IT Support for Small Businesses – How to Build Your Business Without Breaking the Bank

Building a small business is hard work. In the initial period of most small businesses, one or two people are trying to do everything until the business grows enough to diversify functions and hire assistance. While you are trying to develop products and/or services, you are also trying to build infrastructure to support the business functions. Chances are, if you are the kind of person who is focusing on product or service development, you probably are not the person with the breadth technology information to build your own infrastructure.

Our experience working with small businesses is that the creative folks who design the products and services and actually manage the business don’t know a great deal about computer technology, particularly new technologies. Many of these people don’t even want to know how or why a system works. All they want to know is that this system and this application will help them accomplish their business goals and what they must do to make it work.

When a fledgling business moves from an idea to a real product or a real service and begins to work with customers who want that product or service, technology becomes essential. In today’s markets it is difficult to be in business without a website and internet commerce applications. These, in turn, require management and maintenance, as well as security. As the business continues to grow, it becomes necessary to manage bookkeeping, customer service, inventory, and staff. This, in turn, requires more technology.

In a world in which new technologies emerge daily, keeping up with change is a full time job. Knowing which systems and which applications will meet the needs of a growing business in the present and in the future requires knowledge, experience, and technological skills. Unfortunately, none of that is free. There are three ways to respond to the need of a small business for technology infrastructure.

The first response is to decide to try to do everything yourself. The founder of the company goes to a computer company or store, explains the perceived needs of the small business, and buys the recommended hardware and software. This brave individual then returns to the office to try to make everything work.

The second possible response is to hire an IT professional or a team of IT professionals. This requires time and money. The fledgling company will conduct a search for a qualified individual, make a hiring decision, and start paying this individual or group of people salary and benefits and social security and everything else. The business will also provide work space and a work area for this individual.

The third possible response is to enter into a contract with an IT services company, such as INS. The small business principals will then discuss their needs and their budget with the service company’s consultants. A contract will be executed on either a retainer basis or on a per-item basis. The small business principals will then go back to work creating and selling products and/or services and growing their business. Meanwhile, the IT services company will go to work designing the best system for the current and future needs of the small business, installing equipment, setting up systems, applications and websites, and creating the networks and connections that will allow everything to work smoothly. The IT services company will monitor, manage and maintain the entire technology infrastructure for the small business.

Most technology professionals will tell you that the first response is a sure path to disaster. Most financial advisors will tell you that the second response is probably going to break the bank. The third response, however, may provide the most efficient and cost-effective solution to the technology needs of a small business.

Most small businesses discover a need for the following minimum system capabilities:
* Inventory management

* Production management

* Sales management

* Marketing functions

* Website, electronic commerce and security

* Customer database

* E-mail

* Customer and market surveys

* Fax, web conferencing, video conferencing capabilities

* Human Resources and payroll systems

* Billing and accounting systems or software

* Document and forms production, management and distribution

* Planning and budgeting functions

* Competitive analysis functions

* Wireless systems

Once these programs and systems are in place, they must be integrated. The system must then be managed, monitored for service disruptions, repaired, expanded and further integrated. Security demands change almost daily and require constant updates to protect the business and the customer.

The purpose of technology is to assist the company in implementing business strategy and managing day-to-day business functions. Every business function managed or assisted by technology frees the employees of a small business for more integral functions. Further, the right technology properly leveraged will increase productivity, and assist the company in knowing more about their customers and the buying habits of their customers by collecting that information and making it readily available in a variety of settings and contexts.

Contracting with an IT services company saves money, provides the best fit of technology with business objectives, and eliminates the need for small business principals to worry about systems infrastructure. These companies provide 24/7 service and support to ensure that the company does not lose business due to down time, without the financial burden of paying overtime to an internal IT staff. Considering all the services provided, as well as the knowledge and experience of IT services companies in working with the needs of small businesses, it is not surprising that IT services companies are the solution of choice for many small businesses.

 

Top 10 Marketing Books for Small Business Owners

Unlike big business owners, small business owners have the burden of taking care of every single aspect of their business – recruitment, marketing, finance, accounts, managing employees to managing vendors, and so forth. But here we focused only on books that can help you gain marketing knowledge and skills. Here are the top 10 books on marketing which we believe are helpful for new as well as established small business owners.

Book # 1: The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott

In the new marketing scenario, the methods such as ad copy, etc. do not bring results for your business. With the popularity of smartphones and other devices and proliferation of the Internet, new methods, rules, etc. of marketing have evolved. This book discusses the importance and benefits of using such techniques.

David M Scott provides fresh examples of success from various industries and businesses across the world. He highlights the new tools and techniques that marketers should use to communicate with their buyers directly – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. In short, this book is a guide that offers actionable strategies and insider tips that can be implemented immediately.

Book # 2: Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking – Andy Sernovitz

This book by Andy Sernovitz emphasizes the use of word of mouth marketing for businesses. The book elaborates purpose of blogs, social media, viral emails, etc. – when to use them and how to make them work.

Word of mouth is an effective tool to share information quickly and easily to promote businesses. It is an effective tool that can promote your business via your customers, friends and relations.

Book # 3: Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business – Jay Conrad Levinson

This book furnishes strategies for Internet marketing, tips on using technology like pod-casting and automated marketing, programs for targeting prospects, cultivating repeat, referral business, management lessons in the age of telecommuting and freelance employees, etc. – exclusively for small businesses.

Book # 4: Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide – John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a well-known expert in small business marketing. In the book, he discusses all the proven tools and tactics together in a step-by-step marketing system. This road map helps small business owners in knowing what they need to do to market their businesses.

Book # 5: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business – David Siteman Garland

This book provides strategies for building, marketing and promoting businesses. These techniques are smarter, faster, cheaper and therefore save your time and money. The book is equally helpful for start-ups as well as those who are already in the market for sometime.

Book # 6: Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed: Leverage Resources, Establish Online Credibility and Crush Your Competition – Patrick Schwerdtfeger

This book provides effective practical strategies and tactics – a complete tool kit to use resources sensibly, to establish online credibility. If you apply these strategies, you can get good results for your business within a brief span of time.

Book # 7: Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide – James Stephenson

This book is an essential guide for every business owner. James Stephenson presents in this book 1500 great marketing ideas that are sure to boost your sales revenue, profits and customer loyalty and also to help you stay ahead of your competitors.

Book # 8: Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth – Stephanie Diamond

Marketing for small businesses was difficult in the past. But today, it is not the case. Web marketing enables small businesses to take advantage of marketing opportunities and win new customers.

The book ‘Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth’ focuses on different ways of marketing with a detailed strategy to put them into action. The main content of the book comprises checklists – niche, brand, story, search, content, social media tactics, traditional tactics and results. This book helps you implement web marketing strategies.

Book # 9: Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook – Dave Kerpen

This book is a key to unlock the door to new opportunities. It tells you about how to build brand awareness by engaging customers in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and other social media networking sites.

Book # 10: 500 Social Media Marketing Tips: Essential Advice, Hints and Strategy for Business: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and More! – Andrew Macarthy

This book is a guide to small businesses. It provides 500 social media marketing tips covering all the web’s biggest players like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and others. These tips will help you build brand awareness in social media networks, attract and engage your customers and ultimately help you increase sales.

 

Accounting Tips For Small Businesses

With tax time nearly upon us, many small businesses and first time entrepreneurs are scrambling to get their accounting information straightened out in order to file on time. When many small business owners think of accounting, they tend to associate it with income tax preparation and filing. The accounting for your small business should not be relegated to tax time. Accounting information can help business owners make better decisions, and improve the management of their business. It can also help them secure financing, and facilitate reporting to stakeholders (such as creditors, banks, and government agencies), and it can tip them off to any serious problems that might be brewing, such as dwindling cash resources, or debt burdens which may become overwhelming.

The accounting aspect of many small businesses is often the most neglected. Most small business owners don’t feel they have the time or expertise to devote to keeping their books. Let’s face it, most small business owners didn’t start a business because they were eager to deal with the finance and accounting aspects of it. The accounting is a function done at the end of the year for tax purposes. This attitude is unfortunate, because the accounting results of a business can represent a wealth of information, and can help business owners make better decisions. The fact is that accounting information really serves as an indicator of how healthy your business is. Think of your accounting information as a reading on a thermometer.

If you only see the value in accounting at tax time, you are missing out on an opportunity to get a true picture (and not just a “gut feeling) of how your business is performing financially. It is not likely that the individual who prepared your information is going to give you any tips or guidance with respect to the management of your business (unless your accountant or bookkeeper is also a relative or associate). Remember, in this instance you’ve paid them to prepare information for tax filing purposes, not provide consulting services on how to improve the performance of your business.

If you’ve already paid someone to prepare financial information for you, then the information is all there, waiting to be used. Business owners need not be the ones who prepare financial information, but they’d better be ready to be the ones who pay attention, and interpret, that financial information (or have a trusted associate who is willing to do this for them – although most accountants don’t come cheap). A responsible small business owner makes it a point to understand how to read financial statements, and draw conclusions from the information contained therein.

Unfortunately, you can’t really purchase accounting advice tailored to your small business over the internet. The good news is that you don’t need to be a financial genius to understand your balance sheet. There are many resources available on the web which can guide you through the process of understanding your financial statements. You may be just starting out, and looking for potential solutions. Or, you may be a seasoned business owner looking for some tips. There is a wide variety of solutions available, and these range from tutorials and e-books, to accounting and bookkeeping software. Learn more about these here: Accounting Tips for Small Businesses

With tax time nearly upon us, many small businesses and first time entrepreneurs are scrambling to get their accounting information straightened out in order to file on time. When many small business owners think of accounting, they tend to associate it with income tax preparation and filing. The accounting for your small business should not be relegated to tax time. Accounting information can help business owners make better decisions, and improve the management of their business. It can also help them secure financing, and facilitate reporting to stakeholders (such as creditors, banks, and government agencies), and it can tip them off to any serious problems that might be brewing, such as dwindling cash resources, or debt burdens which may become overwhelming.

The accounting aspect of many small businesses is often the most neglected. Most small business owners don’t feel they have the time or expertise to devote to keeping their books. Let’s face it, most small business owners didn’t start a business because they were eager to deal with the finance and accounting aspects of it. The accounting is a function done at the end of the year for tax purposes. This attitude is unfortunate, because the accounting results of a business can represent a wealth of information, and can help business owners make better decisions. The fact is that accounting information really serves as an indicator of how healthy your business is. Think of your accounting information as a reading on a thermometer.

If you only see the value in accounting at tax time, you are missing out on an opportunity to get a true picture (and not just a “gut feeling) of how your business is performing financially. It is not likely that the individual who prepared your information is going to give you any tips or guidance with respect to the management of your business (unless your accountant or bookkeeper is also a relative or associate). Remember, in this instance you’ve paid them to prepare information for tax filing purposes, not provide consulting services on how to improve the performance of your business.

If you’ve already paid someone to prepare financial information for you, then the information is all there, waiting to be used. Business owners need not be the ones who prepare financial information, but they’d better be ready to be the ones who pay attention, and interpret, that financial information (or have a trusted associate who is willing to do this for them – although most accountants don’t come cheap). A responsible small business owner makes it a point to understand how to read financial statements, and draw conclusions from the information contained therein.

Unfortunately, you can’t really purchase accounting advice tailored to your small business over the internet. The good news is that you don’t need to be a financial genius to understand your balance sheet. There are many resources available on the web which can guide you through the process of understanding your financial statements. You may be just starting out, and looking for potential solutions. Or, you may be a seasoned business owner looking for some tips. There is a wide variety of solutions available, and these range from tutorials and e-books, to accounting and bookkeeping software.