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ALL Business Cards & Contacts & Calendars in ONE Place

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Flowcharts

How To Sync Google Calendars Between Domain and Non-Domain Users (iOS and Web)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Google, Workflow

Sharing calendars can be tricky business; either your team uses a shared CMS calendar (e.g. Basecamp, Salesforce, etc.) and receives notifications via email, or each member of the team maintains his/her own calendar by manually updating each event.

By using Google Calendar (and a few tricks) though, you can have an instantly accessible and real-time calendar that doesn’t require an extra log-in.

To start, determine who will need to access the calendar both now and in the future. As we discovered recently, there is no way to make a calendar readable and writable to someone outside of a specific domain. In other words, if john@example.com wants to share a calendar with john@gmail.com, he can, but john@gmail won’t be able to make any changes or even view event details.

Thus, if you’re planning on collaborating with people outside of a single domain, make sure that the creator of the calendar is not part of a domain. Using our example, we want john@gmail.com to create the calendar and then share it with john@example.com and others.

iOS Integration

If you’re an iOS user, there are just a few extra steps you’ll have to take to integrate your new team calendar with your proprietary Calendar app.

First, make sure that you’ve set up the Gmail account that the calendar is being shared with as an Exchange account. Our post about scanning business cards with your iPhone includes a photo tutorial in case you’re wondering how it’s done.

Next, using Safari navigate to http://m.google.com/sync and log into your Gmail account. You will then be prompted with a list of devices so choose the iOS device you’d like to sync. Then, under My Calendars select check box for the shared calendar you’d like to add.

Finally, open your Calendar app and press the ‘Calendars’ button in the top-left. Scroll down to the Exchange section and select the shared calendar that you chose to sync in the last step. That’s it, your shared team calendar events will now appear in your iOS calendar!

Every Contact, Everywhere (Using Smartr Inbox)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Customer Management, Google, Productivity, Workflow

I had heard about Xobni (“inbox” backwards, in case you were wondering about the name) through Twitter, and while such advice should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s not often that people enjoy a company’s product so much that they state it publicly. The task is simple, yet I had never before found an adequate solution: to keep all of one’s contacts from various email addresses and social media outlets in one easily accessible, cross-platform repository.

Cue Smartr Inbox, Xobni’s response to years of customer service requests and forum posts asking, “How do I sync X with Y and Z?” To start, there are a few things you should know:

1. For an email address’ contacts to be added, it must be accessible by Gmail. This means that the account must either be a Gmail account to begin with, or that you will need to set up Google Apps if it’s a domain address (e.g. john@doe.com).

2. Smartr is not meant to push contacts from one email account to another. Rather, as I’ll demonstrate, Smartr acts as a unique database for all contacts being collected from your multiple accounts.

3. You won’t have to go to Xobni’s website to check your email and have your aggregated contacts available. There is a Smartr extension/add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and any other browser you might use that will display a contacts list inside your Gmail.

Now let’s make it happen.

Step One: Go to Xobni.com and create an account (it’s free) using a Gmail address.

Step Two: Go to http://www.xobni.com/download/gmail to download the extension for your browser (the site will detect which one you’re using automatically).

Step Three: Login to your Gmail account and make sure that the Smartr window is appearing on the right side of your inbox. If not, try refreshing the page and/or restarting the browser.

Step Four: To add additional email and social networking accounts, scroll to the bottom of the Smartr window within Gmail and select ‘Add/Edit Accounts’

NOTE: From this page (https://www.xobni.com/account/xobni_cloud) you will be able to add social media accounts by entering your login information, however to add additional Gmail accounts you will have to log out of your current session and then log back in using the desired account. To reiterate, once you’ve got the Smartr extension installed on your browser, you should log into each Gmail account you want to add, then select ‘Add/Edit Accounts’ and then ‘Add a Gmail account’ on the Xobni Cloud page.

Step Five (optional iPhone integration): To utilize Smartr on your iPhone, download the Smartr Contacts app (free). The app will not only allow access to your aggregate contact list, but you can call, email, or SMS directly from the app making it essentially an upgraded version of the standard iPhone Address Book.

NOTE: To add your iPhone contacts to the Smartr database, select the gear icon in the top left of the app’s front page. Scroll down until you see ‘Push Contacts to Cloud’ and select it. Allow a few minutes for the database to update and your iPhone contacts will now appear within Smartr! Also check out our post about how to scan business cards with your iPhone.

How to Scan Business Cards and Set Google Calendar Follow-up Reminders (iPhone)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Google, Productivity, Workflow

By using the ScanBizCards Lite (read: free) app available for iPhone and Android, you can easily set up automatic reminders so you never forget to follow up on newly made connections. Here we’ll present a full walkthrough for the iPhone though the same app is available for Android and thus this process can probably be completed in a very similar fashion on any Android device.

1. Adding your Gmail account as an Exchange account
(note: also see this Google tutorial for more info)

To accomplish this you’ll want to navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Add Account… > Exchange


Once you’re prompted to enter your account information, put your full Gmail address as both Email and Username e.g. info@financealpha.com as well your password in the password field

Next you’ll be prompted to input a server, here you’ll want to enter m.google.com


Don’t worry about the Domain field, you can leave that empty

2. Configuring your Gmail Exchange account for calendar sync

Once your Gmail account has been successfully added as an Exchange account, navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Fetch New Data > Advanced > Exchange (or whatever name you have for the account) > select ‘Push

Next, navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Default Calendar and change your default calendar to your Gmail Exchange account e.g. info@financealpha.com


3. Download the ScanBizCards Lite app (free) 

An app store search for ‘ScanBizCards’ will easily find the app, available for both iPhone and Android


4. Scan a business card using the ScanBizCards app

Open the app and select ‘Camera’ to scan using the iPhone’s built-in camera. Try to center the image and make sure that there are no shadows across the face of the business card if possible.

Once the scan is complete, you will have the option to manually fix any mistakes that the scanner might have made. Once all mistakes have been corrected, select ‘Add to Address Book’ then ‘Done’.

You will then be prompted with a number of options, select ‘Add Follow-Up Reminder’. Here you can set when and how you would like to be reminded to follow up with your new contact. When you have finished setting your reminder, select ‘Done’.

5. Calendar sync complete!

Your follow-up event will now be visible on both your iOS calendar and Gmail calendar (remember: only the calendar set as default will display the event). Changes made within either calendar will now be reflected in the other.

Accounting Solutions in the Cloud

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Accounting, Blog, Productivity, Thumbs up, Workflow

A quick Quora search for ‘accounting solution’ or ‘accounting tools’ will turn up a bevy of queries and responses all seeking to answer the same enigmatic question: What is the SaaS accounting solution for a small business?

The answer, as becomes quickly apparent while sorting through the most upvoted responses, is not unanimous. Quite often the best way to approach a potential change to a new software is to ask yourself whether this new solution will be more effective and efficient than your current solution — not whether this new software will singlehandedly perform all accounting functions effortlessly. Here then is a list of the best programs in the market right now, software that will provide a solid backbone for your accounting processes until the next great thing comes along or you outgrow your current services.

InDinero


Free; Plans start at $19.95/mo

Essentially InDinero is a financial advisor and visualizer. It downloads your bank records and organizes them in a number of ways to help better understand your company's finances.

Intacct

$25/user/mo base; Additional cost per application used

Intacct offers a cloud financial management and accounting system with a pay-as-you-go model for additional accounting tools

Kashoo

$9.95/mo

Double entry accounting that supports multiple currencies and integrates easily with FreshBooks.

LessAccounting


$30/mo

LessAccounting is lauded for its intuitive, easy-to-use UI good for small businesses.

Outright

 

Free; Plans start at $9.95/mo

From Quora, "[Outright is] great for sole proprietors/freelance workers who want to spend minimal time on bookkeeping."

QuickBooks Online


Plans start at $12.95/mo

QuickBooks is good for companies with a dedicated accountant familiar with the full capability of the application however because of the secondary market of supporting software it can easily be used for small business accounting.

Saasu



Plans start at $25/mo

Saasu has a ton of features, so many that one person on Quora called it, "quite hard to use," which means you should expect a learning curve.

WaveAccounting

 

Free

A full-featured application including double entry accounting and a price so cheap it's free for life.

Xero

 


Plans start at $19/mo

Xero requires a little technical knowledge like Quickbooks, but also integrates well with other web apps like Shoeboxed

Yendo

 


Free; Plans start at $9/mo

Yendo was recommended for a brand new business as its services are free for one user and upgradable as your business grows.

What To Know Before Investing In App Development

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Sales & Marketing

1. If this is your first app, it may be wise to set a budget first and ask developers what they can do within that budget rather than presenting them with a concept and getting a quote

Read the responses to a Quora question asking how much development of an iPhone app costs here

2. What parts of the iPhone will the app utilize? Will the app be static, rely on external information from the internet, utilize the internal gyrosope or 3D physics engine, or use the iPhone’s camera?

Odds are, the more of the phone’s capability you’re using the more it’s going to cost to develop

See a breakdown of app types and functions here

3. It’s probably going to take longer than projected to complete, especially if your developers are not in-house (working for the same company as you)

Read one of the developers of Twitterific talking about the time investment and cost of labor here

4. It’s probably going to cost at least $3000

See this summary of articles and reports that places the cost of the average app at $6453 (for a “small app”)

5. Calculate a realistic cost/ROI. See Aaron Maxwell’s breakdown for Mashable Business here

According to Maxwell, you can reach nearly five times as many people per dollar invested with a mobile website rather than an app.

6. To get an idea of what the market looks like, check out Distimo’s publications on the current state of things

7. What’s the most you could make?

According to an interpretation of Distimo data on Quora, about 80% of PAID applications have been downloaded less than 100 times

Next, see this article that finds iOS apps average about $600 in revenue

Finally, according to another Quora post, the top iPhone apps of all time have made over $10M with a number of others making over $1M

8. For more info on iPhone apps, check out http://www.quora.com/iPhone-Applications

Update: TechCrunch & TIME have just posted reviews of the top iOS apps of 2011 

Integrate & Automate Social Sharing: WordPress to Twitter to Facebook

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Sales & Marketing, Thumbs up, WordPress, Workflow


This post will outline how to integrate your Twitter account to automatically update your business’ Facebook page and for WordPress users, how to integrate Twitter with your Dashboard to directly share your latest blog posts.

The first step is to create Twitter and Facebook accounts for your business. Business pages on Facebook are treated differenly from personal profiles so you’ll want to head over to facebook.com/pages to create yours. It’s advisable to sign up for both accounts with the same email address since they’ll be linked later on anyway.

Once you’ve got both accounts set up you’ll want to navigate to apps.facebook.com/twitter to allow your tweets to be shared as posts on your company’s wall. To accomplish this, hashtag #fb at the end of each tweet that you want to appear on the wall.

During the setup you should be led to your Twitter settings page (twitter.com/settings/profile) but in case you aren’t, you’ll want to scroll down to the Facebook settings and check the box that says ‘Allow Twitter to post to the wall of: my Facebook page: [Page Name]‘.

That takes care of sending your tweets to Facebook, but for WordPress users there’s a plugin that will allow you to tweet from within the dashboard, eliminating one more step and saving you a few clicks in the process.

Begin by downloading the Twitter Tools plugin and installing it. You’ll then have to register your site as an application on Twitter’s app registration page  which is as easy as copy-pasting a few serial keys. Once your WordPress and Twitter accounts are connected you’ll see that Twitter Tools offers a large number of configuation options under Settings in the Dashboard. I prefer the more ‘manual’ application of its functionality, however, so that’s what I’ll cover here.

Simply click ‘Tweet’ under Posts and you’ll be brought to a simple tweet platform within the dashboard. Here’s what I recommend from there:

1. Open your newly published article in a new tab and use the goo.gl URL shortener (or another if not using Chrome) to create a shortened version of your article’s URL.

2. Back on the tweet page, write the title of your article followed by the goo.gl URL and then the hashtag #fb (remember how we set up automatic integration earlier?)

Now you can easily share your posts via Twitter and Facebook without ever having to leave the WordPress backend UI. If you have a different setup that works for you let us know in the comments, convenience is king!

Have Capital, Need Cap Table

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Startups

You’re about to raise funding for your company by bringing on advisers and investors and receiving their advice/investment in exchange for equity. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon learn what cap tables are and impact they will have on your future investment rounds and liquidity events (an acquisition or an IPO). Here is an overview of what cap tables are, why they exist, and the ways to manage them.

Before you pitch your company to potential investors, you usually will have done a pre-money valuation. This essentially provides a way for investors to, “determine how much equity to demand in return for their cash injection.”

As soon as your company has more than one investor (the first being you, of course), it is time to create a cap table to “list who owns what in a startup. [The cap table] lists the company’s shareholders and their shares.” [http://venturehacks.com/articles/cap-table]

There are a number of possible pitfalls along the way, however, mostly arising from the fact that you’re determining how shares will be distributed well into the future. Keep in mind, “Founders should expect their percent owned to decrease over time, but the number of shares will not change, and the value of these shares (measured in price per share) should increase as the company increases in value.”
[http://www.practical-entrepreneurship.com/resources/entrepreneurship/105_capitalization_tables.pdf]

In response to this question on Quora asking what his greatest lessons learned are, Max Levchin suggests that, “Having a large and complicated cap table is rarely a good idea. Few committed angels is better than $5k from everyone and their brother.”

Babak Nivi of Venture Hacks agrees with Levchin’s observation in his discussion of the “Option Pool Shuffle”. In short, beyond allocating shares to the company’s founders, employees, and investors, “the so-called pre-money valuation always includes a large unallocated option pool for new employees…” Nivi’s point is an important one: “Don’t let your investors determine the size of the option pool for you. Use a hiring plan to justify a small option pool, increase your share price, and increase your effective valution.”

Your cap table should also provide an overview of how different phases of investment and dilution will occur. A investment broken into component phases might look something like this,

1. Start Phase: Stock splits occur and dividends in kind are paid at the start of each round.
2. New Sales Phase: Sell new securities (convertible notes, preferred stock, common stock warrants, options )
3. Post Sales Phase: Record investments and share units after sale of new securities.
4. Conversion Phase: Stakeholders can convert notes and preferred shares and can exercise warrants and options to obtain common stock.
5. End Phase: Record security holdings, prices and values at the end of the investment round

[http://templates.modelsheetsoft.com/modelsheettemplates/capitalization-table-templates-quick-start.aspx]

The resources referenced in this post should give you a good basic understanding of why cap tables exist and what influence they have over the beginning, middle, and later stages of a company’s financial profile. When you are ready to create and manage your cap table, see our second post in this series here.

Comparing HR Management Options for Startups and Small Businesses: PEO & SaaS

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, HR

This is the second in a series of posts about HR management options. For an overview of the three types (PEO, SaaS, and Offline) see our first post: 3 Options for HR Management for Startups, Small Businesses, and Distributed Teams

Jump to section:

SaaS (Software as a Service) HR

PEO (Professional Employer Organization)

SaaS (Software as a Service) HR

While we are evaluating SaaS offerings for HR management, these are some of the reviews from the market.

GigaOM‘s Amber Singleton Riviere compares SaaS options targeted specifically at startups and small businesses. She offers a side-by-side view of TribeHR, BambooHR, EffortlessHR, and iEmployee. Below is an abridged version of the review along with available pricing information:

TribeHR
- Employee records
- Vacation/leave tracking
- Employee development tracking
- Employee notes and feedback
- Shared resources (including tracking of document views)
- Job postings
- Reports
Price: from $19/mo [15 users] to $399/mo [unlimited]

BambooHR
- Employee records
- Vacation/leave tracking
- Training time tracking
- Benefit tracking
- Online document storage
- Reports
Price: from $79/mo [50 users] to $599/mo [1000]

EffortlessHR
- Employee records
- Employee portal (employees can update information, request time off, clock in and out)
- Employee email
- Time tracking
- Shared resources
- Reports
Price: from $29.95/mo [19 users] to $99.95/mo [1000]

iEmployee
- Online pay stubs
- Time tracking
- Vacation/leave tracking
- Employee portal (employees can clock in and out)
Price: available by request on their website

In addition, Start2Cloud‘s Michal Pulda offers a comparison of TribeHR and OrangeHRM Live in the categories of functionality, customization, look and feel, browser, language & general support, and price.

While Orange is found to be more customizable and Tribe more intuitive, ultimately Michal recommends Orange for larger companies that need the flexibility of options like descriptive fields and custom report structure in addition to training courses that outline the features of the software. On the other hand, he prefers TribeHR for small companies that don’t need advanced features like employee time monitoring or time allocation among projects.

TribeHR is quoted at $19/month for up to 15 employees ($1.27/employee) with the most expensive option being $399/month for an unlimited number of users. OrangeHRM’s pricing is not publicly available, but Michal was quoted at an initial price of $6.25/employee/month with larger companies being able to access rates as low as $0.25/employee/month.

A more expensive and a more comprehensive alternative to HR Management are Professional Employer Organizations.

PEO (Professional Employer Organization)

A PEO is a third party company that acts as your company’s HR department in place of a part- or full-time employee. Not only will a PEO provide an ‘one stop’ branded HR portal for your employees, they will manage your benefit plans, FSA, and health insurance, and will search for the best health insurance plans to suit the scale of your business and needs of your employees.

Competitors in the field include TriNetADPStaffOne, and Oasis Outsourcing though a search of ESAC-certified PEOs in your state will provide many more options.

Pros:
- No time is spent on managing HR internally
- Employees often have a choice of multiple healthcare plans
- Rates may be comparable or even lower than hiring a part- or full-time employee to manage HR functions

Cons:
- The onus is on employees to check benefits, change preferences, and research healthcare
- The company must rely on the customer service of the PEO to update or make changes to employee information/benefit plans. For a first-hand account, read Ed Shull’s experience with TriNet.
- Employees may feel a “chasm” between themselves and their management since they must contact the PEO to discuss all HR matters

Disclaimer: We have no first-hand experience with any of the tools discussed in this post. All references to services, pricing, or experience are cited.

Google Apps: a Toolkit for Startups and Small Businesses

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Project Management, Thumbs up, Workflow

This is the first in a series of posts about Google Apps. We will be covering the most useful third party apps for operations management as well as cool ways to use Google Apps to facilitate collaboration and smooth operations flow. Stay tuned!

A recent post on Google’s Blog showed that 97% of Business Insider’s 20 Silicon Valley Startups to Watch from the last two years were running on Google Apps. As the post’s author Rich Rao notes, Silicon Valley isn’t the only place for tech startups but it does highlight the salient point: Google Apps allows you to “focus on your business, not on your IT.” Likewise Martin Melin found that after analyzing MX entries for 204 Y Combinator startups that 142 (almost 70%) are using Gmail and as he observes, “This does not consider the possibility of some startups using another MX that is forwarding into Google Apps, so the actual percentage could very well be higher than 70%.”

So why Google Apps? Beyond the fact that you can have fully integrated domain email for free up to ten people without the headache of managing your own email server and with Postini taking care of SPAM, the default features available in Google Apps have expanded since its inception. In addition to Gmail, Calendar, web based word processing, spreadsheets, and slide presentations, Google Documents now offers Drawing (a free-form image manipulation tool), Forms (a template builder for customer feedback), and sidebar comment trails in the event that want to leave a note outside of a document itself. The real value of these tools is not their functions, however, but the fact that they foster collaboration.

With your team:
Let’s say you’re working with your team on a new product or process. The ability to communicate and collaborate in real time using the Gmail chat function along with Drawing for visuals and a text document with a comment trail allows you to share ideas, visualize them, and solidify present and future goals all without time spent moving files back and forth. There is even a revision history function that will show you who has made changes, when, and allows you to restore any deleted items.

Gmail Chat

 

Google Drawing with Revision History

 

Google Document with Comments

With clients:
Similarly, if your clients are using Google Apps you can bring them in on the conversation rather than working to provide a model, getting their opinion, and going back to the drawing board. Not only will your client get the feeling of personal service, but will likely be able to provide a clear description of what they want in a shorter amount of time. Best of all, when the project is complete you can simply ‘un-share’ any documents your client may have had access to and privacy is restored.

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