Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Know When to Grow with These 5 Signs Its Time to Expand

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Your business is running well, profits are growing, and you feel the urge. You want to push to the next level. How do you know it’s the right time? Check out these five signs it’s time to expand.




Your Finances Are Organized

Your financial records are filed. Your accounting system is set up completely and you know how to use it and you do use it. You know where your money is and you keep track of where it’s going. You make sure your bills get paid on time. You pay invoices before they come due. You negotiate with vendors for the best rates.

You’re either a whiz at accounting yourself, or you’ve hired a company accountant, or you have a great accountant on retainer. You know the numbers, and you watch (and can easily track) your bottom line.

Your Teams Are Strong

No matter how great your product is, and how stellar your customer services is, without a unified and strong team, you don’t have a business ready for growth.

Do team members communicate well? Team meetings run for a purpose, not for socializing. Team members play together nice. Telecommuters check in regularly. In-house people get along. The teams are meshing, and the managers are managing (but not micromanaging).

If you have the right people in the right positions, you have a solid business. If you’re seeing one people problem, it’s this: everyone’s workload is growing, but everyone is working at maximum output level.

Your Profits Are Steady

You have a good profit margin. A track record of profits. Growing profits. And from all financial forecasting and sales figures, you expect to see continued growing profits.

This is the biggest, best, and boldest sign but if the other signs don’t accompany it, don’t lean on profits alone to make your company fit for growth. Profits matter, certainly, but without a strong team or a functioning financial system, profits are not enough.

A diminishing or leveling profit margin doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong; it could mean, in fact, that growth is necessary. Without growth, your business might not able to meet increasing demand. As a result output will level off, meaning profits will either steady out or, perhaps, slow down as you cease pushing and marketing with the same zeal.

Your Cash Flow Is Positive

Your incoming cash exceeds your outgoing cash, even on the lean days and weeks. You understand your sales cycle, and you have a streamlined payment process. You’re not depending on a haphazard “hope the payments come through before the bills come due” methodology. Instead, you are proactive.

You know how to in get cash in before cash goes out. You see the cycles, the ebbs and flows, that are a natural part of running a business. You’ve learned how to work with those ebbs and flows, not overextend your finances, and not assume a cash-confidence you shouldn’t have.

You keep the whole financial picture in mind, and that allows you to make good decisions and keep your cash flow positive.

Your Funding Is Ready

You know you want to expand, and you have the capital in place (or a sound plan for getting it) to fund that expansion.

Expanding a small business to the next level can often feel like a leap in the dark for small business owners. And it is, if you don’t have adequate funds to finance it. If you’re ready to expand, you will have a phased-out plan for how that expansion should happen. You will have accurate figures for how much each phase will cost. You might even have a timeline in mind for how long each phase should take to complete.

Expanding without funding is like jumping without a parachute. It might be exciting at first, but it’s going to end in disaster.

If you’re looking at your healthy business and seeing these signs, congratulations. You’ve done a stellar job of growing a small business that can move onward and upward. If you’re not quite there yet, now you know what to tackle. See you on the next level.

Bitrix24 is a free Team Management and Planning Tool. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

See also:



Wednesday, February 04, 2015

5 Essential Changes to Make for a More Productive 2015


The beginning of a new year is a great time for resolutions. Better than resolutions, however, are simple but specific changes you can make right now that will help you make this a more productive year.


1. Think small, not big.
We like to talk about big goals and big dreams. That's not a bad thing, but when we only look at the big picture, we can miss out on the small actions that we need to take on a daily basis.

You can work up your energy and motivation, and make a few great big leaps forward. However, it's far more effective to cultivate the habit of small but consistent progress.

Think of making regular bits of progress rather than huge surges toward your goal. You can't maintain the focus and energy required for those all-out effort. You can, however, maintain a tiny, daily habit or a weekly step forward. Break big goals into smaller goals, and then into tiny actions that you build into your daily routine.

2. Limit your to-do list.
An overgrown to-do list requires you to spend your valuable time sorting, prioritizing, and shuffling tasks instead of getting important work done.

It's okay to admit your limits. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start completing tasks instead of simply moving and managing tasks.

Limit your daily list to one to three important tasks that you must complete. You will gain immediate clarity. You know what you're supposed to do, and you can focus on it and let other things fade out. There will always be unplanned tasks and questions that come up in your day. You will have to handle those, but then you can go right back to the important tasks on your list without any hesitation.

3. Use your calendar, planner, and/or task management system daily.
Your system can only help you if you use it regularly. All those task lists, scheduled events, meetings, ongoing team projects, work communications and updates should stay in your system, not in your head.

Multiple daily check-ins allow you to see, review, and upd ate what you need to without giving yourself those mental burdens. Make it a ritual for morning, noon, and night. Let your system do to remembering, organizing and reminding, and free your brain to do the work.

4. Set up a system for your recurring tasks.
Whether it's planning out work schedules or assigning project responsibilities or creating content, every time you complete a recurring task you go through the same steps, and usually in the same order.

A simple system enables you to get through the task faster and ensures that you don't miss any important steps. Your system might be as simple as a checklist, or it might be more complex and involve supplies, a schedule, or written steps that remind you what to do and how to do it.
Bonus: once you systematize a task or event, you can easily train someone else to take it on.

5. Choose your interruptions.
We think of interruptions as things we can't control: invasive people, important phone calls, unavoidable requests. It's the daily deluge of the urgent, and most of us just handle it as best we can and try to get our work done at the same time.

Change that, this year, by spending 15 minutes thinking about which interruptions are valid and worthwhile. An important phone call from your boss or client might be a priority no matter what else you have going on; but a schedule change, a product review, or a client email might not. You have to decide, and once you do, put those valid interruptions on a list and keep it in plain sight.

When the interruptions come, and they will, check them with the list. If an interruption is not on the list, remember that you have opted out of it; all that is left is to convey that message, kindly but clearly, to the source of the interruption. That may mean closing your door, turning off notifications, moving to a quiet space away from other people, excusing yourself from a conversation, or asking to schedule a phone call for a later time.

When you take control of your interruptions, you also take control of your productivity. Make the simple changes now that will allow you to be at your most productive this year.

Bitrix24 is free collaboration software suite . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:
Free HR System
Free HR Tools
Employee Directory Software
Talent management software
Free Convo alternative
Free Snapforce CRM alternative

Thursday, November 06, 2014

What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together

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Overseeing a team can be tough work at any time, because it involves moving multiple people toward a common goal. Personality clashes, work styles, varying ideas, and everyday stress can make forward movement difficult.

What do you do when your people can't mesh and make progress toward the goal?


A Healthy Team Has Conflict

Conflicts happen when you have a difference of opinion, but they're not a bad sign. It's simply a sign that a lot of opinions and ideas are being discussed, which is exactly what you want in a team.

If you have zero conflicts happening, it's probably because one dominating personality is squashing everyone else's ideas before they can even grow to the point of conflict.

The key to having a good team is helping your team members to understand how to handle conflict when it does arise. Outlaw personal insults, emotional tirades, and manipulation. Guide discussions. Make sure every team member gets a chance to speak.

Determine the Underlying Cause

If you're dealing with a team which is having continual issues, then there's something at the bottom of it. There are three main causes for ongoing team conflict:

- interpersonal
- current project or goal
- situational


What's going on with your team?

Interpersonal conflicts often arise when you have two or more dominant personalities on the team. Or perhaps your team members simply have very different work styles and are feeling the tensions when those styles don't mesh. Interpersonal conflicts can also arise when communication isn't clear on who is in charge of what.

Conflicts over current projects or goals are common. Don't assume the team all knows or agrees on the main goals. Have a meeting and make sure everybody knows why the team exists and what the priorities for the team are.

Demanding projects or clients can also cause stress that bubbles over into team conflict. Disagreement over which approach or methodology to use in reaching a goal can lead to stalemates between team members.

These disagreements can be dealt with and don't mean something is wrong with the team, just that they need help working through the conflicts.

Situational conflicts can be the most deceiving, because the situation causing the conflict may not seem directly related to the team or the team's current project. But a situation that involves change or stress, even in a general sense, can trickle down into heightened tensions which become unresolved team clashes.

A change in leadership or location, a limitation on resources, a particularly demanding client, or ongoing questions about the future of the company can all cause situational stress that doesn't go away easily.

Get It Out in the Open

The worst thing to do is to pretend everything is okay.

It isn't, and the sooner you start having honest discussions about the issues, the sooner you can resolve them.

Call a team meeting; moderate it actively. This is not a venting session, and you should make that clear at the beginning.

Nor is it necessary, or even wise, for your team to attempt to solve all the problems that they face in working together. The only goal for this preliminary meeting should be to identify the main issues and agree to work on them together.

Be careful not to let any one person or inner group dominate the discussion. Ask people to wait, take turns talking, and call out the quiet ones. They often have plenty of insight but don't like getting into the fray, so ask for their input and require the talkers to take a break.

Follow Up with One-on-One Meetings

For issues which need to be addressed at a deeper level, it's usually wise to do so with private, individual meetings. These meetings allow you to get honest feedback from individuals, without group talk or peer pressure influencing or hiding what might need to be said.

One-on-one meetings aren't always necessary, but if they are, it's best to have one with each member of the team. Leaving one or a few people out of these may create resentment.

Create an Action Plan

Meetings, meetings, more meetings.

Enough of that.

Time for action.

Whatever you've identified as an issue is a problem that can be solved. To solve it, you need to take action and make changes.

Present the problem(s) to your team and work together to create a plan of action to solve it. In all cases, the primary objective is team unity.

Team unity is worth the time it takes to achieve. With a cohesive team, creativity and conflict can happen, but they will move the team forward toward their common goals.

Bitrix24 is a free TBM (total business management) platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- How we improved our ROI for PR tenfold
- 5 Ways Your Business Can Save by Moving to the Cloud
- Want Innovation? Embrace Constructive Conflict, Says Innovation And Creativity Guru Jeff DeGraff
- The Top Money Mistakes that Small Businesses Make
- Best Basecamp Alternative

Monday, October 06, 2014

10 Best Free CRM

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s one of the saddest facts in my life, right up there with my insane student debt and the realization that Taylor Swift will probably never talk to me.
But there’s good news! I just saved a bunch of money by switching to… no, I’m kidding.
The real good news is that, while lunch may not be free, Customer Relationship Management software can be!
Free stuff is exciting!
Free stuff is exciting!
Free CRM comes in two categories – free, but limited (also known as freemium), and open source.
So the free, but limited versions offset caps on the amount of free users, contacts, storage, extra features, or some combination thereof.
Open source, on the other hand, offers an unlimited, fully functional CRM to users. The caveat is that your company needs a person (or team) who can install and configure the CRM. Of course, because of this, open source CRM is extremely customizable, which is nice. Most open source CRM companies also offer a preconfigured version and/or installation and support for a price.
Where can you find these magical free CRMs? Well, I put together a list for you! Check out the comparison chart below and read the details about the CRM systems that interest you.
Please note that I have not placed these in any particular order. Each system is different and each one will serve some companies better than others.
Free CRM Comparison

1. SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM
SuiteCRM is an open source alternative to SugarCRM and is actually based on Sugar’s open source version. Sugar’s open source product is extremely stripped down, and as one reviewer put it “SuiteCRM is the best of all worlds. It’s based on Open Source Sugar, but uses Open Source add-ons to make it close to, if not better than, the ‘Pay’ Sugar.”
Suite offers a preconfigured version for those users who don’t have the ability to install/configure in house. The upgrade fee for that is £10 or roughly $16.40 a month.

2. CapsuleCRM

CapsuleCRM
Capsule is free for up to two users with 10 MB of storage, and 250 contacts. To upgrade, it’s $12/user/month. With the upgrade comes two gigabytes of storage, 50,000 contacts, and integration with such applications as Mailchimp andFreshbooks.
Capsule’s best feature, according to its many glowing reviews, is its ability to integrate with at least 33 other software programs, including Mailchimp, Freshbooks, and Gmail.
In fact, according to the reviews, the only place Capsule is really lacking as a system is its customer support. While they have a FAQs section as well as helpful articles posted on their page, if you need any help after hours, you’re sunk. In addition, they offer no direct phone service. Rather, you must submit a form, though they do claim to call you back within a single business day.

3. Insightly

insightly
Insightly claims on its homepage to be the “#1 online small business CRM.” I have no evidence to corroborate this particular claim, but I can tell you that they offer a great free program and a very friendly website.
Insightly offers their system free for three users, 2,500 records (which they define as any stored item from contact to note), 200 megabytes of storage and ten custom fields. Perhaps most importantly, Insightly offers free users full product support! The upgrade fee is $7/user/month and includes 100,000 records, unlimited storage, and Mailchimp integration.
As they say on their homepage, Insightly is great for small businesses. For many small businesses three users is really more than enough. However, many reviewershave mentioned that Insightly is not ideal for bigger businesses, particularly because its functionality is not capable of handling the demands of a larger business. One particular example cited is that the email integration lacks a lot of user functionality that other CRM platforms don’t think twice about.

4. Really Simple Systems

Really Simple Systems
Really Simple Systems claims to be the best CRM system for small businesses. (But it does not claim to be the #1 online CRM for small business, so there’s no rivalry with Insightly.)
Really Simple Systems offers a free two user system that includes 100 accounts (business that you deal with), unlimited contacts within those accounts, tasks, and 100MB of storage. To upgrade to five users with the same functionality, it’s $15/user/month.
Customers love Really Simple Systems because it’s actually really simple and they offer excellent customer support. I honestly struggled to find the problems people had with this system, that’s how much users love it.
However, I did manage to dig up one con to keep in mind. Cloudpro’s review, while generally praising this CRM, does mention that Really Simple Systems offers more limited functionality, and so works best for small businesses compared to large or enterprise ones.

5. FreeCRM

FreeCRM
Here’s another CRM that claims to be #1 at something. This time its #1 at online free CRM software for business (so again, technically no rivalry!).
This free version comes with five free users, 2,500 contacts, and all the basic features. The upgrade fee is $14.95/user/month for more features, storage, and support. Two major drawbacks up front: you only get one year free, and no customer support.
So what makes FreeCRM worth it? First, their upgraded system is actually one of the most affordable CRMs on the market. Second, it’s a web-based solution, so you don’t need to create an expensive and time-consuming infrastructure to host it on, meaning pretty much anyone can get it up and running with ease.

6. Bitrix24

Bitrix24
I like Bitrix a lot because it offers really flexible price options. I like flexibility. For a completely free account you get 12 users, five GB of storage and the ability to do anything you want with that storage, which is already a pretty sweet deal.
This is how it gets better. The upgrade fee to get unlimited users and 50 gigs of storage is $99, but if you’re not feeling that cause really all you needed was a few more users, or maybe just more storage… Bitrix totally hears you! They offer an additional 12 users to the same program for $25/user/month. And/or if you want more storage they offer a tiered pricing plan on that up to one TB.
So that’s the pricing.
Overall, reviewers find Bitrix to be a very easy-to-use system. In addition, itsdocument management feature is well integrated and extremely useful.
The drawback that reviewers all point out is that Bitrix’ aesthetics are a little rough at points. One reviewer mentioned that they use a flashing clock in the corner to remind users to timestamp all activities, which I could easily imagine is quite obnoxious.

7. Raynet

Raynet1
Raynet markets itself as an easy-to-use, does-it-all CRM. It’s free version allows for two users, 150 accounts, 50MB of storage, and full customer support. Upgrade to 20,000 accounts and one TB of storage for just $19/user/month.
Raynet’s system is very aesthetically pleasing and features an “account card” (featured above) where you can glean most of the information you need about a customer from a single glance, including how much they’re worth to your company.
All that said, Raynet is a fairly new company, and the fact that it’s headquartered in the Czech Republic may make support difficult for U.S.-based companies (though they have an office in Florida).  Additionally, perhaps because it’s such a recent entrant to the American CRM market, there is not yet much third party information or reviews on software.

8. vTiger

vTiger
vTiger is an open source CRM, that is also based on Sugar. vTiger was actually originally a part of Sugar, but both have since gone their own ways.
While you can download and install the open source version of the software for free yourself, vTiger does offer several preconfigured versions starting as just $12/user/month. In addition, vTiger also offers installation, support, hardware, and/or administration for a price. It integrates with MailChimp, Intuit and Paypal, among others.
One thing that vTiger does really well is offer a wide array of features for very cheap, even on the preconfigured level. These features include billing, inventory tracking, and project management capabilities, all of which are fairly unusual to find in any CRM system.
From reviews, it would appear as though a fairly important drawback to vTiger is the fact that it has compatibility issues with PHP 5.6 and above.

9. ZohoCRM

Zoho
Zoho is one of the big dogs of business software, so it’s pretty cool that they offer a free program. This CRM version is free for three users and 5,000 records. It comes with a mobile app and social CRM among other things. Their first step upgrade (for more users, features, and 100,000 records) is only $12/user/month.
Zoho is well known for being easy to use with highly developed importing features.
Unfortunately, Zoho is not as feature-rich as other CRMs on this list and has some quirks that take getting used to. An example that one reviewer used was that, when exporting from Zoho, you have to be very careful to ensure that there are no commas in any records, or else it will split up the record when putting it into Excel.

10. Zurmo

Zurmo
Zurmo is open source, and is unique on this list because it is also gamified. Zurmo was written on the principal that offering users incentives along the way makes users better employees. So the system sets goals, or ‘missions’ (which are different for different types of users) and then gives badges along the way to goal completion. It also allows coworkers to challenge each other to missions with set rewards at the end (like a gift card).
Currently, the biggest drawback to Zurmo is that it’s pretty new on the scene – which, being open source, can actually be a bit of a bother. Zurmo’s open source version lacks some fairly basic features such as social CRM.  This, of course, is unlikely to remain a problem the longer it sticks around.
Zurmo does offer a preconfigured version for $32/user/month.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Free Trello and other alternatives