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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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Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

Following the news that Chevron had agreed to pay a nearly 40% premium to acquire Anadarko Petroleum, investors quickly bid up the shares of other potential acquisition targets.

As I argued in the previous article, I believe the Permian was the key to the Anadarko acquisition, but there are plenty of other targets in the region. There are also several companies with the capability of making acquisitions.

In recent years, the few mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry have been largely focused on the Permian Basin. The supermajor integrated oil and gas companies have been increasingly making forays into the Permian.

In addition to Chevron’s new acquisition, in 2017 ExxonMobil paid $6.6 billion to acquire Permian acreage from the Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas. ExxonMobil also spent $41 billion in 2009 to acquire XTO, which has a major presence in the Permian.

Permian Players

Today major acreage holders in the Permian Basin include the supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as Occidental, Apache and Concho Resources. Occidental, in fact, reportedly attempted to acquire Anadarko prior to Chevron sealing the deal. But Occidental may now find itself in the crosshairs of a bigger player looking to shore up their Permian portfolio.

But there are many other major producers in the region, including ConocoPhillips, EOG Resources, Pioneer Natural Resources, Noble Energy, Devon Energy, and Diamondback Energy. Smaller producers in the region include WPX Energy, Parsley Energy, Cimarex Energy, Callon Petroleum, Centennial Resource Development, Jagged Peak Energy and Laredo Petroleum.

Let’s first take a look at the largest companies operating in the Permian according to enterprise value. This metric is preferred over market capitalization, because it includes a company’s debt. In the case of a potential acquisition, the acquiring company would be responsible for this debt in addition to the purchase price. Hence, it is a more comprehensive representation of a company’s market value.

I have included the integrated supermajors that could have the ability to make major acquisitions, three of the larger exploration and production companies (which could make an acquisition or be a target themselves), and Anadarko for comparison. All data were retrieved from the S&P Capital IQ database.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • EV – Enterprise value at the close on April 12, 2019 in billions of U.S. dollars
  • EBITDA – TTM earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization in billions of U.S. dollars
  • TTM – Trailing 12 months
  • FCF – Free cash flow in billions of U.S. dollars
  • Debt – Net debt at the end of the previous fiscal quarter
  • 2018 Res – Total proved oil and gas reserves in billion barrels of oil equivalent at year-end 2018
  • EV/Res – The value of the company divided by its proved reserves

Potential Buyers

Based on their size and debt metrics, ExxonMobil and Chevron still appear to be the most capable of pulling off a major deal. Shell has been moving in the direction of becoming a natural gas company, and has already made major capital expenditures in this area in recent years. Further, in 2016 they made their own major acquisition — a $70 billion deal for BG Group.  Meanwhile, Total hasn’t shown much interest in the Permian.

BP may not have an appetite for an acquisition as it continues to be weighed down by its obligations from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As an aside, the continued fallout from that disaster has also resulted in BP having the cheapest reserves on the books by far of any company listed in the table. Also note that the EV/Res metric for integrated supermajors isn’t directly comparable to pure oil producers like Anadarko, as the former also have midstream and refining assets.

ConocoPhillips appears to be the most attractive target for an acquisition from a pure valuation perspective, but as the largest pure oil company it would be a large bite for even ExxonMobil. With respect to making an acquisition, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance stated earlier this year that the company isn’t feeling any pressure to do so.

Occidental also falls into the category of potentially making an acquisition or of being acquired. On a relative basis, they are more expensive than ConocoPhillips, but on an absolute basis the price would be more manageable.

What about smaller players like Parsley, WPX Energy, or Cimarex Energy? Based on the price movement following the announcement of the Chevron-Anadarko deal, investors are clearly betting that more deals will follow. Below are some of the metrics of potential acquisition targets (with Anadarko for comparison), including some of the large players listed in the previous table:

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • 1-Day Change – Change in share price on April 12, 2019, the day the Chevron-Anadarko deal was announced

Note that the double-digit gains of both Pioneer Natural Resources and Parley Energy imply that investors believe they could be next on the acquisition list. Parsley looks attractively priced according to its enterprise value and total reserves. Several other companies stand out, such as Devon Energy and Cimarex, although all of these companies outspent their cash flow in 2018. An acquisition by one of the larger players could give them the efficiencies and economies of scale to rectify that.

Another name on the list that stands out is Diamondback Energy, which has long been one of my favorite Permian Basin oil companies. Diamondback has been an outstanding performer in recent years, but now looks to be the most richly valued according to several metrics following its 2018 acquisition of Energen.

The biggest challenge with the smaller players is that they may not have enough reserves to really move the profit needle for the biggest players. Laredo Petroleum’s 200+ million barrels of oil and gas reserves might not be sufficiently appealing to ExxonMobil, which had 24 billion barrels of reserves at the end of 2018. But it could be appealing to a company like EOG Resources, which closed the year with 2.8 billion barrels of reserves.

Ultimately, price and valuation are only part of the equation. Anadarko wasn’t the cheapest acquisition target for Chevron, but Chevron liked the synergies of Anadarko’s locations. Thus, every major operator in the Permian is more likely to acquire companies whose properties are adjacent to their own. A deeper dive thus becomes an exercise in not only value, but in studying maps of the Permian producers — large and small.

Robert Rapier has over 25 years of experience in the energy industry as an engineer and an investor. Follow him on Twitter @rrapier or at Investing Daily.

Robert Rapier is a chemical engineer in the energy industry. Robert has 25 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable ene…

Source: Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

Fewer Billionaires, Poorer Billionaires On African Continent In 2019

Buffeted by plunging stock prices and weaker currencies, the number of African billionaires has shrunk to just 20, down from 23 a year ago. Four people fell off Forbes’ annual list of the continent’s richest since last year while one returned to the ranks after a four-year absence. All but four members of the list have smaller fortunes than a year ago.For the eighth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is Africa’s richest person……

Source: Fewer Billionaires, Poorer Billionaires On African Continent In 2019

Reclusive Millionaire Warns: “Get Out of Cash Now”

Something strange is going on in the financial system. And according to The Financial Times, it’s about to send a massive flood of cash into the pockets of the most prepared Americans. What exactly is going on and what does it mean for your money? I recently met up with former hedge fund manager, Dr. Steve Sjuggerud — one of the most widely-followed financial analysts in the world. Today, he shuns the spotlight and lives on a remote island off the Florida coast. And he’s built a new life… and a substantial fortune… by sharing a series of eerie predictions. Many of which have proven correct…….

Source: Investing Outlook

Tips on How to Make Your Small Business Stand Apart From the Rest | SMALL BUSINESS CEO | Small Business Tips, Ideas and Trends

Make your small business stands out! Here are a few ways you can build a solid foundation for years of dedicated customers and progressively growing profits.

Source: Tips on How to Make Your Small Business Stand Apart From the Rest | SMALL BUSINESS CEO | Small Business Tips, Ideas and Trends

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