the web was a goal, not a fear and because of this, sometimes we overlook the hesitations of our less web-based counterparts.

Why You Need A Web Office is a good outline for the more reserved, although I would like to see a shortening of the timeframe before the early adopters move to a fully web based office. Especially newer, smaller businesses who don’t have a legacy IT department, haven’t invested heavily in Microsoft products and who could really benefit from the reduced costs and greater efficiencies of web based office products. I think the creation of web based business management products opens a massive opportunity for small businesses to become far more competitive and the sooner they are adopted by the ‘fortune 5 million’, the better.

Startup School

This article reminded me of a massive gripe I had while studying management at University. What I couldn’t fathom as an excited, motivated interested student, was why on earth those people insisted on teaching me management of production lines and old-world abstract theories. Degree cut short, I left feeling like I had learned next to nothing and wondering why on earth Universities don’t offer some form of ‘Start Up School’. How much easier would it be to start your own business if the idea seemed relevent enough to actually teach?

In New Zealand especially, where small businesses dominate the landscape, is it not a bit arrogant and old fashioned to think all business minded people aim to be high-level corporate managers in massive corporations?

 

Spend Less Time on Email and More Time on What you Love

 "Everyday, small businesses, bloggers and freelancers waste hours answering their e-mail. This fall [Feb/March] Sproutit.com will introduce the first software built exclusively for small businesses and individuals to solve this problem."  – Web 2.0 Central

Sproutit

I’ve just signed up to the free version of Sproutit out after reading the review on Solution Watch, which I recommend as an indepth description of this small business email management tool. They have also got a presentation on Demo, and an interview with Technosight, so further details here are a little unnecessary. Basically, if you’re like a lot of small businesses we know and spend half your day sorting through email, this could be your solution.

How they Describe it

"Mailroom can sort, organize and even suggest replies. Best of all, it actually learns how you work. You just start using it like normal and in a few days it will take over and basically do everything for you. Email will be assigned to the right person, tagged and replies suggested. All you have to do is log in to approve the replies. Instead of spending hours on email, you spend minutes. "

FREE alternatives to Microsoft Office (so you don’t even think of settling for Office Live)

It looks like a lot of people are in agreement that Office Live is no more than an addition to Microsoft Desktop Office (or at least so badly named that average Joe Business Owner wont understand much difference anyway). One question thats popping up all over the show is ‘But we all have to use Microsoft Office anyway so what’s the problem?’. The problem is that we don’t.

Alternative One – for the desktop: Open Office 

This is an alternative to using Microsoft Office at all. It provides much the same user experience and is only missing a few bits and pieces. We have been using Open Office for years until recently making part switch to Writely. Open Office now has a really slick marketing campaign that they parade outside Microsoft headquarters:

Open Office Ads 

Cost: FREE 

Alternative 2 – web based: Thinkfree

Thinkfree"Is now avaliable in an online version that virtually mirrors the capabilities of retail software" 

Includes free online storage and the promise of more to come. We are looking seriously at Thinkfree now.  

Cost: FREE 

 

Obviously, if you only require bits of the Office suite, and can benefit from web absed applications, we also have:

Alternative 3 – word processing: Writely 

 The web word processor. We love it!

Cost: FREE 

Alternative 4: gOffice 

 For letters, presentations, memos and simple reports. "High quality printable PDF output that rivals output from Adobe InDesign. Beautiful letterhead designs – work anywhere – easy to use – faster than local software. Write proposals, letters, homework, reports, memos, cover letters and more…"

Cost: FREE 

 Alternative 5 -web based spreadsheets: Num Sum

"Keep your records, lists and spreadsheets in one place online. Easily slice, dice and share with others."

Cost: FREE 

See also: 

Update:

As this seems to be a popular topic, take a look at this extended list of Best of Breed Web Office Products

Microsoft Office Live a great Leap Backwards

Microsoft Live LogoIn the interests of non-censorship, I will talk about the launch of Microsoft Office Live Beta. If you want a nice review, please move right along to Techcrunch or one of the many other fans. I however, feel that we are just getting to the stage where small businesses and people who aren’t total computer geeks have options other than Microsoft. We’ve had far too long of Microsoft abusing its power by charging massive licence fees and totally ignoring the concept of open standards. So when I signed up using Firefox to have a look and saw this page, I decided to launch my one girl crusade to stop this hype in its tracks:

Microsoft Office Live Error

(translation: You have to use IE to use Office Live) 

I just don’t see how the short term benefits of Microsoft’s massive ability to pour funds into a (much) needed area outweigh the long-term costs of degrading back into a Microsoft world. We know an online office for small businesses is sorely needed, that is why we built evolutionone, and from the looks, companies like 37 Signals and Office Gateway are heading in that direction and have been for some time. In fact, I’d go so far to say that an entire sector of the web 2.0 movement is leading to integrated online business management tools, so why settle for a solution that forces us away from open standards and back into the Microsoft world we have just escaped? I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to make yourself dependent on a proprietry technology when you can avoid it – think about the future!

Side Job Track


Web Based job tracking, invoicing, reporting & project management software for the part-time independent contractor. (And it’s free)

Side Job TrackOne of the best ways to get out of working for ‘the man’ and into working for yourself is to start freelancing on the side while still maintaining your fulltime ‘day job’. A lot of people move into owning their own business this way, or have dreams of doing something like it in the future but right now ‘it’s just too much work’. Side Job Track makes life for the part-time independent contractor that much easier. Based on the web 2.0 philosophy of keeping it simple and catering to a small, specific group, Side Job Track have turned themselves into almost everything a one man gang could ever need.

Who it’s good for 

Anyone who works full-time but also provides services casually for friends, family, or clients. 

Why it’s good 

  •  It’s one of those super well designed web 2.0 services that makes using it a breeze
  • It’s free and guaranteed to stay so (with future options of a premier service)
  • It’s a simple way to maintain a professional image and manage your jobs
  • It makes it easy to see how you’re doing
  • the reporting system helps you extend your side job work.

 For the hard-to-please…

If it takes you a lot to convince you that something is very cool and you are still sitting on the fence, you’ll probably be interested to know that not only the entire application was developed by one very talented lady, but the application framework was as well. Not enough? She did it in her spare time.

Small Business Accounting Please

We are desperately seeking a good web based accounting system a la Net Accounts but that caters to NZ GST rules.

We want it to be:

  • Simple
  • Intuative
  • able to upload bank statements
  • Avaliable online from anywhere
  • Immediately.

Most small businesses seem to have to make do with MYOB or suchlike, and this was a problem we tried to address by building evolutionone, however then, and now we fail to find an accounting system aimed at normal, average small-medium business owners.

Is this not a job for the web 2.0 crowd? Is it not much needed? We have searched what seems like the entire web and everything we have found is either aimed at accountants, enterprise size or limited to part of the accounting process.

Anyone know anything or want to build this obviously much needed tool?