Conveniences For Small-Business Owners
You can’t come up with more hours in your day, but you can leverage the conveniences that optimize the time and energy you invest in it. Here’s a look at a few conveniences tailor-made for the busy life of a business owner.
Swap your bank branch for your smartphone. If you’re still driving to your bank’s branch or ATM to conduct financial transactions, mobile-banking apps can simplify your day. Most major financial institutions now offer them for small-business customers free of charge. Through the secure app, you can check account balances, initiate fund transfers, establish electronic payments and even expedite the amount of time it takes for your customer’s checks to become part of your available balance with mobile deposits. Because the image of checks you deposit through the mobile app are housed on the bank’s server (not your phone), the transaction is secure.
Process customer transactions with mobile payments. Just as mobile banking allows you to multitask your “down time” to take care of business banking needs, mobile payments allow you to accept customer payments directly from your smartphone or mobile device — without the need for bulky point-of-sale equipment, or even, paper receipts. For a nominal fee (usually about 1 percent to 3 percent of the transaction amount), mobile-payment processors equip you to accept customer payments directly on your mobile device. Choose to swipe a customer’s payment through a dongle (usually offered free of charge by the provider) that plugs into your device’s headphone jack, or key the customer’s card information into your smartphone through the payment provider’s secure app. Whether you transact from a brick and mortar location, at the client’s site, or from offsite locations like trade shows, mobile payments ensure that you’re paid in a timely manner, while giving the customer the added convenience of paying with a debit or credit card efficiently, and as soon as services are rendered. Electronic receipts can be emailed to the customer, or sent via text message.
Automate-invoicing processes. Credit Today experts cite Institute of Management and Administration statistics that estimate the average “price tag” of hard-copy invoice processes is as high as $5 per invoice, given the “all in” costs of process-related waste, paper, printing and postage. There are many affordable cloud-based electronic-invoicing tools geared toward the needs of small-business owners, regardless of what you sell, how consistently you invoice, or how much revenue you generate. Unlike a hard-copy invoicing system, which requires you to manage when invoices were sent, how payment is received, and when accounts are past due, electronic-invoicing systems do much of the “heavy lifting,” without your involvement. Recurring invoices for clients who are billed the same amount monthly can be automated, you can “track” when an emailed invoice was opened by the recipient (without his or her knowledge), and automatic email reminders notify clients when an invoice is past due.
Many systems also “sync” with other bookkeeping software you may use, to eliminate redundant data entry. If your website is equipped with a secure-payment gateway (a service your mobile-payment processor might also provide), customers can also “self serve” their account payment using a debit or credit card to pay online. When you make collection calls for past-due accounts, you can also leverage your mobile-payment processor to collect the customer’s late payment immediately.
Use apps to track your receipts. You need proof of business-related expenses that you’ll claim on your taxes, but there are easier ways to manage such records than envelopes and paper “logs,” which are easily misplaced and time consuming to organize. Many affordable mileage-tracking apps include a navigation system that provides you with directions, while simultaneously recording and calculating what you can “claim” for business mileage. Use a cloud-based expense-tracking app that allows you to snap an image of business receipts from your smartphone, for electronic storage. Though you’ll want to maintain the original hard copy for tax documentation, such systems make it easy to digitize expense tracking, share files with accountants, and ensure you have proof of expenses if a paper receipt gets lost.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm that provides service to various types of businesses, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.