#MOMpreneurChat Recap: “SMChat “Keeping Your Accounts in Check Over the Summer”

Last week, we had the privilege of sponsoring, and participating in, a Twitter chat hosted by Mompreneurs® — a national network dedicated to the support and empowerment of Canada’s moms in business.

The virtual conversation among busy mompreneurs was around the topic of balancing your books during the summer—and how to take a real vacation.

Top two takeaways from the discussion among the women entrepreneurs included:

  • When you’re an entrepreneur, it can be tough to take a “real” vacation, but it’s so important to unplug, regroup and spend time with family when you can. And that it can be done.
  • Having help – a good team to support you, who has access to your books – can make it easier to get a break and keep things running while you’re away.

Missed the Twitter chat? Here are a few of the highlights.


Q1. Are you planning on taking a vacation this summer? Or are you taking ‘downtime’ at home?




… and an interesting stat ….



Q2. Have you ever avoided going on vacation due to fear of being out of touch? Any tips to stay on the grid while “away”?







Q3. What aspects of your business (if any) do you keep on top of during your vacation? Or is work completely out of bounds?





Q4. Do you do any bookkeeping while on vacation? (Invoicing, expense management) –or does someone else do it for you?


Q5. How often do you discuss your books w/ your accountant (if you have one)? How do you share financial info?







Q6. What tips can you offer to be organized with your business BEFORE vacations start so you there is actual enjoyment?


Are you taking a summer vacation? How do you keep on top of things when you’re away?

About the author:
Keith Arkle – Keith Arkle – Product specialist and customer advocate

Keeping our customers at the forefront of my mind is always a priority in my work. In talking about our product and preparing product launches, I always want to make sure our messaging is consistent and accurate. When I’m not working, I am probably hanging at home or travelling with my wonderful family.>
Follow me on Twitter.

5 Low Cost Ways to Promote Your Small Business

Tips to save money with your marketing It’s often said that it takes money to make money – but when your funds are tight you need to make every dollar stretch. Cutting out promotion costs may make sense from a bottom line perspective, but it will stall the growth of your business.

The solution? Keep marketing and advertising, but spend as little as possible while you’re growing. When these low cost ideas start working, you can then allocate more funds to your promotion. But for now, here’s where you need to spend your time.

  1. Know your market inside and out.

    This should be your first step no matter what – and best of all, it’s free! Spending more time on Google, mining your customer database and strategic searching on social media can help you develop a better promotion plan. You should also scope out the competition and see how they are approaching your shared target market. Doing your homework will keep your costs low as you set out and help you keep them low when you have a bigger budget.

  2. Don’t be shy about asking for referrals.

    Just like research, asking for referrals will cost you very little but will produce big results. Your existing client base is a gold mine – and you could be missing out on its potential. If a customer is happy with your company, take the time to ask for a referral. Or consider starting an official referral program that rewards your customers for spreading the word about your great work.

  3. Think DIY when it comes to PR.

    A high priced publicity firm isn’t a necessity to get the word out about your business. Although there is value in PR firms when you have the budget, as you grow your small business you need to think DIY. Become a master self-promoter by focusing on techniques that are high-impact, low-cost. Try this list from Inc.com or visit HelpAReporterOut.com to view opportunities to be featured in the media.

  4. Teach what you know to your potential advocates.

    On average, people know at least 200 people. Some will be perfect customers for your business and others may know someone who would be. Educate your audience through a blog, through social media and through local presentations. You’ll build relationships with people in your current circle who can become advocates for your business. Think of it like planting seeds for future business.

  5. Engage with email.

    E-mail marketing is cost-effective and easy to track. It can deliver results with each and every send. Deliver high quality content via e-mail newsletters can help you reach your audience on a regular basis. Use an email marketing platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact to develop pieces that reflect your brand as well as manage your contact list and gain permission for sending messages.

Marketing and advertising don’t have to take a majority of your budget to be effective. Use this list as a springboard for your own marketing campaigns.

About the author:

Tobi North – Creativity rock star and marketing master
I enjoy being innovative and creating communications that customers can relate to. I am always looking for that “light bulb” moment, when I find an interesting topic that I know our customers will love to learn more about. In between creative brainstorming sessions, you can probably find me at a concert or searching for the best BBQ joint in town. .

Follow me on Twitter.

Add your business to your spring cleaning checklist

Spring cleaning - small business tips
There is no better time than spring to reflect on how the year is going and make adjustments to continue the year even stronger than you started. Take a few minutes out of your day and focus on these important areas this spring:

Check in with your customers

  • Now is the perfect time to take a step back and take a fresh look at the customer initiatives you started earlier in the year. Review the analytics, stop what’s not working and try something new. But don’t stop there – these insights will help you recognize your target customer profile for future prospect campaigns. Reach out to customers with new communications or an offer to let them know they’re appreciated.
  • Send out a short survey to understand how your customers perceive your business. Ask about customer service, quality of offerings and things they’d like to see more of. There is no better way improve your business than by listening and responding to customer feedback.
  • Meet with your customers face-to-face if possible. Ask about how they view your business and your products or services, every connection counts. Nothing beats in-person interactions, and this extra step will make a lasting impression with your customers.

Look for ways to save

  • Take a look at your expenses, and see if there are any obvious areas you can reduce or eliminate. From Internet, phone, web hosting, and merchant services to office supplies, travel, and other expenses, many businesses overspend each month without knowing there are more competitive solutions.

Sit down with your employees

  • While it’s always a good idea to get regular feedback from your employees, make it a point to have an in-person meeting with each of them. If you don’t schedule regular employee performance reviews, now is a good time to start. Set up a comfortable forum to give constructive feedback, and allow employees to give suggestions on how you can improve your business.
  • Too often businesses get stuck on surviving day-to-day operations without taking a step back to ensure strategies and goals are aligned with the overall strength of the business. Encourage each employee to highlight the good and the bad of daily business operations. This effort may even lead to new offerings or repositioning your branding to better reflect your business.

 Perform an online tune-up

  • Is everything on your website and social media channels running smoothly? What about your newsletters and email blasts? Take the time to make sure everything is up to date, accurate and easily accessible for current and prospective customers.
  • Is there something you’d like to have on your website or social presence but don’t have the knowledge or bandwidth to update? Consider hiring an outside agency or freelancer to help boost your online persona or create visually appealing graphics to make your website stand out.

Do you have any other business related tasks you generally tackle in the spring? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Jim GustkeJim Gustke – VP of Marketing, Ooma

Jim Gustke has over 20 years of experience in marketing and general management for online, consumer and SMB focused technology companies.

10 Simple Ways Your Business Can Save Money

10 Simple Ways Your Business Can Save Money

Saving money wherever you can will help you build a strong financial future for your small business. No matter what industry you’re in, you need to pay attention to your bottom line. These simple ideas can help you save both time and money so you can get on surer footing.

  1. Stop with the endless meetings.
    We’re social creatures, but spending hours in meetings socializing with coworkers is not a way to spend your small businesses’ time. This is a crucial area where you can save time, and therefore money. Evaluate the true cost of those meetings to your company.
  2. Be a discount hunter.
    Even though they may not advertise it, many larger retailers offer discounts for small businesses. Just ask – it won’t hurt! This approach normally works better on larger items like home office equipment than a stack of Post-It notes. But small discounts add up so be sure to ask!
  3. Save the delivery fee.
    If you’ve ever ordered a pizza for a pick up, you know that there are savings involved in being your own delivery driver. For orders of reams of paper, and other smaller bulk office supplies, a truck or SUV will do just fine and may save you money on business supplies.
  4. Keep track of petty cash to the penny.
    Even if you’re spending a small sum of under $75, you should still keep record of all of your business related expenses. Petty cash drawers should be accounted for just as carefully as your checking accounts. Remember every penny does count.
  5. Rely on the cloud to maximize storage and minimize costs.
    Don’t sink your small business budget with hardware that will be outdated before you make it through your critical first year, and difficult to maintain in the long run. Cloud-based tools for accounting, project management, marketing automation, customer relationships and more is available to help you get more done without maintaining expensive hardware.
  6. Associate yourself.
    Trade and business associations can offer more than just a membership. You can save quite a bit on insurance and other business related expenses like car rentals and phone services. Sign up to get the best deals – most associations have reasonable membership fees.
  7. Make outsourcing a priority.
    Employees are helpful but can be costly in the early days of your business. Keep your budget in order by making outsourcing a top priority over hiring. Independent contractors can get the job done without coming with the salary, office space and benefits costs.
  8. Lend out your expertise.
    Save money on publicity and garner attention with your target market by showcasing your expertise. Look for opportunities to teach a class, speak to the community or write an article for your ideal audience. It costs time but it’s worth the investment for the exposure.
  9. Focus on free software.
    Freemium software plans offer multiple features for zero cost. As you look for cloud-based solutions to your business admin and online accounting issues, focus on the freemium products to save on your costs early on. You can upgrade later for more features as you grow.
  10. Explore executive suites.
    Solo or small business doesn’t have to mean home based. Executive suites and shared office spaces can improve your business’s prestige and offer helpful business services. Many come with receptionist services, private mailboxes and part time office hours. Search for office business centers, executive suites, coworking spaces and shared office space in your area for ideas.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or in growth mode, every dollar you spend is a dollar you don’t have to keep your business going strong.

About the author:

Tobi North – Creativity rock star and marketing master
I enjoy being innovative and creating communications that customers can relate to. I am always looking for that “light bulb” moment, when I find an interesting topic that I know our customers will love to learn more about. In between creative brainstorming sessions, you can probably find me at a concert or searching for the best BBQ joint in town. .

Follow me on Twitter.

How to Deal With Clients Who Don’t Pay

Paid_invoiceEven though you’ve put an effective infrastructure in place to ensure your invoices are paid on time, there’s always this one stickler client who’s just not paying up. Before you send out the goons, know that there are better ways to encourage your clients to pay their outstanding invoices. If your past-due notices have gone unanswered, it’s time to channel your frustrations into these steps to turn delinquency into dollars:

  • Communicate – Reach out to the client using whatever method works best for them — phone, email, text. Keep a record of all communication attempts. Once contacted, the conversation should be empathetic in tone. Find out the client’s story. Was there a problem with the product or service provided? Are they just really busy? Is there a cash flow issue? We all know that small businesses can easily get into a cash crunch. Allow them a chance to explain the reason for neglecting payment terms.
  • Create – Once the client’s situation is understood, create a solution that works best for everyone. Setting up an alternate payment plan could be an easy way to resolve the situation, and maintain that valuable client relationship. Even if the payments are a small amount per month, something is better than nothing. Most businesses, even those that are struggling, want to be upstanding and work with you in order to maintain a positive professional image.
  • Continue – No luck the first time you reached out? Continue communication attempts on a daily basis. Email and/or leave phone messages every single day. And put it in writing. In your correspondence, include a list of the days and times you’ve tried to make contact. If this is all to no avail, it’s time to take your communication to another level.
  • Confront – If you can, plan a visit to your client’s office. It will be much harder for them to make excuses when meeting in person. During your visit don’t lose your temper, make threats, or harass the client. Talk through the situation professionally and come up with mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Consult – Still no luck? It’s time to have your lawyer draft a demand letter. It’s not very expensive and it might prompt your client into paying without having to resort to more formal legal actions.
  • Complain – Reporting an egregiously late client to a business reporting bureau can provide a powerful incentive for them to pay. A formal complaint to bureaus such as Dun and Bradstreet, TRW and Equifax will become public record and likely impede the client from obtaining credit in the future. In fact, most will pay you right away to get the complaint expunged from their business credit report.
  • Collections – If all else fails, you can turn the debt over to a collection agency (who, by the way, will take a large percentage of the total amount owed.) Before handing it over for collection, try offering that same percentage as a discount to your client in order to settle.
  • Court – If you feel it is worthwhile, you can go to small claims court for outstanding balances of $2000-$7500. For balances that are substantially more than that, you can take it to superior court. Consult with a legal advisor and budget appropriately if you decide to take this course of action. The amount of time and money required may not be worth it, especially if the client is going through bankruptcy or closing up shop.

After a period of time, consider cutting your losses. Avoid throwing good money after bad and turn your efforts to more positive and profitable endeavors. Prune the delinquent client from your customer list, write off their debt and chalk it up to a lesson learned.
About the author:

Lawton Ursrey – Sage One awareness guru and fellow entrepreneur
I have a healthy disrespect for the impossible and a passion for the little details. While I run my own small business, I am also passionate about helping other small business owners. If I’m not running my business, or helping you run yours, then I’m probably playing guitar.

Follow me on Twitter.

Run Your Business Like a Pro with Sage One

Run your business like a pro
As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. And as you grow your company, you’re going to have to fill the roles of general manager, marketing manager, advertising manager, order fulfillment, shipping clerk, secretary, customer service agent, file clerk, bookkeeper, IT department and more. Phew! Although it can be exhausting to wear so many hats at once, you can’t let anyone see you sweat. You have to make a professional impression everywhere you go – from working with clients to dealing with suppliers.

If your invoices and your books are in disarray, your life probably feels that way, too. But here’s the good news: with a simple, online accounting software you can save time, eliminate hassles and make a good impression with everyone.

Run your company like a pro by:

Creating and sending professional invoices – Imagine a clean, simple invoice with your company logo at the top. Sage One makes it simple to look professional when you create and send invoices that reflect your brand. You can also accept credit card payments from your clients with Sage Payment Solutions or Paypal – so you can get paid faster.

Making your accountant smile – Do you scramble at the end of the calendar year to get everything in order for tax time? With online access, automatic reconciling and seamless categorization, Sage One Accounting makes your life easier – and your accountant’s as well. You’ll reduce the time spent on tax preparation because your information is kept in order month in and month out. Then you can easily send your accountant the information that they need to do their job as well as you do yours.

Knowing where you stand – Leading your business to new heights means that you need to know where you’re headed. Know exactly where your businesses’ financials stand with the dashboard and reports in Sage One. The dashboard gives you an overview of your company so you can make important decisions. Are you making money or burning cash? Do you need to follow up on more proposals? Which clients are past due on their invoices? Answer all of these questions and more at a glance.

It’s simple to look like a pro. Make your clients, accountant – and you – smile.

About the author:

Kangelon “Kay” Dexter, Product Marketing Strategist and entrepreneur advocate

I am passionate about marketing and ensuring that the voice of the customer is heard as I create new products and features for Sage One. I’ve built my career around being an innovator, straight-talker and forward-thinker, and always making sure that my work is relevant to customers. Outside of the office, I enjoy spending my free time mentoring local teenage girls who are interested in participating an winning in scholarship-based pageants, shopping for the latest fashion trends and being a Youth and Worship leader at my church.

Follow me on Twitter.