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.

Top 5 To-Dos for Small Businesses to Complete by January 31st

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Accounting, Blog, Finance, HR

The important date of January 31st is almost upon us, the day when the IRS requires all businesses in the US to mail W-2s and 1099s to their employees. To make sure you’re on time each year, follow these few simple rules:

1. Collect SSNs or EINs (Employer Identification Number) and current addresses from your employees and contractors.

2. Reconcile books and payments via cash, checks, and direct deposits.

3. W-2: In most cases, your payroll service provider should automatically create W-2s so you will just need to check them, print, and mail. Otherwise, you will need to use Intuit Forms and print them.

4. 1099: Instead of using pre-printed 1099 forms and wasting time on positioning them correctly in your printer, consider using one of these services:
Intuit — $39 for an unlimited number of 1099 forms
Wagefiling.com — $3.49/form
• If you search for 1099 on the IRS page of the recommended e-filers, you will find other options, most of which will be more expensive if you want to e-file in addition to printing the 1099s.

5. Be aware of Form 1099-K

Beginning with tax year 2011, the IRS requires businesses to exclude from Form 1099-MISC any payments made by credit card, debit card, gift card, or PayPal. For information about the IRS requirements, review the IRS Final Regulations on Payment Card Reporting.

This means the amount you record on Form 1099-MISC must equal the total amount you paid the contractor minus any portion you paid by credit card, debit card, gift card or PayPal.

Any amounts you paid using these other methods of payment must be reported to the IRS, not by you, but by the credit card company, the debit card company, gift card company or PayPal using Form 1099-K. You do not need to report these amounts on Form 1099-MISC.

The deadline for this year is only one day away so if you haven’t started yet, get going!

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 

Free Education For Real: General and Computer Science Open Courses and Videos

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Blog, Resources and Links

The demand for programmers is growing. More and more companies/industries are turning into software-based businesses yet formal education is ever more expensive. Open source courses are becoming increasingly available and are allowing to learn programming without paying thousands of dollars while studying at your own pace. We have put together a list of courses available for FREE. Let us know in the comments if you have found others that were helpful to you.

All Subjects
Khan Academy – a free library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 253 practice exercises

Computer Science Courses
The /r/programming FAQ is a great place to start with FAQ for programming; has links to many resources for beginners.

Higher Computing for Everyone – Free Online Classes by Carl Herold

Taken from a comment by robot_zombie in the learnprogramming subreddit
Interactive Tutorials

Interactive Database Tutorials
Interactive Editor Tutorial
Online Editors — good place to try simple html, css, javascript
Programming Practice

Tech Community and Resources in Western Massachusetts, USA

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Blog, Resources and Links

Finance Alpha works from Western Mass and serves companies in New England. We have a great tech community in Western Mass and have decided to share with our hidden treasure with you. Here is the Link to the Google Doc listing Links to the Tech Communities and Resources in Western Mass (about 2 hours from Boston).  If you have additions or changes, please let us know at info@financealpha.com.

The same Doc is also embedded below, but opening it from the link above will give you a better view. Enjoy!

Can You Make Money On The Internet? Slicing The Internet Money Pie Part 2

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Blog, Sales & Marketing

Earlier we discussed the eCommerce, Advertising, and SaaS industries and the potential for small businesses to generate revenue therein. Now we will turn to the other side of selling on the internet which is to say that there are a number a niche markets in which large companies don’t compete. Using examples of successful online entrepreneurs, we will outline both how they established themselves among the multitude of online resources and what they do to “snowball” their popularity once they have gained a foothold in their industries.

Some of the most successful online industries on a smaller scale are:

  • Professional/Career Coaching,
  • Online Certification Programs, and
  • Video Courses (the material taught has to add to the viewers’ earning potential)

However, the road to success in these industries is not as easy as simply writing a book or producing a series of video lectures and making them available for purchase.  Mostly, this is due to the fact that there is  A LOT OF free content out there.  Writing a book by itself, these days, isn’t going to garner much attention.  Making it in these industries requires building a large audience of followers (often referred to as “building a large email list”) with a (statistically proven) hope that 1-5% of your followers will pay for a product (a book or a video) of yours.   Repeat sales in this case are much more probable than the first sale.

What is important is providing something unique beyond the information itself.  In the world of freely available information, for viewers to pay for digital material, it has to come with the promise of adding to the viewers’ earning power or career growth.  What this means to the online entrepreneur is that there must be a certain qualities of the material published or services offered that are unavailable anywhere else.

This may be humor as in Roger CPA Review (which saw its sales jump from $4.5 million in 2008 to $6 million in 2010), free book chapters and a promise of access to other “free” digital resources in Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid series, longevity and super confidence of Problogger, or by presenting your learning course as a smart and affordable alternative to traditional methods as in Mat Hulquist’s Quickbooks University.

Furthermore, a well established consistent reputation in these industries only leads to more business and thus the self-perpetuating cycle begins. This works because web-based content generated by professionals acts as tangible evidence of their expertise resulting in increased consulting business which in turn can increase the popularity and value of the content itself. Thus as an online entrepreneur, your goal may have be not to generate revenue from books, lectures, and other published materials but rather to establish yourself as an expert in your field and generate revenue by providing consulting services.

N.B.: Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Non-Conformity wrote a great piece about the fundamentals of selling online and how to focus on the right things.

Can You Make Money On The Internet? Slicing The Internet Money Pie Part 1

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Advertising, Blog, Google, Sales & Marketing

This is the first in a series of posts about making money online in which we will discuss the major online industries and their leaders. In our next post, we will provide examples of niche sites that have had success selling online and outline their business models. 

I received a question from a professional acquaintance of mine about the best way to help a professional service client add the internet as a channel for delivering service.

My first instinct was to answer that there is A LOT OF FREE information online. Unless you are offering something that can not be found for free your chances of selling your product are bleak. As a small business or individual, potentially developing and offering some digital products, it can be difficult to both compete with the wealth of information and learning material freely available online and distinguish yourself and your product from the competition.

So the real question is: what market are you competing in? E-commerce, advertising, Software as Service, digital goods?

In 2010, Americans spent $165.4 billion online.  Perhaps the first monolithic online industry that comes to mind is eCommerce — selling both physical and digital goods online. While giants like Amazon.com (with its online properties at Diapers.com and Zappos.com and many, many affiliates) and  eBay certainly dominate the lion’s share of the market, smaller sites have been able to benefit from the industry’s long tail. Sites like Etsy offer handmade and unique items while specialty sites like Cabela’s cater to interest-specific shoppers.

The second major industry of the digital world is advertising ~ $26 billion in 2010.  Making money by selling advertising online requires significant traffic and, often, a niche site for advertiser to be willing to spend their advertising budgets on your site or blog. Google is the dominant advertising force, offering targeted ads based on search results and collecting the advertising budgets of so many small businesses through AdSense. Facebook is a prime example with > 750 million users and a high number of page views such that their low click-through rate  doesn’t adversely affect ad sales. Per Mashable, in 2010, Facebook  had 0.051%, or about one click-through (CTR) for every 2,000 ad impressions with the industry standard CTR is 0.1 percent, or one click-through for every 1,000 impressions. As with eCommerce, niche interest-oriented sites can also generate significant advertising revenue fron banner advertising by offering information and a point of view not available elsewhere. Examples of sites of this type are TechCrunch.com (a tech blog), TeamLiquid.net (a popular gaming community site), and GorillavsBear.net (a music blog).

There is the increasingly successful SaaS (Software as a Service) industry ~ $12 billion in 2010. SaaS is attractive because it makes itself available “on-demand” and exists completely within the confines of the internet which means customers are not required to have hard disk space, CD-ROMs, or a personal computer, just a credit card or a few :). Furthermore, as a relatively new industry North American SaaS revenue is predicted to experience an 18.7% increase between 2010 and 2011 alone.

Finally, the digital goods market (the goods that do not exist in real life) has been growing.  In the US, it is expected to reach $2.1 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2010.  This includes offerings from the social gaming companies like Zynga.com

Jumping into ponds with such big fish (Amazon, Google, Facebook) shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to your internet sales venture, but in our next post we will outline how individuals and small businesses have had success selling online by targeting smaller niche markets.

Image credit: http://www.getelastic.com/profiting-from-the-digital-goods-boom/

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