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The Entrepreneur Diaries: Anit Hora

In 2007, Anit Hora quit her dream job with no safety net, no backup plan and no idea of what she was going to do next.

After graduating with a degree in fashion design Hora landed a high paying gig as a designer for a major label in New York City. She was earning a good salary, had great benefits, strong job security, enjoyed her work and was getting promoted on a regular basis. Seven years into her seemingly perfect career, however, Hora found herself thinking, “This can’t be it.”

“I did love my job, but I didn’t love it enough to not want to try something new,” she says. “I worked as a full-time knitwear designer when I started making my own products. When demand started to grow, it became more difficult for me to balance everything.”

Hora eventually couldn’t keep up with the pace of a day job and creating her own products, so she took off on a three-month backpacking trip around South America while she considered her next career move. As she traveled, volunteered and taught, Hora fell in love with the lifestyle and ended up staying for over a year and a half. “That’s when I realized that maybe the nine-to-five life isn’t for me,” she says.

But Anit says it wasn’t simple or easy to make the choice to leave her job and travel, especially financially. “Taking the leap is difficult but freeing at the same time. My best advice is to have a well-organized strategy, both financial and otherwise, ready for when you decide to quit your 9-5 and dive headfirst into your company.”

The trip taught Hora how different life was outside the big city. For example, she says she had very little patience for illness in her corporate life; the moment she felt sick in New York she’d race to get a prescription for antibiotics and try to return to work as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t until she came down with an illness in South America and tried to do the same that she realized this wasn’t normal behaviour. “They all looked at me like I was crazy,” she says. “They were like, ‘why would you want such a strong medicine?’”

That’s when Hora fell in love with herbal teas and natural medicines, which she studied formally upon her return to New York in 2008; first in classes at the Open Centre, then during an apprenticeship at an apothecary in Brooklyn.

She even started selling her natural health products at local craft fairs but eventually discovered they weren’t the natural products customers were looking for.

“Every time I’d go to sell them, these women would come up to me and ask for skincare and makeup stuff,” she says. “They’d come to me and be like ‘I’d buy this if you had this for face or hair or nails,’ and I thought, ‘yeah, I’d probably use that too.’”

In 2009 Hora enrolled in the Aveda Institute in New York City where she pursued her aesthetician’s license, but her savings were starting to dry up. At the same time, she needed money to buy supplies, create a website and build her new brand, Mullein and Sparrow.

To make ends meet Hora took up a day job at a spa while attending taking classes in the evenings and on weekends, building her business in what little time remained.

“I wasn’t sleeping very much in those days,” she says. “I don’t remember having any time for a social life or seeing friends, I remember being in complete isolation from everyone I knew, but it was so exciting that I didn’t see it like that.”

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After years of balancing work, school and entrepreneurship Hora got the opportunity she had been waiting for in 2014, when she received an email from a representative at one or her favorite retail chains, Anthropologie. “That was such a surreal moment for me,” says Hora. “I was like ‘how did you even find me?’”

The company was interested in selling her products in their stores, but Hora couldn’t fulfill an order of that size from her home studio, so she started looking for a line of credit and a new workspace. Even with her purchase order, Hora couldn’t get her bank to provide the capital she needed. The demand was there, but it still took time for her to develop the bandwidth to fulfill a big order.

In reflection, she says she should have put more thought into financial planning. “I would have put more thought into my budget. Organization is not my strong suit so I would have brought someone on early on to help me allocate my resources more efficiently.”

Today, M.S. Skincare has products in a range of small boutiques and major retailers around the world, including Urban Outfitters, Free People, Nordstrom, Steve Allen and Anthropologie. But the greatest validation, according to Hora, happened when she was selected for an entrepreneurship fellowship from the Tory Burch Foundation as well as Goldman Sachs’ prestigious 10,000 Small Businesses Program, despite having no formal business training.

“There’s a lot of self-doubt that comes from doing this, especially if you spend the first few years by yourself figuring it out,” she says. “You just have to believe you can do it, and keep that sense of stubborn optimism.”

By Ally Financial

Source: https://time.com

106K subscribers
Anit Hora found herself immersed in the corporate fashion world, she realized something was missing in her life. Rather than feeling invigorated by her demanding job, she felt disconnected and burned out. Determined to find out what that missing link was, Hora made a huge change: She quit her job and embarked on a solo backpacking trip through South America to do some soul searching. Flash forward several years, and Hora is a successful esthetician and herbalist, and the founder of Mullein & Sparrow — a line of vegan and organic bath, body and skincare products based in Brooklyn, New York. Sponsored by Pronamel. Download the Bustle App for more stories like these everyday: http://apple.co/1ML4jui Our Site: http://www.bustle.com Subscribe to Bustle: http://bit.ly/1IB6hbS Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bustledotcom/ Twitter: http://twitter.com/bustle Instagram: http://instagram.com/bustle Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/bustledotcom/

 

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It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

Plenty of entrepreneurs adhere to the mantra of “hire slow, fire fast” and for good reason. Then there’s Melanie Perkins, the co-founder and CEO of Sydney-based design software company Canva. She spent a year trying to find her first technical hire.

While Perkins didn’t intend to spend so much time filling her first engineering position, looking back on it now, she wouldn’t have done it any other way. The year-long quest informed how she’s made every other hire since. And it’s hard to argue with the results: With 700 employees, Canva is a hiring machine, and it’s been doubling in size every year.

In an industry that sees engineers switch jobs with frightening speed, many of Canva’s early technical hires are still with the company. While Canva won’t discuss revenue, Perkins, the company’s co-founder and CEO, says the company has been profitable since 2017. Canva has 20 million monthly users in 190 countries. In October, Canva announced an $85 million investment, with a valuation of $3.2 billion.

This is going to be bigger than yearbooks

When Perkins started the predecessor company to Canva in 2007, she was just 19. She was frustrated by how hard it was to use design software. When she started teaching design at university, she noticed that her students were similarly frustrated. With her boyfriend (now fiance), Cliff Obrecht, she built a website called Fusion Books that helped students design and publish yearbooks.

It did well–becoming the largest yearbook company in Australia and moving into France and New Zealand. Perkins quit university to work on it full-time. By 2011, Perkins and Obrecht realized Fusion Books could be much more: an engine to make it easy for anyone to design any publication. But to build that more ambitious product, they’d need outside investment.

Perkins headed to San Francisco to visit angel investor Bill Tai, who is known for making about 100 investments in startups that have yielded 19 initial public offerings. She’d met him in Perth a year earlier, where she had collected an award for innovation. “If you come to California, come see me,” he remembers telling her. “Without me knowing exactly what she was doing, she engineered a trip. She’s a very ballsy woman, if that makes sense. And I’m thinking, you know, I should help her. I know hundreds of engineers.”

Early in her San Francisco visit, Tai introduced her to Lars Rasmussen, the co-founder of the company that became Google Maps. Tai told her that if she could hire a tech team that met Rasmussen’s standards, he’d invest. “I didn’t realize at the time what that meant,” says Perkins. She bought an Ikea mattress, and planted it on the floor of her brother’s San Francisco apartment. “Obviously, that was free rent,” she says. “I had food to get by and I felt safe.”

Perkins set out initially to hire by doing the obvious: She went to every single conference she could get into. She’d speak if the organizers let her. Tai invited her to his MaiTai Global networking event in Hawaii, even though, for most attendees, a big draw was kitesurfing, which she’d never attempted. “It was great fun,” she says gamely. Then, “I really don’t like it. I have the scars to prove it. I’ve … retired from kitesurfing.”

Back in San Francisco, Perkins passed out flyers, trying to pique people’s interest. She cold-called engineers, and approached suspects on buses. She scoured LinkedIn, but Rasmussen wouldn’t even deign to meet most of her finds. “He didn’t think they had enough startup gumption or experience with a world-scale company, or with complex technology,” she said. She says fewer than five LinkedIn finds ended up interviewing with Rasmussen. He’d give them a problem-solving challenge that, inevitably, they flubbed.

After a year of this, Perkins was thoroughly frustrated. Surely it’s better to at least make some progress, she told Rasmussen, than to continue to do nothing. But he was adamant.

The perfect candidate and the bizarre pitch deck

That same year, Rasmussen introduced her to two candidates that he thought might be a good fit and recruitable. The first, Cameron Adams, a user interface designer who had worked at Google, was busy trying to raise money for his own startup. The second, Dave Hearnden, a senior engineer at Google, initially said he wasn’t interested. In 2012, both had a change of heart.

“We were absolutely over the moon,” says Perkins. Adams came on board first, as a co-founder. Hearnden, on the other hand, started to have second thoughts: Google wasn’t happy with his leaving, obviously, and was trying to get him to stay. He worried that his project would be abandoned without him, and he didn’t want to disappoint his team.

At this point, Perkins sent him something that has since become known as the Bizarre Pitch Deck. In 16 slides, the deck tells the story of a man named Dave, who longed for adventure but was torn by his loyalty for Google. In the pitch deck, as in life, Dave eventually joined Canva. It helped that Google had already poached his replacement.

In 2012, Perkins was able to raise a seed round of $1.6 million, and got another $1.4 million from the Australian government. Tai finally agreed to put in $100,000. “It was really hard for her to raise,” he says. “You’ve got a young girl in her 20s from Australia who had never worked at a company, with her live-in boyfriend as COO. People would say to me, What if they break up? I didn’t have a good answer.” Now, things look much different: Tai says Obrecht is Canva’s “secret weapon,” and that “Cliff has just blown me away.”

Keeping the bar high, hundreds of hires later

While Tai drove her nuts at the beginning, Perkins appreciates his stubbornness now. “We’ve been able to attract top talent across the globe,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without setting such a high technical bar early on.” Tai says he hasn’t made exactly this condition with other startups. But he’s done it in reverse: He’s backed highly technical people without knowing what, exactly, the business opportunity would turn out to be.

The experience also showed her, the hard way, just how much effort she’d have to put into hiring if she wanted to build a successful tech company. By Canva’s second year, the company had a recruiting team. “We knew we needed to invest heavily in hiring,” she says. Now, each open position gets a strategy brief. That document lays out the goals for the person in that role and the project they will be working on. It also identifies the people who will be involved in the hiring process. “Getting everyone on the same page is really critical,” says Perkins. “It sets that person up for success.”

And like Rasmussen looking for the first technical hire, Canva asks each candidate to take a challenge. Candidates have a choice of doing a four-hour challenge or a one-hour challenge. “Maybe they’re working parents and they can do it in an hour,” says Perkins. “Other people prefer to have a longer time and work at their own pace. We’re looking for people happy to take on challenges and who get a real buzz out of being able to solve hard things.”

In in-person interviews, someone on the Canva team will almost always ask the candidate, “How would your previous boss or manager talk about your work or rate you?” Perkins says people are “surprisingly honest” in their responses. The answers help her get a window into what type of leadership allows a particular candidate to thrive. Some people require a lot of structure or hierarchy, she says, and Canva doesn’t have much of either.

“One of the things I believe quite strongly is having a really strong idea of where you’re going,” says Perkins. “I have this visual metaphor. Plant 100 seeds. Until eventually one flowers or sprouts. For most people, if you’re rejected, you feel really hurt and don’t want to continue. The reality is that you have to push through. If I had given up quickly, I certainly wouldn’t be here today.”

By Kimberly WeisulEditor-at-large, Inc.com

Source: It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

29K subscribers
A behind the scenes look at the amazing team behind Canva, hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed making it!

Philippine Retail Billionaire Moves From Fashion to Pets

Robinson Retail Holdings Inc.’s head office in Manila.

Billionaire John Gokongwei’s Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. is considering an exit from the fashion business as it struggles to compete with cheaper, faster chains like Fast Retailing Co.’s Uniqlo. Stock jumps to three-week high.

The Filipino retail giant, whose fashion portfolio includes the Topshop and Dorothy Perkins brands, instead sees better returns from pet, health and beauty products where demand is growing, said Chief Executive Officer Robina Gokongwei-Pe in an interview.

“We are shrinking fashion, for it has become very difficult,” Gokongwei-Pe said. “There are other brands that came in who are more progressive and cheaper. We are already reducing the number of stores and we have to think if we move out altogether.”

The Manila-based company is relooking its business as it faces shrinking operating margins and growing competition in the low-cost space. It’s pivoting into wooing higher-spending consumers by entering into the premium grocery market, as well as expanding foreign franchises in beauty products and pet care, hoping to achieve 15% revenue growth annually for the next five years.

“Pets have become very big,” said Gokongwei-Pe. “Dogs now are very spoiled. Just look at Instagram and Facebook, it’s all about dogs. You should put money where the money is, which is food, drugstores, hardware, and growing businesses like pets and beauty.”

Robinsons Retail’s fashion portfolio has contracted to six brands and 40 stores at end-2018 from nine brands with 60 stores in 2014. Fashion is among the company’s specialty shops, which were cut to 341 in March from 387 at end-2018.

The company in December bought the local franchise for South Korean personal care and beauty products retailer Arcova and Club Clio, adding to 15 stand-alone stores selling Elizabeth Arden, Shiseido and Benefit Cosmetics. It also procured the license for Singapore’s Pet Lovers Centre in October and plans to open a second outlet as early as this year.

“Robinsons Retail is deploying its capital in a way that promises more growth,” said Miguel Ong, analyst at AP Securities Inc. “Fashion isn’t attractive as before with the rise of online platforms and brands like Uniqlo dominating the market.”

Click RRHI PM <Equity> ANR to see how analysts rate the stock.

Targeting Affluent Shoppers

Under a five-year plan targeting mid-to-high teen revenue growth, Robinsons Retail will spend between three billion pesos ($59 million) and five billion pesos to add 100 to 150 stores a year, according to Gokongwei-Pe. The retailer has 1,911 stores in various formats, excluding 1,960 outlets of its The Generics Pharmacy.

Revenue contribution from supermarkets will rise to 55% this year from 47% in 2018 after its acquisition of former rival Rustan Supercenters, whose 36 supermarkets cater to affluent shoppers. Robinsons Retail’s own 160 supermarkets cater mainly to mainstream consumers.

Robinsons Retail loses value, trails Philippine stock index since Rustan purchase

The acquisition and other new stores will improve gross profit margin by 10 to 20 basis points this year, said Gokongwei-Pe.

Operating margin, which fell below 5% in 2018, will shrink further due to write-offs related to the Rustan purchase. It will “definitely” improve in 2020, when the integration is completed, she said.

Other highlights:

  • A foreign executive has been hired to manage Mini Stop, which has potential to double its 5% sales contribution in 2018, if the convenience stores are “scientifically” ran.
  • Robinsons Retail is considering creating its own e-commerce app for its supermarkets to fill the gap left by Honestbee’s closure in the Philippines. It may start from scratch or expand Growsari Inc., a grocery delivery service for mom-and-pop stores.
  • The closure of Honestbee caused a dip in supermarket sales and will impact this year’s performance as same-store sales growth could have been 4.2% to 4.5% instead of 3%.

By

 

Source: Philippine Retail Billionaire Moves From Fashion to Pets – Bloomberg

He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

Sid Sijbrandij knows a thing or two about building, scaling and even walking away from companies. His current venture is doing over $100 million in revenue and is valued at over $1 billion.

Originally from the Netherlands, Sid Sijbrandiij is now the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s unicorns that is powering the web through developers worldwide. It’s not his first startup rodeo either.

Sid Sijbrandij recently appeared on the DealMakers podcast. During the exclusive interview, he shared his entrepreneurial journey, the process of finding cofounders, bootstrapping versus raising millions, his addiction to fast-growth startups, and many more topics.

Seizing Opportunities

Sid Sijbrandi seems to have always had a gift for spotting business opportunities.

During high school, he studied applied physics and management science. He chose a kind of program that blends the benefits of an M.B.A., with getting good at several engineering disciplines.

In his first year at college, he also started his first company.

The idea came from a fellow Ph.D. student that had made an infrared receiver you could use to skip to the next song on your computer (the only thing that played an MP3 song at the time). He started buying these infrared receivers from him and selling them in the U.S. You’d send him an envelope of dollar bills, and he would then send you a printed circuit board.

Ultimately, his two cofounders didn’t agree on growth plans concerning hiring more people. Sid wanted to hire faster, so he didn’t have to spend as much time on it, while his cofounders wanted to optimize for free cash flow. They ended up parting ways amicably.

The Two Most important Things for Launching with Cofounders

Sid has experienced several startups and says his two big takeaways when it comes to cofounding a company are:

1) To be smart with the shares

2) To be sure you and your cofounders are aligned in vision

For example, automatically making everyone an equal cofounder, even if they come in way later in that process, can be a mistake.

Sid says it is important that shares “are aligned with their contribution to the company. It’s very important if you start a company to have vesting of your shares as well.”

This helps avoid the free rides, because if someone leaves with all the equity, then people that need to invest like VCs are going to be like, “Why am I investing for just 50% remaining of the business.”

In the Netherlands, Sid didn’t find the goal of local companies to grow really fast. If you do want to grow a company really fast, he says it is beneficial to be somewhere like the Bay Area, where everyone just assumes that is the goal.

Not just your cofounder, but also your accounts person and your lawyer, and everybody else requires the growth mindset.

Passion for Growth

After graduation, Sid spent a few months at IBM and could have stayed there. He had an interest in strategy consulting, as well as building a recreational submarine.

He made a balanced scorecard of all the different ways to make that decision. One of the criteria being, “Is this a good story to tell in a bar?” He showed his dad who said it was a ridiculous way to decide on your career but was very supportive either way.

So, he called someone interested in a submarine venture. His pitch was, “Look, you should really hire me because I have a job offer from IBM. Otherwise, I’ll start working there, and we both don’t want that.” He got the job.

He built the first onboard computer for the submarine. Today, U-Boat Worx is one of the biggest builders of recreational submarines. If you go on a cruise, and they have a submarine, it’s likely from U-Boat Worx.

Still, after five years, it just wasn’t growing at a pace that kept Sid interested. He then went on to do a part-time stint on an innovation project with the government as a civil servant.

During this time, he really got to know himself, and how fast-growing companies with a continuous string of problems to be solved were what kept him interested.

Funding Your Startup

After starting and selling app store Appappeal, Sid turned open-source software GitLab into a fast-growing venture that is on its way to an IPO in 2020.

He took the proceeds from his previous venture, doubled it in bitcoin, and began bootstrapping GitLab.com.

Sid got the first few hundred signups through an article posted on Hacker News. Then together with his cofounder applied and got into Y Combinator. The race to demo day, where they would present in front of top tier investors, was on.

Compressing their three-month plan into just two weeks, the GitLab team had a highly successful demo day, landing Ashton Kutcher as an investor.

There was so much interest in their seed round, they rolled right into the Series A financing round. They’ve since followed that up with a B, C and D financing rounds, raising a total of $158 million at $1.1 billion valuation.

Today, some of their investors include Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, August Capital, ICONIQ Capital, 500 Startups, and Sound Ventures to name a few. It doesn’t get much better than that as a hyper-growth startup.

In order to do this, Sid and his team had to master storytelling. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Embracing The Remote Work

Sid states they “don’t do in person.“ At Gitlab they encourage having meetings with webcam. They believe there’s something to see in the other person even if it is via video.

To put this into perspective, every day, employees have a company call, and it’s a thing you do with a limited set of people. In this regard, there are about 20 in each group, and they just hangout.

During the group calls there are all types of topics discussed that vary from movies to magazines. Topics are not necessarily work-related.

Sid and his team very much believe that their company is more than just, “Hey your work…”

As part of Gitlab‘s culture, the social interaction plays a key role and they have a lot of ways in which they facilitate this inside the company. Even if this happens remotely.

M&A Made Simple

Recently Sid and GitLab have been very active when it comes to acquisitions on the buy-side. That includes Gitorious in 2015, Gitter in 2017 and Gemnasium in 2018.

When it comes to acquiring companies, they’ve made the process incredibly simple, and are actively looking for more companies to buy.

In this regard, they like to acquire teams that have built a product before. Preferably a team that made a great product, but didn’t get distribution. Especially because typically they shut their existing product down.

To make things easier, they have an acquisition offer page. It even includes a calculator, so you can go online and calculate how much they’re offering.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • When to pull the plug on your startup
  • The advantages of SAFE notes for raising money
  • How GitLab does meetings and culture around the globe
  • Why they pay based on where team members live
  • Tips for recruiting top engineers
  • Why you should read the GitLab handbook

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a serial entrepreneur and the author of the The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley

Source: He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

10 Small Business Apps, Services And Tech Platforms Every Entrepreneur Should Know About

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If you want to know the best place to keep up with technology for your business, follow my weekly tech roundups for entrepreneurs each week. You’ll learn because I’m always learning.

So what have I learned? Businesses that invest in the right technologies are assuring future growth and success.  I’ve also learned that there are a few apps, services and technologies – about ten categories in all – that are critical for small businesses in 2019. So in honor of National Small Business Week, I thought it would be helpful to share.

Customer Relationship Management

Don’t be fooled by CRM. People like to complicate this stuff and it’s not that complicated. It’s just a database of every person and company who you do business with – from prospects and customers to vendors, suppliers and partners. A great CRM system will integrate with your email and calendars and ensure that nothing falls the cracks and everyone in your company is sharing the right information. It will be mobile, include workflows and automation and integrates with tons of other great apps to do marketing and other functions. If implemented the right way (which is easier said than done) it will be an instrumental asset to your organization. There are many great CRMs for small businesses. I recommend looking at Salesforce.comMicrosoft Dynamics and Zoho CRM.

Managed Service Providers

If your inventory, order entry or other business critical application is older or located on your internal server you need to move it out of your office and into the hands of a managed service provider. Well-managed service providers will ensure that your data is secured as best possible and will likely have better security tools that you have internally. Your applications can be accessed by your team from anywhere and on any device. Many of them rely on public cloud services from Amazon, Google and Microsoft and that’s fine. With internet speeds hitting 5G, a well-managed service provider will deliver the performance, reliability and accessibility of your data at a cost that makes sense. Recommended providers include Right NetworksCloudJumper or any number of information technology firms.

Cloud Accounting

If your accounting application is located on your server, it won’t be for long. That’s because most accounting vendors are moving quickly to the cloud. It makes sense for them, and for you. You pay a monthly fee and they get a revenue stream. In return, the software provider can provide faster support, upgrades and technical services. Cloud applications are also much easier to integrate with each other. Today’s cloud accounting apps provide the added benefit of doing invoicing, cash receipts or retrieving reports from any device, anywhere. It’s a crowded field of cloud accounting options so do your due diligence and lean towards good companies with big communities. I see QuickBooks OnlineXero, and FreshBooks being used often by business owners.

Back in the day, there wasn’t much you could do with a scanned invoice or document other than file it away. But with today’s Optical Character Recognition technology there’s a growing crop of applications that can extract data from any scanned document – from vendor invoices to airline receipts – and put it in a format so that someone in your office can easily review and then import into most popular accounting applications. This saves time, improves accuracy and cuts overhead. Recommended applications: Bill.com, EntryLessExpensify.

Human Resources

HR platforms are exploding and, in my opinion, any company with more than five employees should have one. Why? Because they’re affordable and with a good HR platform your employees will be able to – usually through a mobile app – track payroll, update forms, schedule vacation, alert for sick days and even manage their performance reviews. The more your employees use the application, the less administrative time will be needed by your office staff – and that means less overhead and more productivity. Check out: PaychexGusto and BambooHR.

Office Collaboration

Back in the day, there were telephone calls, instant messaging, text messaging, emailing and lots and lots of yelling. Yes, we’re still yelling. But the good news is that today’s office applications have brought all those other things together under one umbrella so that your employees can conduct their communication, document management and collaboration activities – including video calls, file storage and sharing, messaging as well as alerting and reminders – from any device and wherever they are. Not only that, but today’s collaboration and communication systems have powerful searching tools to find old conversations and exchanges. The systems can even be configured for outsiders to access too. Applications that focus on collaboration include Microsoft Office 365Google G-SuiteBox.

Virtual Phones

Our company, like many small businesses, uses contractors and employees who frequently work out of the office. The thought of maintaining an on-premise phone system seems expensive…because it is. That’s why, for the past ten years, we’ve been using a virtual phone service. Our service provides a toll-free number, dial by name directory, voicemail for all users including transcription and archive recordings and…well, you get it: a total phone system (even hardware) that makes my small business look like a big business. I pay by the mailbox (about $12 per month) and love it. Recommended applications: GrasshopperVirtualPBX and Ooma.

E-Commerce and Payment

If you’re in retail then please pay attention to this word: convergence. It means getting a point of sale system that not only works in your store but works online too. That’s because you want to sell your products both from your store and over the web because that’s what successful retailers are doing to thrive. The best point of sale systems not only use tablets (a must for good customer service) and integrate with popular payment services, but they also provide the ability of setting up an ecommerce site that relies on the very same database you’re using in-store. Recommended applications: Paypal, SquareShopify, Magento.

Yeah, yeah, I’m leaving some stuff out. Like email apps (but don’t we all have them by now?) and project management solutions such as Basecamp and Asana.

Cloud Storage

There was once a time when everyone in my company would be saving multiple versions of multiple documents and spreadsheets on their laptops, desktops and our servers. That…was a mess. But not today. Today, we all save to a cloud storage service which synchronizes the files (that we choose) to our respective devices. Everything is updated and I no longer fear what happens if someone leaves their device on the subway. To me, a business without a cloud storage service is a business that’s losing money. Applications that focus on this space: Dropbox, Microsoft OneDriveGoogle Drive.

Security

Ransomware has become a billion-dollar business and that makes sense: it’s finally a way for clever hackers to actually make money with their malware. We read about the stories of hotels, transit systems and city governments brought to their knees by security breaches like this, but we don’t hear of the thousands of small businesses that are also affected. To protect yourself you need to use a good cloud backup service, keep your operating systems updated and use a good security application in your company.  Recommended applications: Carbonite (for backup), Malware Bytes,Barracuda.

What else am I missing? You tell me and maybe I can expand this list in a future column.  In the meantime, take a moment to review the techs, services and apps you’re using in your business. Have you got all the bases covered?

Author’s Note: I have not been compensated by any of the companies listed above to be mentioned in this article. 

 

Gene Marks owns The Marks Group PC, a 10-person technology consulting firm and is also a small business expert, speaker and columnist at other major outlets.

I was a former senior manager at KPMG and since 1994 the owner of the Marks Group PC, a 10-person customer relationship management consulting firm based outside Philadel

 

Source: 10 Small Business Apps, Services And Tech Platforms Every Entrepreneur Should Know About

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