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10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make With Investors

mistakes_unpreparedSeeking money for a start-up from friends, family, angel investors, venture capitalists or lenders is an exercise fraught with pitfalls. Many first-time entrepreneurs approach it with great optimism and belief in their business idea, only to fall flat on their face.

Reasons vary, but often it’s just that the entrepreneur hasn’t taken the time to study up on how to approach investors, including what to do and what not to do. The Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC) – an invitation-only group of top young entrepreneurs – recently asked some of its most successful members to name the dumbest mistake they could think of that entrepreneurs should avoid when pitching investors.

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Here’s our take on the top 10 mistakes they came up with (in no particular order):

1)    Making it all about the money: “When pitching an investor, you’re not just pitching your great idea. A relationship with an investor goes beyond the ROI and it’s important to focus on selling yourself as well as your business plan,” says Raul Pla, Founder & CEO of SimpleWifi.

2)    Being unprepared: This is an unforgivable sin. The entrepreneur, of all people, must have the details completely buttoned down. “Even if you get an investor interested, nothing will bring the conversation to a screeching halt quite like not knowing how much you want to raise and what you’ll do with it,” says Jason Evanish, co-Founder of Greenhorn Connect. You must show you can lead a business.

3)    Asking for an NDA (non-disclosure agreement): Only a rank amateur would do this. “Chances are, you’ll be laughed out of the meeting room if you ask investors to sign an NDA,” says Michael Tolkin, CEO of Merchant Exchange. “Ideas are cheap.”

4)    Being overly pushy: Investors accepted the meeting because they saw something in you or your business. But if you push too hard, most investors will shut down. “Be cool and confident, but not like a used car salesman,” says Ashley Bodi, co-Founder of Business Beware.

5)    Meeting your best prospects first: Keep this in mind, says Christopher Kelly, co-Founder of Convene: “Your pitch only gets better with time. You will achieve the best odds by saving the best for last.” Make a note of recurring questions and concerns after each pitch and revise your materials accordingly.

6)    Promising too much: “Go in with what you know, not what you think you can do. Investors will lose faith in you – that is, if they don’t see through you immediately,” says Jordan Guernsey, CEO of Molding Box.

7)    Rushing the pitch: “As nervous as you might be, try to calm down and speak from the heart,” says Logan Lenz, Founder of Endagon. “Speaking more slowly not only allows listeners to register what you’re saying, it also makes you sound more confident and knowledgeable.”

8)    Failing to leave time for Q&A: This is the flip side to #7 above.  You can’t take too much time and not allow questions at the end. “No matter how organized a pitch is, it will fail to answer questions your audience has,” says John Harthorne, Founder & CEO of MassChallenge.

9)    Making all projections and no plans: “Don’t put a hockey-stick graph in the middle of the presentation and expect everyone in the room to swoon,” warns Brent Beshore, CEO of Adventur.es. “Projections are guesses that rarely come true. What’s more impressive is your plan to get there. Investors know a strategy means a lot more than pretty pictures.”

10) Coming off as desperate: “People like to invest in and be connected to winning projects,” says Raoul David, CEO of Ascendant Group. If you come across as if this investment is the only way your business can move forward, it seems too needy and will turn off many investors. This also sets you up to be taken advantage of. “You’ll end up giving away more equity than you should.”

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

9 Time Saving Tips for Your Small Business

Piggy Bank and clockMost small business owners and start-up entrepreneurs hate wasting time. They know from experience that starting and growing an enterprise takes head-down, get-it-done dedication and efficiency.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to waste them.

But even the most focused business owners can struggle in the day-to-day world with all of the little things that can sabotage efforts to spend time effectively. Whether your business is facing a challenge, or growing like gangbusters, it’s important to get the time management thing right.  Your good organization and time management skills are essential to the success of your business.

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Here are nine time-saving tips that you can put to work in your business right away:

  1. Discover the power of priority. Every business owner makes dozens or more choices daily about what to focus on first. This is setting priorities. But most of us tend to put out the fires first, and then move to more productive endeavors. If you want to tap into your productivity’s full capacity, however, you need to balance being a firefighter and being a builder.  Try this: List all tasks you face, from big to mundane.  Determine which are “A-list” tasks that must definitely be done today. Divide others into B, C and D-level tasks.  Now you can progressively work through all the minor tasks that lead to the greater steps that, in time, lead you to achieving your goals.
  2. Divide and conquer documents. To make sure you don’t drown in a sea of emails, spec sheets, spreadsheets, and more – either hard copies or electronic — you must decide quickly what to do with each one. You have four basic options: Act on it, file it for later, delegate it or toss it. Make it your goal to touch (or click on) each document only once before putting it into one of these categories. The boldest move you can make is to be honest with yourself about what you can and will make time for—and then having the courage to pitch everything else.
  3. Try the 80/20 rule. About 20 percent of the things you spend time on produce 80 percent of your results. To maximize your productivity, identify the 20 percent activities and prioritize them. Look at how you currently spend time. How many things on your to-do list get checked off? Identify what you’d like your 80 percent—your results—to look like. Now you can reorder your priorities for best results.
  4. Make your desk a no parking zone. A desk isn’t storage space, it’s work space, so treat it that way. The more pictures, notes, boxes and tools you have on your desk, the greater your odds of being distracted. Be brutal. Remove everything that isn’t necessary. If you haven’t touched something in a while and it doesn’t have sentimental value, get rid of it. A clear workspace promotes a clear mind.
  5. Ask specific questions. When you ask a vague question the answer is likely to come back just as vague. Being specific and clear cuts confusion and extraneous detail. Communicate precisely why you need to know the answer, and what its purpose is.
  6. Beware of time invaders. Interruptions are inevitable, so you need to control them. Be on guard against people and situations that pull you away from your objectives and schedule. Be proactive in choosing the ground on which you engage others. Reach out to others so they don’t drop in on you. Schedule meetings ahead of time. Discipline yourself to check email once every hour (if realistic) instead of every five minutes.
  7. Make preemptive “appreciation strikes.” You may have clients or contacts who take excessive time and energy because they want to be involved in every step or they’re just friendly by nature. Making brief but regular calls to them can save time overall and keep you in control.
  8. Plan your procrastination. Let’s just assume we all procrastinate at one time or another. It’s human nature. The secret to successful procrastination is to do it deliberately, based on available time and status of high priority tasks. Choose tasks that are least time-sensitive and least at-risk and postpone them, but still give yourself a deadline.
  9. Check in with yourself each Friday. One way to determine how effectively you’re managing your time is to check your results regularly. Do a weekly review of where you stand in relation to your overall goals. Look at the highs and lows, and make adjustments as needed.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

5 Free or Frugal Business PR Tools

HARO logoBusiness owners and startup entrepreneurs are always searching for low-cost and no-cost ways to promote their businesses and get their name in front of potential customers. PR is a perfect way for most  businesses to get attention and attract new customers. Nothing brings people to your door (website, Facebook page, etc.) like PR. Most businesses know this, but few have the budget to hire a PR firm. The good news is you don’t have to.

That’s because there are many free or low-cost ways to get PR via the Internet. It’s never been easier to practice your own public relations. But it takes time and effort on your part. Here are five free or frugal PR tools you can use to launch your own internal public relations effort.

1. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a free service from Vocus that lets you sign up to become a resource for reporters writing stories on topics in your field of expertise. From The New York Times, to ABC News, to HuffingtonPost.com and everything in between, nearly 30,000 members of the media have quoted HARO sources in their stories. Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for. For a monthly fee you get more bells and whistles.

2. PRWeb is a low-cost news release creation, submission and distribution service used by many small firms. News and press releases distributed via PRWeb raise your online visibility where millions of people are searching for information. When you submit your news releases to PRWeb, they will be indexed by search engines such as Google, sent to news sites such as Yahoo! News and placed into RSS feeds with more than 250,000 subscribers that include bloggers, journalists and consumers.

PRWeb also helps you build inbound links from other premium sites, one of the most important assets to build your website’s credibility in search engines. All of this helps drive traffic by helping people find you online and click through to your website. With “advanced features” your news goes to premier news outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today and others via the Associated Press. You can also include video, attachments, images and links to engage your customers and encourage people to share your story.

One of the best parts about PRWire is all of the free help available on the site. Look in the “Tools & Tips” section for advice on how to write a good press release, common press release mistakes, best practices for online news releases, how to format your news release and more.

3. Free Press Release lets you submit releases for nothing. The basic service provides free distribution to Google News and other popular search engines. If you register (still free) you have additional capabilities to log into your account, monitor your release, and delete it. A more expansive paid service is also available.

4. Another free press release distribution service called 1888PressRelease.com sends your releases to search engines, newswires and websites. For a modest fee, you can upgrade to wider distribution. You can also attach files, logos or images to your press release if you want.

5. PitchRate.com is a free service that connects journalists with topic experts – such as small business owners – for free media coverage. Basically, it’s a place where you can get free media leads. PitchRate also offers helpful (free) information on how to get free publicity, PR tips, personal branding ideas and more. It sponsors regular free “PR Happy Hour” conference calls that let you talk live with marketing and PR experts, ask questions and get free advice.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

16 Sweet Social Marketing Tools You Gotta Try

No doubt about it. People are piling into social media marketing like never before. But the most successful ones don’t go naked. They deploy a variety of digital tools to amplify and monitor their efforts.

BizBest® has researched over 100 social marketing tools – including some that are brand new – and came up with this list of 16 standouts (listed alphabetically):

AgoraPulse (www.agorapulse.com)

Great to use if your efforts are focused on Facebook. It offers tools to engage your fans, qualify them and track results. Using AgoraPulse could certainly quicken your marketing heartbeat.

Buffer (www.bufferapp.com)

Awesome way to schedule social media activity. It lets you add posts and tweets to your “buffer” from anywhere and have them automatically distributed throughout the day. By keeping your biz buffer topped off with content, you can schedule a fresh social media presence for a week or more.

Crowdbooster (www.crowdbooster.com)

Offers tools to measure and boost your social marketing. Lets you analyze performance of individual tweets and posts to quickly grasp what’s working; view engagement and reach metrics for Facebook.

Disqus (www.disqus.com)

Plugin for getting more marketing mileage out of blog comments. This takes the old, rather clunky “comments” function and turns it into a social media machine that lets users sign in and comment via Facebook and Twitter.

HubSpot (www.Hubspot.com)

An all-in-one marketing software provider that give you a complete package of tools to launch and manage your social media marketing. Super-savvy social marketers! These folks are smart.

LinkedIn “Skills & Expertise”

This tool (under the “More” tab on LinkedIn) is an effective (and free) way to find world-class professionals with whatever skills and fields of interest you want; an especially rich source of B2B contacts and leads.

Newsle (www.newsle.com)

Cool new way to find articles about you and your business, as well as colleagues, competitors and anyone else you care about, and receive notifications minutes or hours after they’re published. Sync your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and it happens automatically.

Nimble (www.nimble.com)

Revolutionizing customer relationship management (CRM) for small business by taking it into the social realm in a really smart way. This “social CRM” service makes it easy to manage your contacts, communications activities and sales all in one place.

NutshellMail (www.nutshellmail.com)

This aptly named app from Constant Contact is a social media lifesaver for those who want their social activity results neatly summarized in a single email. NutshellMail tracks what’s being said about your business in social media, packages it up and sends a summary email on whatever schedule you choose.

Pagelever (www.pagelever.com)

Affordable analytics tool that’s all about measuring the impact of your social marketing efforts. Output charts and graphs showing traffic, fans, users, comments and more.

PeerIndex (www.peerindex.com)

Measures interactions across the web and helps you understand your influence (or lack of it) in social media. Better than Klout because it’s more adept at measuring real influence rather than just large numbers of followers.

Postling (www.postling.com)

Several tools in one, including alerts and insights that help you get the most out of social marketing. Publish to all of the major social media sites and schedule posts in advance. It also pulls comments from all of your social media sites into one place – a big time-saver for responding.

Shoutlet (www.shoutlet.com)

A do-it-yourself platform for managing social media marketing. But it’s a fairly sophisticated service, favored by many larger businesses as well. It offers a wide range of features, including data capture, customer relationship management (CRM) and unlimited accounts.

Slideshare (www.slideshare.com)

Great place to share content such as product or other presentations and generate traffic and leads for your business. The site is free to use and gets some 60 million visitors monthly. Presentations can appear on your LinkedIn profile.

Sprout Social (www.sproutsocial.com)

Popular tool among small businesses to monitor what’s being said about you online, schedule and publish updates to your social media pages with one click, and produce reports.

TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com)

Dashboard that gives you a good view of your Twitter activity. It allows you to monitor and manage unlimited accounts, schedule tweets to suit your audience and filter content to focus on what matters to you the most.

Bonus Tool: MarketMeSuite (www.marketmesuite.com)

This one came to our attention after the original Sweet 16 list was published, but definitely deserves a look. MarketMeSuite gives you the tools you need to be more proactive with your social media marketing. Some 30,000 small businesses are already using it to find targeted leads and influencers, engage with customers and get results on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Two Dollar Local Marketing Solution

In the small town where I grew up, my father was known as “King of the $2 Bill.” He ran the local savings & loan, located on (yes, this is for real) Main Street, and loved to hand out $2 bills as gifts.  Sometimes he’d even pay spot bonuses to employees in bunches of $2 bills. He did it just to be different; and also to get noticed.

Pre-Internet Viral Marketing

The promotional value was subtle, but significant.  It was like a pre-Internet version of “viral marketing”. He always had a stack at the ready, and spent them around town whenever he could. As the $2 bills circulated through other local businesses, merchants and customers alike took notice and usually knew where they came from (or if they didn’t, someone would tell them).

But it worked, and that $2 bill “viral marketing” strategy is now being re-discovered by local business groups in other parts of the U.S. seeking ways to promote buy-local campaigns and stimulate sales and growth on Main Street. Business owners in a few cities have started handing out $2 bills to employees as bonuses, asking them to spend the money at local merchants as a way to illustrate the power of supporting local business.

A Refreshing Change from Digital

Try the $2 bill solution yourself.  Consider it a refreshing change from doing everything digital. You can probably get some from your bank. And they are guaranteed to get noticed.

If you can link the $2 bill concept to another promotional campaign for your business (a special $2 price for some items for example; or maybe $2 off), so much the better.

The $2 bill itself remains a novelty for most people who’ve never seen one.  Some customers won’t be sure it’s even real (but of course it is).

$2 Trivia

The front-side design of the $2 bill depicting Thomas Jefferson is unchanged since 1929, making it the oldest design of any U.S. currency in circulation. The back side, redesigned in 1976, depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Take it from my father, one of the original viral marketers:  Even the humble little $2 bill houses hidden power that can help promote you and your business far beyond its face value.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. 

Best App to Record Calls on a Smart Phone

If you or your business ever need to record phone calls from an iPhone or other smart phone, filtering the options for doing so can be frustrating. Trust me.  I just did it.  But with help from my Stanford-student son, we came up with a clear winner that’s low-cost, easy to setup and use, and produced fast, high-quality results.

Our BizBest 60-Second solution winner in this category is an app called “Record Phone Calls” Pro edition  (uninspiring name perhaps, but certainly descriptive) from Blue Square Group LLC ($9.99 from iTunes store or other app download sites).

How it Works

I started this search thinking there’d be a simple solution that would allow calls to be recorded directly on the phone for free.  No such luck. Smart phones don’t support this. They way most apps work is by establishing a third-party call to a recording service that creates a digital recording of the your call and then either emails it to you or allows you to access the audio file online. While some charge per-minute fees, this app does not. So while you pay a little more to get the app, it’s way cheaper in the long run.

Records Both Outgoing and Incoming Calls

What’s more, some apps will only let you record outgoing calls, but not incoming. With Pro, you can do both. Be careful to follow the instructions for setup.  You need to register your cell phone number, obtain a local access number (from a list of access numbers available worldwide), make that number a contact in your phone, and provide an email address so they can send you the recordings of your calls.

Basically, it’s just like setting up a 3-way call — only in this case, the third-party is a service that records your conversation. You can set it up before you call someone; or place an incoming call on hold briefly while you connect to the recorder via your access number.  In all cases, it’s recommended you inform the other party the call is being recorded, both as a courtesy, and for legal purposes (not doing so is illegal in some states).

Tests Worked Flawlessly

We tested both outgoing and incoming recording, and they worked flawlessly. Audio files were emailed in less than a minute (although can take more time for longer conversations). A few frustrated buyers of this app have posted bad reviews, but from all appearances it’s simply because they didn’t follow the instructions. If you register properly, it’s really a snap.

Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (Follow @140Main) All Rights Reserved.

Biz Cheat Sheet on Owned, Earned and Paid Media

As digital marketing continues to soar, here’s a question I’m getting more often from business owners and start-up entrepreneurs:  What’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media for promoting or advertising my business, and how do I make them work for me?

The whole “owned-earned-paid” thing is familiar to advertising and PR pros, but totally mysterious for millions of small business owners who’ve never really thought in those terms. Yet understanding the digital-world differences — and more importantly, how to deploy owned, earned and paid media simultaneously to grow sales — is critical today.  Here’s my BizBest “cheat sheet” for business owners on owned, earned and paid media:

Owned Media Basics

Perhaps the simplest examples of “owned” pieces of online media real estate are your business website and Facebook page. You built ’em. You operate ’em. You own ’em. Done well, they’ll be nicely designed, easy to navigate and chock full of helpful information, articles, photos, videos and other compelling content that customers and prospects will find interesting. Other “owned” media would include any blogs, newsletters or additional social media accounts your business has.

The basic idea with owned media is to fill them with useful and engaging content that helps potential customers discover your business when they search for something online, or use their own social media channels.  This is the realm of what’s called “content marketing,” which uses helpful, high-value information to draw people into your products and services.

Paid Media Basics

No surprise here.  Paid media are the online ads and promotions you pay for with hard, out-of-pocket marketing dollars. This includes search and other pay-per-click type ads, banners and paid promotions on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.

Using paid media is the more traditional approach that most businesses are familiar with.  You set a budget, pick your channels and spend as you see fit, while tracking results as best you can.

Earned Media Basics

Public relations fits here.  Issuing a press release that gets mentioned somewhere (either online or offline) “earns” you exposure that you didn’t have to pay for (at least not directly). But it gets trickier. The “earned media” piece is  huge, and difficult to execute — yet it’s a critical leg of the marketing/media triumvirate.

Earned media can produce really good stuff; the attention and engagement you “earn” from customers but that can’t be (legitimately) bought. For example, great comments, recommendations, reviews, mentions, likes and shares are all valuable types of customer-generated media coverage that you must earn, and can’t (directly) pay for.  This includes word-of-mouth, but amplified through the digital megaphone.

Making Owned, Earned and Paid Play Well Together

Owned, earned and paid media don’t exist in isolation. They overlap. In fact, your goal is to make them overlap and work together.  For example, paid ads might attract people to your website or Facebook page where they see some interesting content they want to “like” or share.  In turn, that engagement earns you more notice among the media.  Thanks to the nature of social sharing, the interaction possibilities are almost endless as information passes from one person’s network to others.  This is sometimes called “converged media” — the place where owned, earned and paid intersect.

To have an inkling of what’s going on here, business owners must first recognize that the way buyers research purchases and find businesses has changed radically, and rapidly. These things once occurred via isolated channels. But no more. It now happens through thousands of highly fragmented media channels on a 24/7 basis, often simultaneously as people occupy several digital platforms at once.

Big companies recognize this and now engage is what’s called “Brand Streaming” where they attempt to be absolutely everywhere, 24/7, monitoring what’s being done and said, and reacting quickly to any engagement by a customer or prospect (which is called “agile engagement”).

What to do now

First, don’t despair.  It should already be abundantly clear that since consumer behavior has changed, marketing a product or service will never be the same. You will need to embrace new digital tools and tactics (including some from all of the above categories), and deploy them in as many places as possible.

Start with a firm foundation. Look for small wins that you can reasonably achieve in each category (owned, earned, paid) and build from there.  Take it one step at a time. Don’t try to concoct some huge strategy that takes months to deploy.  Test small things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s easier, less stressful and more effective.

Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (@140Main) All Rights Reserved.

A 10-Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners

Despite its massive reach and wide adoption, Facebook remains baffling to many business owners. Facebook itself has never really understood small business, and hasn’t done a great job explaining how biz owners can use it to grow sales.

To Facebook’s credit, that’s starting to change as they provide more and better tools top help small firms, local businesses, professionals, start-ups and others leverage a platform that now claims over 1 billion users.  If you have a Facebook business page, you’ll be hearing more from Facebook as it roll’s out a variety of new ways for small companies to use paid advertising.

So far, however, the vast majority of local businesses are sticking with what they can get from Facebook for free – which is actually quite a lot.  Only about seven percent of small businesses surveyed recently by Merchant Circle are using paid promotional services on Facebook. That compares to 70 percent who are now using Facebook’s free features to promote their business.

The good news is that Facebook has upgraded the free tools and information it offers to help you succeed. The Facebook for Business section (www.Facebook.com/business) has helpful how-to tips and guidance on everything from building your page to best practices for engaging users. You’ll also find interesting stories on how other small businesses are using Facebook successfully, and a list of helpful resources.

Success always starts with building an engaging Business Page – the free foundation of your effort to grow with Facebook.  Here’s a quick 10-step cheat sheet on what to do:

1. Your Category

Choose a category and give your page a name that represents your business.

2. Your Photo

Pick a photo or logo to use as your “profile picture.” This is the smaller image associated with your page. In some cases, this might be your photo, a square version of your logo (beware: non-square logos can end up being chopped off), or some other graphic representation of your business.

3. Your Tag Line

Create a “tag line” or short sentence that captures briefly what your business is about – specifically what you do or sell, and the value you offer.

4. Your URL

Create a custom Facebook web address for your business that’s memorable and shareable.  The part you pick is what comes after Facebook.com. For example, Facebook.com/StateBicycle.

5. Your Cover Page

Select a “cover page” photo or other image – preferably something that people would associate with your business. Use a high quality image, as it will be featured prominently on your page. It’s the first thing people will see and should showcase your product, service or brand. Size restrictions are very specific. It’s best to use a horizontal image that’s 851 x 315 pixels. Avoid generic photos. It’s much better to use an image unique to your business, such as a popular menu item for a restaurant, or perhaps a customer using your product or service (with their permission). You might have to experiment with a few different images to see what looks best.  Avoid putting contact information or other business details in your image. Those should go in your “About” section.

6. Your News Feed

The “news feed” is the centerpiece of the Facebook experience. You can easily create different kinds of “news” or “posts” for your feed, including written text updates, photos, videos or questions. People who “like” your page will see your updates in their own news feeds (one reason you’ll want as many “likes” as possible). The news feed is where people spend 40 percent of their time on Facebook. This is where people engage and share ideas and information.

7. Your Posts

Short posts work best – no more than 250 characters (about 50 words). They’ll get 60 percent more likes, comments and shares than longer posts.

8. Your Sharing

The best things to share, however, are photos (including photo albums) and videos. People are twice as likely to engage with these as other types of posts.

9. Your Deails

To add details about your business, click on the Edit Page button in the admin panel. Then choose “Update Info” to change or add what you want.

10. Your Invitations

Invite people to like your page – including your community of friends, family, customers, employees and others who care about your business. The “Build Audience” button on your admin panel will show you some things to try.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Keeping Time and Attendance in the Cloud

A BizBest® 60-Second Solution

Time and attendance systems are one of the most searched-for services by small businesses.  And some of today’s best choices are cloud based services that work especially well for business owners who use remote workers, independent contractors or others off-site.

If that’s you, and you need a service you can log into at any time and see when your workers punched in for the day, Labor Time Tracker (LTT) is one solution to consider. It’s an easy-to-use, web-based (cloud computing) employee time and attendance service that uses either plain old phone punching (regular telephone service) or an Internet-connected PC to track time for a small or medium sized business.

LTT replaces hand written time sheets and helps decentralized (mobile) employees punch in their time using a standard phone or any internet enabled device.  It’s a fast and smart way to track employee or contractor time for job costing as well as payroll.  It’s also a great “time clock” for field labor and other employees in industries such as healthcare, construction, government, janitorial and security guards services. What’s more, the system is in both English and Spanish.

Features of this low-cost system rival those of more expensive time and attendance solutions and software used by big companies. It was built for the web from the ground up, so it’s super fast. Other features include:

  • Unique in/out board lets you know where employees are and when they will return
  • Can be used for 1 employee to hundreds
  • Can accommodate multiple locations
  • Offers multiple access levels and security features
  • Auto-adjusts for daylight time
  • Supports all US and international time zones
  • Employees and supervisors can digitally sign and approve timecards and export to accounting or payroll
  • Notice posting lets you send messages to individual employees or entire groups
  • Allows punch-in from any computer, or via cell or land line phone
  • Rounds punches to nearest minute, 10th or quarter hour
  • Prevents workers from punching outside schedule
  • Automatically deducts lunch minutes from a timecard and/or adds payable break minutes to timecard
  • Accommodates multiple in/out punches daily

The cost is $4.95 per employee, per month.  And since it’s cloud based, there are no setup fees, license fees, training fees, support fees or contracts.  A free trial is available at the website.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

7 Free Cloud Services and Software for Small Business

Here are 7 BizBest picks for top cloud services and software that’s free for small business:

1.      Home Office Suite: For many home computer users, the $279 Microsoft Office software is overkill. As a free yet powerful alternative try OpenOffice.org from Sun Microsystems. You can download for free, and it comes with word processing, spreadsheet, a draw program, database program and presentation software.

2.      Share Large Files Easily:  Sending large computer files can be a pain and an expense if you jam your email software or pay for special devices and services to help out. Dropbox is a better way – a private file sharing solution that’s free and easy.  Use it to privately share your files and collaborate in real time by web, email and mobile.

3.      Free Invoicing for FreelancersBillingBoss.com is a free online invoicing tool designed for small business owners and freelancers to create, send and track invoices. It’s easy to use and you can create your first invoice within minutes of signing up.  If you’ve been getting by with spreadsheets, or use complicated accounting software only for its invoicing tool, BillingBoss might be for you. Unlike some free services, there’s no limit on the number of invoices you can create or send with Billing Boss. You can also set it up so customers can pay you online through Billing Boss. There’s also comfort in knowing this service is run by one of the world’s leading business software companies, and that your information is encrypted and securely stored.

4.      A Virtual Office Online:  Microsoft Office Live (http://officelive.com) is a free password-protected online workspace where you can store and share files and access your work from anywhere, even from other computers.  Its companion site Office Live Small Business is a terrific, affordable place to build a professional-looking online presence, and get a free website and marketing help as well.

5.      Customize Your Own Free Software and Tools Package: Google Pack (http://pack.google.com) is new from the global search giant. It lets you customize and download you own set of free software and web tools that includes everything you need to work more effectively both online and off.  Dozens of  choices – all free – include:

  • Email, calendar and document creation applications.
  • Anti-virus and spyware protection.
  • Photo editing and sharing tools.
  • Skype for making free voice and video calls via the Internet.
  • Adobe Reader to view, print and search PDF files.
  • Google Talk to connect with friends via instant messaging (IM) or free voice calls.
  • A media player that lets you play and organize your music and videos.

6.      Manage Customers for your Small BusinessFreeCRM.com is a great tool for small business contact and lead tracking, sales and contact management, sales forecasting, customer service and business management.  The free version is self-service, allows unlimited users and provides up to 10 MB of storage. If your customer base is not particularly large, it can be a quick and easy way to automate your sales, do a better job of tracking leads and even manage email and call campaigns.

7.      Free Bookkeeping:  Wave is a free online accounting application for small business.  Wave cuts the time-wasting parts of bookkeeping and accounting. No more manual entry. No more confusing steps. By using smarter tools and new technology, Wave is reinventing the way small businesses stay on top of their financial information.

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