Thursday, 14 November 2013

Manufacturers, Supply Chain, VARS: Keep your Brand Image Consistent!

Nothing is worse than a company with an identity crisis. Every aspect of your business, from your webpage to your customer service, works together to tell your story – so make sure it’s consistent (and awesome)! Here are 3 tips to help you build a cohesive, successful brand image.

3 Simple Tips with Big Impact


Image 


When it comes to your business, looks do matter. Ensure the look and feel of your brand consistently represents you, and that all customer-facing forms, images and webpages are branded and easily identifiable. You don’t have to get too fancy; a simple yet consistent font, colour scheme and logo are a great place to start.


Employee Vision


Your employees are all helping drive your business, so make sure everyone is going in the same direction. Ongoing communication about company goals and objectives will ensure everyone is working towards a unified vision. But remember it’s a two-way street – ask your employees for their input on company policies as well.


Customer Relationship Management


With more companies offering similar products, customer service sets you apart. Ensuring your clients consistently receive the same friendly and professional treatment will create a cohesive view of your business. Data is a great tool to reinforce customer relationships! Allow your team access to the data available on each client so everyone interacting with them has a holistic understanding of their needs, history and patterns.

Why do you think brand image is so important, and how do you keep yours consistent? Share with us in the comments!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

4 Ways to Improve Supply Chain Management

4 Ways to Improve Supply Chain Management
Running a business without effective supply chain management is a bit like trying to climb a ladder with a bunch of missing rungs – good luck getting to the top. When done properly, however, supply chain management increases productivity and sales, and keeps both employees and customers happy. But making sure the whole process runs smoothly is no simple task – that’s why we’ve come up with four easy-to-follow tips to ensure success at every stage.

1.     Automate! Eliminating unnecessary processes, such as complicated spreadsheets or manual lists, gives you more time to focus on the meat of your business. Invest in a good inventory control system or purchase order program to keep your business on track without losing time.
2.     Keep everyone in the loop: A cloud-based supply chain system is a communication lifesaver. It allows everyone to access key data wherever they are, and ensures they are working from the most up-to-date documents. This means everyone is on the same page and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
3.     Monitor your Metrics: Don’t just assume the process ends once the goods hit the shelf. Pay attention to individual suppliers and make sure you understand how their performance is affecting the system as a whole. Monitor how your customers feel about the finished product, and don’t be afraid to switch up suppliers if it will help your business.
4.     Don’t forget about people! Remember to touch base with your suppliers to keep them in the loop and ask for their input on company processes. Establishing a positive working relationship will help you manage any mishaps in a friendly and productive manner.

What would you add to this list?  Share your thoughts on effective supply chain management in the comments!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Get paid more quickly

Now integrated with Stripe!
You can start accepting credit cards today - it's the latest feature from OfficeBooks.  Just email your customer an invoice.  They will be able to pay using any major credit card.  Thanks to our integration with Stripe, OfficeBooks "full suite" users in the US, Canada, the UK, and Ireland can take advantage of this new feature.  If you have credit details on file, you can even manually enter them via a virtual terminal built-in to the invoice screen.   

Getting started is very easy.  You'll be prompted to enable the Stripe integration the next time you log in - just follow the prompts.  You don't even need a merchant account.  Just your regular banking details will do.


QuickBooks integration - It's almost ready!

We remain on track to release our QuickBooks integration this month.  The first step will allow you to push OfficeBooks invoices to your QuickBooks account (so your accountant can do their thing).  Over time, we'll add to this integration to keep your items and contacts matched in real-time between your OfficeBooks and QuickBooks accounts.

Have an integration idea?  Let us know.

We have our own ideas about what other applications we should be connecting to OfficeBooks.  But we would much rather make decisions on integrations based on your input.  If you have an app you like that you think could work really well if it exchanged data with your OfficeBooks account - get in touch with us to let us know!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Are you Driving Your Business Without a Dashboard?

Business dashboard software



VXEYW258JE68
Imagine driving a car without a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer saying how far you’ve gone, or a fuel light to remind when to fill up. Would you be confident about getting to your destination? Driving a business without a dashboard is along the same lines. If you can’t see at a glance whether inventory levels are on track, purchase orders are in check, and performance results are in line with your expectations, then you certainly aren’t going anywhere fast.
Here are 3 ways a dashboard can help you know where you’re going and make sure you get there.

A dashboard helps you make better, faster decisions. Business 101: You need to get things done. A dashboard alerts you as soon as action is necessary – you will know if inventory falls below a certain level, invoices need to be sent out, payments need to be collected, or work orders and purchase orders need to be generated. Your team will have all the information they need to make fast and confident decisions and keep your business on track.
A dashboard keeps you up to date. Your team needs to be kept in the loop. A dashboard will notify you of important events and changes as they occur – was a quote for a customer created? Do you need to see the details of a work order that was generated? A dashboard keeps track of all the happenings of your company, so you and your employees are always on the same page.   
A dashboard displays all your metrics in one place. Numbers matter! They need to be accessible and actionable, so you can keep track of how your business is doing and what needs to change. A dashboard allows you to access your current month’s bookings and billings, and check the total value of your inventory, your outstanding purchase orders and your scheduled sales. Metrics are displayed in a way that makes immediate sense, so you can and your team can act quickly and decisively.
So make sure you are driving your business with a dashboard! They are a simple but powerful tool to keep your company on track – so you have time to focus on the bigger-picture issues.
Does your company use a dashboard? Which features are most helpful and which would you like to see added?




Image credit: flickr.com/alekcander

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

5 Things Your Company Shouldn’t Be Spending Time On


Have you ever experienced a work-day time warp, where the time passes but you don’t actually get anything done? Chances are your extraneous tasks are taking longer than they should. Here are some quick tips to get rid of time-wasters and free up your schedule for what’s important.

Spreadsheets: You want to invest your time where it matters, and ‘spreadsheets’ probably didn’t make the list. Complicated documents and manual lists are time-wasters and easy to mess up. Consider investing in online management software that will keep your business on track while freeing up your schedule. The best part? A system isn’t prone to human error, so that number you accidentally typed won’t ruin your week.

Perfectionism: Will moving that comma really affect your long-term business plan? Remember that better is the enemy of good enough. Before starting a task, make note of the big-picture goals and objectives. Once those have been reached, ensure any additional time you invest is going to make the project noticeably better. Otherwise you might wind up with one fantastic project instead of one fantastic business.

Document confusion: If you’re not in the cloud, what are you waiting for? Don’t waste time emailing large files, working with multiple versions of a document, or trying to figure out who needs access to what. A cloud-based system keeps everyone on the same page and ensures they have easy access to the most up-to-date information.

Ineffective meetings: Have you ever left a meeting wondering what exactly the point was? Meetings can be huge time-wasters if they’re not structured and controlled. Start the meeting by setting clear goals and objectives, and send everyone a list of topics or questions to reflect on beforehand. Re-direct any conversation that isn’t directly addressing the core issues – such as Bob’s story about his weekend.

Miscommunication: Everyone hates the he said, she said game. In a fast-paced work environment, people forget what you talked about. Instead of relying on face-to-face communication, make sure your tasks, deadlines, policies and meeting notes are recorded in an accessible company-wide system. It will keep everyone on the same page, and allow them to access the information they need wherever, whenever.

What do you think is your company’s biggest time-waster? How could it be managed more productively?


Image courtesy of Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, 23 June 2013

4 Quick Tips for a More Effective Workday


“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” 
~ Douglas Adams

Time Management Tips

Did that quote hit a little too close to home? Here are some quick tips to help you make the most of your work-day and maybe hear less of that whooshing sound.

Act, don’t react

Be proactive! It takes less time to prevent problems than to try and solve them. Think through every task before you start, and try to anticipate difficulties and make fallback plans. The best part? You can get a computer to do most of the work! Ensure you have systems in place to remind you of upcoming tasks and meetings, and to alert you when action is required.

Prioritize 

Let’s be honest: not everything is going to get done. Managing your time effectively will ensure that the most important tasks are completed first and on time. Take ten minutes at the start of your day to look at your task list and figure out which deadlines are flexible, and what the consequences will be for not completing a task on time. Focus on what is most pressing, and what will have the biggest impact on your relationship with clients and your overall business objectives.

Understand Your Software

When you have a to-do list the length of your arm, you might not feel like playing around with computer programs. But learning as much as possible about your company’s tools and software will allow you to get the most benefit from them. Take an hour whenever you can to experiment – chances are you will discover at least one new feature to save time and improve your performance.

Collaborate

You can’t be good at everything – that’s why you have a team! It’s great to solve problems independently, but not if you miss deadlines. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or use teamwork to get things done faster and more effectively. If a task is keeping your team from focusing on the main business objectives, make sure to look at your options and know when to outsource. Using the skills of the people around you is just as effective as having the skills yourself.

What would you add to this list? Which tips and tricks help you meet deadlines?



Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Five reasons to replace spreadsheet purchase orders with business management software

Time to trash the spreadsheet - move to business management software
It's time to trash the spreadsheet.

Many small businesses use a purchase order template in Word or a spreadsheet in Excel to manage their purchase orders. This gets the job done for today, but it is not the best way for a growing small business to manage their purchase orders. Here are five reasons why business management software is better for your business than a purchase order template.  VXEYW258JE68

1. Quick inventory, supplier and client search - Drop-down info boxes in Excel purchase order templates might be good enough for today, but as you add more items, suppliers and clients, this task can become repetitive and time-consuming. By integrating with your inventory and shipping data, business management software makes finding and applying the right information fast and easy, so you spend less time inputting names and addresses.

2. Purchase order generated and emailed directly - No more saving, exporting and attaching. Business management software can send your purchase orders to the supplier and track their status in one place. That means no more looking back through emails to check the status of your purchase order.

3. Accessible from anywhere in the cloud - How often have you needed to make a purchase order while away from the office? When shopping for a business management program, look for one that stores all your data in the cloud. This means your information is accessible online from any computer, and allows you to create and send purchase orders, monitor inventory, and access client information even away from the office computer.

4. Alerts you when supplies are low – Business management software saves you from guessing whether you need to make a purchase order now or next week by alerting you when supplies are low. When integrated with your inventory controls and quotations, a management system can monitor your inventory and notify you which supplies are needed based on sales.

5. Assign permissions for purchase orders - If multiple people in your company are creating purchase orders, choose a business management program that will create controls and check permissions to prevent overspending. Look for a system that will allow for the creation of multiple profiles with different spending limits, so that any purchase orders above the limit will be flagged for approval before being sent.

What frustrates you about purchase order templates or spreadsheet purchase orders? (We might use these tips to make OfficeBooks even better in the future!)

Saturday, 30 March 2013

How Can Small Businesses Scale?


Stepping stones for growing a business











Creating a small business is a tough job. You have to fight for every new customer, build a reputation, and somehow pay all the other bills while you grow. The tipping point is when your business reaches a size where the revenue finally outweighs the business expenses. Here are four tips to help you reach that milestone:

Create a unified business system ­- As your small business grows, you will create will thousands of relationships with potential customers, partners and suppliers. So will your employees. That means small business purchase orders, inventory, work orders and contacts should be all in one place and accessible by everyone. A few years from now, you will wish that you had all this information in one place, so save yourself the headache and start today.

Document, automate, train, repeat ­- As a small business, you are creating processes as you grow. It's easy when a small team is working in the same room, but when the company expands to a different city, Office Two will need to know how you do everything at Office One, from small business purchase orders to how you answer the phone. Document your systems and ways of doing business so that others could repeat them. Find the right software and integrate others into the same systems so that you share resources.

Contact a marketer -­ Your speciality is manufacturing or machinery, but it’s not marketing. Reaching out to a marketer – even a simple sales call – can generate great ideas for new products, audiences, and systems. Creating partnerships with other businesses can also inject your products into new industries. If you have that unified business system up and running, a marketer can work wonders with customer data, such as contact information and purchase history.

Eliminate small problems before growing -­ Sales stalled? Systems broken? Is there a business problem that you just can’t figure out? Then it might not be the right time to expand your workforce or increase production. Small problems can grow into large ones as more people get involved in the process. So take a step back and evaluate your business before deciding to move forward with expansion.

What troubles have you encountered due to small business growth? What processes have helped your company be more organized as it expands? Leave us a comment and let other small businesses know what to do before they grow.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

How is re-shoring in the United States & Canada impacting business?


Reshoring bringing manufacturing back to north america
Increasing efficiency can have a big impact on how businesses work on a global or local scale. Re-shoring in North America is the result of some interesting global trends, and increased efficiency through technology. Here’s what you need to know about offshoring and re-shoring in the United States and Canada:

What is offshoring?

In North America, we understand offshoring as an on-going business practice that sends manufacturing jobs to far-away countries. However, as wages increase overseas and technology increases logistical efficiency at home, some of these jobs could return to the United States and Canada.

Historically, business operations have been relocated in order to take advantage of the reduced labor rates and lower taxes in countries such as China and India. The activities that are commonly offshored include manufacturing, accounting and information technology services. The industries most associated with offshoring include electronics, textiles, toys and shoes. As a result, manufacturing in the United States dropped from employing 32% of the workforce at its peak to only 9% at present.

What is re-shoring?

Re-shoring is the hypothesis that developed nations – particularly the United States – could be recapturing a significant piece of the manufacturing production that fled to Asia over previous decades, which would result in more manufacturing and technology jobs in North America.

The trend of bringing these processes and jobs to North America can be attributed to a number of factors including increasing wages overseas, the decreased value of the American dollar, and increased logistical efficiency. One example of this trend is at Catepillar Inc., which found its manufacturing to be more cost-effective using robots and skilled American workers, when compared to low-wage Chinese workers.

What impact will it have?

Additional factors that encourage re-shoring in the United States include an increase in wages overseas, improvements in domestic energy production, government incentives and the trend towards locating production closer to consumers.
Though the long-term impact of these economic changes is not fully known, it is estimated that two million manufacturing jobs could return as a result of re-shoring in the United States. OfficeBooks and many other businesses across North America are excited to see re-shoring catching on. While market forces should ultimately determine where businesses operate, buying, sourcing, and hiring locally is good for local economies.

Do you work for a company that is actively re-shoring operations? Have you seen the impact off offshoring or re-shoring in your region? Leave us a comment and let us know if re-shoring is changing how your company does business on an international or regional scale.

Image source: http://flic.kr/p/65gQ3Y

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Five web-based alternatives for common software


5 cloud based business apps

Cloud-based small business applications are increasingly common because there are so many advantages to adopting these apps when compared to traditional software. For small businesses, these online applications allow you to collaborate with co-workers more easily, work remotely, and never worry about data back-ups. Whether for small business or personal use, these five cloud-based apps make our lives easier without loading any new software or files on our computers:

Google Documents & Drive - Emailing Word documents back and forth is so early 2000’s. Using Google Docs and its associated online storage application called Drive, text documents, presentations, and spreadsheets are easier than ever to share with partners, collaborate, edit, and comment on - and it’s automatically backed up as you type. 

Basecamp - Basecamp helps people track and collaborate on projects. The project management website facilitates discussions, tracks tasks, and retains files for collaboration and backup. Setting up teams allows you to share some thing with your clients, some things internally and keep everything running smoothly. You receive updates when tasks are complete, and a daily email keeps you up-to-date on the status of all your projects. 

Issueburner – How you deal with a complaint or issue from a customer can define your relationship with them. Issueburner organizes these important interactions, allows you to assign them to teammates, and insures every issue is addressed and/or resolved. If you’re using a spreadsheet to track customer issues, it’s time to move to the cloud. 

Dropbox - As a web-based file-sharing service, Dropbox is a valuable tool for sharing large files. But Dropbox really shines as a seamless, shared file folder for collaboration among multiple users. That means everyone can contribute to the same file without sending multiple versions back and forth by email. The newest version of the file is automatically synced to everyone’s computer and older versions are backed up in the cloud. A small business solution as useful and elegant as this shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Asana.com - You could manage your company’s projects using phone calls and checklists, but Asana lets everyone on your team add, update and assign tasks to give a more complete and actionable view of what’s really getting done. The era of the conference calls is over. 

These apps all give you more control over everyday tasks and situations, with less demand on your system while adding anywhere access, regular updates and easy collaboration where you need it. We have come a long way from going to the computer store and buying boxes of software off the shelf! All of these benefits we considered when building OfficeBooks as a SaaS based cloud app, we wanted to be as handy as these apps and as easy to use.

What is your favourite app for business or personal use? Share it in the comments to help grow this list for everyone!