Join us next week in Florida!

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Hello, Florida!

The Zoho Team has been traversing the country on our first tour of Meet Ups, and we’re finally making our way to the Sunshine State. We had a great time in Boston, MA earlier this month – connecting with customers and welcoming aboard a few new users – and we’re excited to keep the momentum going with not one but two events next week in Florida.

We’re pairing up with our Zoho Alliance Partner, Cloud Mobile Forms, to bring you two special networking events (breakfast is on us!) in Miami on Nov. 5 and Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 6.floridaemail

You’ll get the chance to meet and network with fellow Zoho users, hear about up-and-coming Zoho news and tips and tricks of the trade. We’ll have one of our customers

presenting how they best use our CRM and a demo station set up to answer all of your technical questions. There is no fee to attend, and you may even walk away with a special raffle prize!

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Join us tomorrow for the Zoho Houston Meet Up

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Hello again, Texas!

The Zoho Team is coming to Houston tomorrow, October 3rd, for our next Meet Up. Our first event in Austin last month was a great way for us to meet local users and welcome newcomers to our suite of apps. So we’re joining forces with Cornerstone Solutions, a Zoho Alliance Partner, to host a special breakfast event at the Norris Conference Center, CityCentre.HoustonEmailHead

There is still time to register, but space is limited so please RSVP here:

https://zohohoustonmeetup.eventbrite.com/

We’ll present a few up-and-coming products, as well as some tips and tricks of the trade with 40 CRM Tips in 40 Minutes. Our team of experts will be on hand to help answer any of your technical questions.

There will be something in store for everyone. So feel free to bring along a friend, coworker or guest who may not already use our products and we can introduce them.

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A Zoho Meet Up is Coming to a City Near You!

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The Zoho Team is thrilled to continue our tour of Meet Ups around the country. After meeting inspiring small business owners last month in Austin, TX, we’re pairing up with several of our Zoho Alliance Partners to host a special event near you.Blog_Meetup

We’ll continue our mission of taking our work “offline” and on the road, by traveling to various cities to meet and greet our loyal users. We want to ensure that you are benefitting from our suite of apps and fulfilling your business potential. With that in mind, we’re bringing along our team of experts and our very own Solution Station to answer all of your technical questions.

And of course, we want to hear from you! By getting the chance to speak with you, we can learn your business story and find out what your needs are. We’ll also get the chance to present some exciting news about Zoho, as well as a few tips and tricks of the trade.

Our next Zoho Meet Up will be in Houston, TX on October 3 at the Norris Conference Center, hosted by our Zoho Alliance Partners, Cornerstone Solutions. We’d love to see you there. To learn more about the event and RSVP, please visit:

https://zohohoustonmeetup.eventbrite.com/

Each of our Meet Ups will have something for everyone: both current users and those new to our products. So if you have a guest, friend or coworker who wants to hear more about Zoho, bring them along!

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Spending Too Much Time Waiting for Payments?

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This is a guest post by Craig Keolanui of SmBizWinningTips.

According to a recent survey, over 50% of small businesses find collecting payments and late-paying customers to be the most challenging aspects of managing their cash flow and payment activities. And particularly for businesses running on low margins, late payments can be a huge setback.iStock_000019620208XSmall

Late payments can cripple a small business with cash flow problems!

Late payments not only reduce your revenue, but they also have you paying for goods (components of a sale) or services (payroll) while waiting for payments to come in. If your sales are increasing, but late payments are also taking off, you will have a revenue shortfall when you start paying your bills.

If you are not completely on top of your books, this can sneak up on you right when things start getting consistently busy. The joy of increasing sales can quickly be extinguished by the angst of having to call for payments when it comes time to pay for supplies or payroll. You have to do whatever you can to encourage early payments while deterring late payments.

There are several steps to take to encourage early payments. Invoicing in a timely manner goes a long way, but you can also try:

  1. Invoicing twice a month. Some companies cut checks on certain dates and you might receive half of the usual monthly activity a little early. Keep this in mind also for accounts that are getting bigger or keeping more money tied up.
  2. Make sure to establish contact with accounting departments at any of the businesses with delinquent account activity and send them email reminders after mailing each statement.
  3. Encourage paying off invoices as opposed to waiting for monthly statements.
  4. Give a credit on the next statement for any early payment. You can also set up a rewards program or discount for companies that pay before 15 or 20 days.
  5. When setting up accounts, give some kind of one-time credit or discount for any accounts that are set up with purchase cards (credit cards!). Accepting them eats into your margin, but you set a firm hook and make it easier to process orders and get paid in full.

Discouraging late payments can also help speed things up.  Here are some techniques to use:

  1. Charge the dreaded late fee. Make sure you spell things out and if you are just starting to establish late fees, be very specific about “invoice dates” vs. “statement dates”.
  2. Try calling clients who actually place orders to inform them of any issues getting payments out of accounting. Sometimes peer pressure will work better than any call you could make.
  3. Put up a list of delinquent accounts for staff members to act on if those customers place an order.
  4. Set yourself up to process electronic payments.  Many of these customers can be steered that direction and you can start offering it to others.

Increased sales is a good thing, but making sure you get paid for your sales is critical to keeping the cash flowing and avoiding coming up short.

Build Financial Security with a Business Retirement Plan

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it must mean your business is generating enough profit to afford employees, require tax planning and give you the prospect of a healthy financial future. When you have more profit than you need to run your business operations, it’s time to start a business retirement plan.Businessman Investing

Just like parents tend to put their children first and take care of themselves last, business owners have a tendency to place the needs of their businesses before their own needs. Starting a business retirement plan is usually a low priority not only because of the effort and expense involved, but the benefits to the business aren’t obvious. Some business owners think that retirement plans only benefit employees. The reality is that they mainly benefit the business and the business owner. Most employees don’t contribute or contribute very little to retirement plans, whereas business owners who take full advantage attract higher-quality employees looking for comprehensive benefits, get large tax deductions, and build financial security for themselves and their families. The money you deposit in your own business retirement account is deductible, but unlike other business expenses, you’re not actually spending the money. You get to keep it–so not only are you saving on taxes, you’re also building a nest egg.

An accountant and broker/financial advisor can help you determine and set up the right plan for your business:

Self-employed: The SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRA allows you to deposit up to 25% of net earnings (net profit minus half of self-employment taxes and your deposit amount). Consult your accountant to help you determine your allowable contribution each year. Expenses are minimal and there are no required contributions, so you can skip contributions in slow years. If you need a higher tax deduction, consider the SIMPLE (see below) or the solo 401k, which has higher expenses but allows an additional contribution of $17,000 in 2012 (or $22,500 if you’re over age 50).

Small businesses with under 100 employees: The SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA allows you to contribute up to $11,500 in 2012 (or $14,000 if you’re over age 50) as long as you make an employee contribution as well. You can choose from a matching contribution of 3% where you only have to contribute for employees who contribute themselves or a 2% contribution to all employees regardless of whether they make contributions on their own. Expenses are minimal. If you’re willing to pay higher expenses for a higher tax deduction, see the choices for large businesses below.

Large businesses: A multitude of plans are available including pension, 401k and profit sharing. Expenses are higher but so are the contribution limits and the flexibility to design exactly the type of plan you want.

Now that your business is growing up, it’s time to start taking care of yourself too. A retirement plan can benefit yourself and your business. It’s important to stay on top of your financial game throughout the entire life of your business, so plan smart and plan ahead.

Turning Ideas into Profits

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Venture capitalists hear lots of good ideas. The challenge is turning those ideas into businesses that generate profits. Building a successful business requires a combination of creativity and implementation.iStock_000022382917XSmall

If you’ve ever had any sales or management training, you know that one of the key strategies taught is understanding personality types. As a business owner, you need to be able to recognize two personalities in order to be effective at turning ideas into profits: the creative visionary type, who is always brimming with ideas but never seems to be able to take them any further, and the realization type, who may lack the ability to think creatively but knows how to make things happen. These personalities can complement each other perfectly when given the right environment and opportunity to work together. If you can find both personalities among your company’s leadership or staff, you’ve got that magic combination of innovation and execution that every business needs to succeed.

Cultivate strengths. By supporting the talents of each of these personality types, you can harness ideas and processes that will help your business stay competitive and fresh in the marketplace. For example, many creative types come up with their best ideas when they’re alone and free from distractions, so assigning them to work as part of a group may actually lower their productivity.

Harvest ideas. You know how all those brilliant ideas that only seem to happen during your morning shower are lost forever unless you write them down right away? Creative personality types are notorious for having so many ideas that most of them never see the light of day because there wasn’t an opportunity to communicate them. Capture your staff’s ideas by providing an outlet where the ideas can be recorded–an idea board. If you think it will increase participation, allow them the option to post ideas anonymously.

Stimulate ideas to develop. When choosing the area to place the idea board, pick one that’s frequently visited, promotes open discourse, and has an atmosphere where staff feel relaxed (since pressure stifles creativity), such as the break room. A large dry erase board, chalkboard or flip chart will not only provide plenty of space and ease for the creative personality types to record concepts, but the realization types are now able to see those ideas. Bringing them together could generate spontaneous discussions about feasibility, pros/cons and implementation issues, which help the ideas evolve into tangible actions.

Offer a forum to communicate ideas to management. How many great ideas don’t get implemented because they have to fight their way through a web of bureaucracy in order to get heard by the people who have the power to put them into practice? Unless management has the opportunity to hear them, all those ideas will never leave the break room. Whatever the size of your business, you probably already have regular meetings with your staff, the leadership team or your board of directors. Add a segment to the agenda where your staff can present their ideas.

Collaborate online. Implementing software that allows employees to openly communicate their thoughts and discuss ideas with even the highest level of management, is an effective way of collaborating in real-time. Brilliant ideas won’t get lost and the amount of sharing is unlimited. Try a company-focused social network or similar application to bring life to your workplace.

You probably already know the people in your business who can help you turn ideas into profits, you just need to make it easier for them to do it.

5 Tips to Make Online Meetings Run Smoothly

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This is a guest post by Michael Essany of Null Media

With the increasing use of online business applications and remote working habits, the modern workplace can often reap more benefit from timely online conferences rather than face-to-face on-site interactions. And not surprisingly, continued technological development and corporate cost-cutting pressures around the world will keep fueling the rampant growth of virtual meetings in the years to come.Businessman working on laptop in his office.

“In these tough economic times,” offers Brent Arslaner in BusinessWeek, “advancing technologies are making virtual events not only a less expensive replacement for physical meetings but also a superior one. Why do we have meetings and events? 1) to exchange information; and 2) to network. Virtual meeting and event technology can facilitate these two objectives easily.”

Fortunately for employers and employees alike, the advantages of conducting a meeting online can be as pronounced as they are plentiful. But with the added convenience, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of virtual meetings also come plenty of caveats to consider before your next web-based powwow. To better ensure glitch-free virtual gatherings in the future, here are a few battle-tested tips to make online meetings go smoothly:

  1. Set an agenda and stick to it. A meeting without a basic structure runs the risk of becoming a chaotic mess that falls short of achieving its goals. Create the same focused, professional atmosphere you would in a face-to-face meeting by emailing an agenda to all participants well in advance of the meeting. Give each person an opportunity to share their observations and feedback.
  2. Be concise. Few attributes are more important in online meetings than brevity. No one wants to listen to colleagues ramble or drone on incessantly. And, whereas it’s difficult to doze off unnoticed when you’re seated in a board room with 12 other people, it’s easy to do so when you’re secluded in your home office. If your digital conference requires more than 45 to 60 minutes, break it up into parts.
  3. Multitasking is a no-no. For some participants, online meetings present the perfect opportunity to catch up on other tasks. From checking your email to scanning your Twitter feed, there’s so much you could but shouldn’t do during a virtual conference. Out of respect for your colleagues and to dodge a distraction that might lead to disaster, pay attention — and keep your multitasking to a minimum.
  4. Choose a quiet location. Online meetings enable remote participants to attend without having to travel. But that doesn’t mean your location doesn’t matter. It does. Nothing interrupts or interferes with a virtual gathering like background noise and distractions (traffic, a barking dog, a blaring television, etc.). Be courteous to fellow meeting participants and take yourself, your laptop, or your smartphone to someplace quiet.
  5. Get to know the platform. Never assume that you’ll know “on the fly” how to navigate the computer software that makes your online meeting possible. It goes without saying that virtual meetings are always best served by the use of a platform that delivers a multitude of key web conferencing features. But regardless of the platform, whether you’re the facilitator or a silent participant, familiarize yourself with it before — and never during — a meeting.