By Vinay Pai
When operating a business, it’s easy to get absorbed into daily routines, and forget to take a step back and ask, “Is there a better way?” One of the biggest takeaways I can share from my startup experience is to encourage entrepreneurs to explore and discover new technologies that can improve how you operate your business.
With technology changing by the minute and its options seeming endless, business solutions may appear out of reach, too expensive or completely overwhelming to think about. There are, however, free or low-cost alternatives to help your business run efficiently. A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine discusses how apps and the Cloud provide entrepreneurs a better way to run their small business. Entrepreneurs running their business on the cloud not only benefit from the mobility factor, but also benefit from the many options to integrate new tools that help improve business productivity, operations, and even access to credit.
Let’s take for example Theresa Lee, the founder of Future Glory. Theresa handcrafts socially conscious goods, and she relies on QuickBooks integrations with Shopify and PayPal so she can focus on design, and not numbers. She uses the Shopify for QuickBooks app, which automatically syncs all of her Shopify e-commerce data, sales transactions, and PayPal payments to QuickBooks, giving her back time to focus on creating amazing accessories. Other customers who don’t have an online store use the Sync with PayPal app to seamlessly import sales (including line items, fees and taxes), as well as customer information into QuickBooks. By using apps, Theresa manages all the day-to-day bookkeeping herself, spending less than 20 minutes a day on tasks such as invoicing and tracking vendor payments.
As the guy on the hair club commercials used to say, “I’m not just the owner, I’m also a customer.” Before my startup was acquired by Intuit in 2009, I used QuickBooks to track my team’s budget and expenses and an app from Bill.com to manage and approve purchase orders and bills. I didn’t know accounting, but I was actually managing my accounts payable workflow. Imagine that! Bill.com continues to be a popular app that helps accountants and small businesses save time paying their vendors.
The first step to figuring out a solution is to not overthink the problem. Start by identifying software that solves a critical business need and will grow with you as your business grows. As detailed in both my personal example and that of Theresa, the apps that work the best are the ones that fully integrate with the software you use to manage and run your business. It’s a unified approach to business – the apps work together while the data flows into and out of your business software. That’s the best kind of integration!
Increased efficiency trickles into other areas for a business owner, such as mobility. Most software platforms and apps on the cloud have mobile solutions that untie a business owner from their desk and provide access to the same data from a web browser or mobile phone. Even on the go, owners can check inventory, access employee schedules, pull an expense or streamline a payment at any time.
Furthermore, apps can also become a resource for the business by providing funding options. Take Carol Highsmith, for example. Carol, a photographer for the Library of Congress, refined her business so she can focus on her craft of capturing a lasting photographic legacy for generations of Americans. As a self-employed photographer who lives on the road, she cannot spend her days slaving over the books, managing expenses, collating receipts, chasing up payments and stressing over cash flow. Thankfully, she uses QuickBooks Online and Fundbox – a tool that offers small businesses an easy way to advance their outstanding invoices for access to working capital. Carol leans on Fundbox to ease her worries during those highly stressful waits for clients to process payments. Carol says: “I can advance the money for a pending invoice and say ‘this is how I’m going to pay it back.’ The money hits my account immediately, and I can check on the repayment status at any time. That’s huge.”
I encourage small business owners to make the time, take a step back and embrace new technologies or apps available to launch, grow and operate your business. Look for apps that solve your problems and can help you grow your business – and that seamlessly connect to your existing software solutions. And the best part about this all is that you don’t have to go far to find these solutions! If you are a QuickBooks customer, you can visit the QuickBooks App Store to find apps and try them out with your business. And if you’re unsure, you can always ask your accountant for guidance.
We will continue this conversation in the fall, when Intuit QuickBooks will host a panel discussion as part of the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Technology Coalition on the use of apps by small businesses. We will provide entrepreneurs with an opportunity to hear directly from other small business owners who are using apps and how they have transformed the way they run their businesses. Small businesses will also have an opportunity to connect with developers who are continuously innovating with small businesses in mind. Stay tuned for more updates on the event shortly.
In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing from you about your experiences in using apps to run your business. What’s working? What’s not working? Which ones do you love? How do you hear about the best apps?
Vinay Pai is an experienced technology executive with a track record of leading global high-performing organizations, driving business growth globally, and driving technology transformation at scale. As the Vice President for Intuit Developer Platform, Vinay leads the platform strategy and business segment chartered to grow the Intuit ecosystem through a vibrant community of third-party applications and developers.
This blog post was originally published on Vinai Pai’s blog. It is republished here with permission.