Just Keeping Up with People is Key to Growing Revenue

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“If you don’t utilize CRM you lose everything. It’s so difficult to keep up with people. Not only in your own company but everyone you’re dealing with on a day to day basis. It’s imperative,” said William “Brimstone” Kucmierowski, President and Co-Founder of Hound Comics, a media company that not only publishes comics, but also cookbooks, TV programming, and lots more.

In my interview with Kucmierowski and his partner, Eddie “Luscious” Castillo, at the Small Business Expo in New York, Kucmierowski schooled Castillo as to what CRM actually is. He explained that CRM puts all the people you deal with on a regular basis in one place so you can actually manage them.

Kucmierowski has been a longtime avid CRM user. He was first a devotee of the desktop application ACT, but now he’s moved his CRM operations into the cloud.

You have to keep on those contacts and constantly follow up, as that’s critical to the ultimate prize, increased revenue, said Kucmierowski. Luckily Hound Comics is growing strong so their biggest challenge is to simply maintain a great staff, and continue to build in a strategic manner.

Are you facing a taxable profit this year?

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Many small business owners have done their best to produce a decent profit and, in doing so, face the prospect of paying more in taxes for their efforts. We all have to pay our share of taxes, however, many businesses are still unstable and are struggling to make a profit. As we all know, there are times that the profit is on paper, not in the bank. So coming up with additional funds to pay Uncle Sam after fighting to stay afloat is not an easy task.

Fortunately, there are some effortless moves you can make that will reduce the amount of profit “on the books” and support growth. Here are four tips you can prepare for in advance.

1. Paying in advance for things you need tomorrow.

The first step is to simply prepay for many supplies and goods that you use to produce your product or service. This serves two primary purposes. It will help minimize your expenses right out of the gate for a very uncertain 2013 and if done properly will give you a quantity discount when placing a higher volume order.

Plus, most vendors raise their prices for the subsequent year. So you are saving money in three different ways: Quantity discounts, avoiding raised prices and taxes.

Note: Make sure that you don’t forget in January that these costs were paid for in December or you might develop a false sense of security when you consider your January P & L.

2. Pay the government more today, giving you a credit tomorrow.

Most government situations will allow you to pay more in taxes now to credit your account for the next tax period. If this is not the case, a simple, yet justifiable, error in the government’s favor will not raise any red flags. Just be careful that your state doesn’t require you to amend end-of-the-year returns or this will not do you any good.

3. Pay commissions or bonuses in December instead of January.

If you make any quarterly commission or bonus payments based on a previous quarter’s performance, paying at least a portion of these out in December instead of January will happily cut into your net profit. If you want to avoid scrutiny, categorize these as “holiday bonuses” and deduct the amount paid from any quarterly bonuses usually paid in January. If the bonuses pertain to work performed in 2012, this is perfectly legal and will simply look like a nice gesture by you to give your commissioned employees more money to buy gifts for the holidays.

4. If you ship products, allow for delayed payments or defer payments.

There is such a delay in shipping items in December that many orders do not arrive at their destinations until well into January. It is easy and allows some of your better clients to pay for orders in January versus prepayments. If you sell things on the Internet, it is easy to a run these sales through on payment “posting” dates as opposed to the actual date of a sale.

Also consider deferring payments by simply holding deposits and logging/recording the deposits in January, particularly if you are on a cash-based versus accrual-based system.

NOTE: Now is not the time to pay for things your business can not afford and paying extra taxes will do very little to keep your business in healthy shape for 2013. Your future growth is what will eventually provide that extra revenue the government seeks.

Customer Spotlight – Wedding Planner Finds Zoho Books To Be A Time Saver

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Every girl wants the happiest day in her life to be ‘just perfect’. Cathy Akinkunmi decided to don the hat of a wedding planner and decorator while planning her daughter’s 10th birthday ‘Princess’ Theme party.

The result was Beautiful Linen Rentals. She says,

When ‘you’ are responsible for the little details that makes the perfect wedding, you’ve got to be on top of your game every single moment.

As a wedding planner she’s constantly wearing multiple hats. While meeting new clients, discussing decor style, selecting colors and setting up the venue are part of her job description, she also needs to manage her business. When she’s busy ensuring the day remains perfect for someone else, she needs assurance that her finances are being managed well. Returning home to messy paperwork is not what she looks forward to at the end of the day.

She started managing her accounts with good old excel. But as the business grew, she wanted an online application which was simple, customizable and which gave her the snapshot of her financial health at any given point. With a busy schedule and working 16 hours a day, she didn’t have the patience nor the time to learn complicated software. She found Zoho Books when she was looking for a simple accounting application for small business and after the free trial she was sold.

The ability to download my banking information and auto populate my expenditure is just awesome and saves a lot of my time. Zoho gives me the opportunity to free up valuable time to focus on other issues, issues which I cannot delegate at this point in time.

Read more about Cathy’s story, a multifaceted person, who enjoys creating the ‘perfect’ day for someone special.

End the Software Upgrade Cycle with a Cloud Office Suite

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For years, Nancy Williams had been stuck in an aggravating and costly cycle of upgrading her desktop applications. Williams, who just launched InfoZario, an online/offline training business for information management finally decided to dump her desktop applications for cloud-based Zoho applications. She choose not only Zoho CRM , but many of the other applications in the suite as well, such as documents, spreadsheets, projects, and soon the mail client, she said.

For others still stuck in the desktop software upgrade cycle looking to move over to cloud-based productivity applications, Williams recommends starting with Zoho’s mail suite to get comfortable with using applications in the cloud. As soon as you feel comfortable with those applications, start using CRM immediately.

Dependency Picklists, Custom Interview Types and More – Now in Zoho Recruit

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Every couple of weeks we make enhancements -big and small- to Zoho Recruit. Most times we focus only on the bigger things and we forget to talk about the smaller enhancements that quickly add up to a better experience.

So today I wanted to highlight some of the things we’ve recently done to make Zoho Recruit’s user experience more convenient and easier:

Dependency Picklists

This is something many of you have been asking for and we’ve are happy to announce that we’ve added Dependency pick list as an option for all Modules in Zoho Recruit. You can now create dependencies between two pick list fields and define the filter values – you can read about this in the Dependency pick list online help.

Add Attachments while scheduling an Interview

Add Attachments while scheduling an Interview is the most recent addition in our series of enhancements in Zoho Recruit. Apart from adding notes, this will help the interviewer add assessment report about the candidate for any future reference.

Custom Interview Types

We’ve added the ability to add Custom Interview Types in Zoho Recruit. They enable you to add custom interview types according to your organization needs – like first level interview, second level interview, one-on-one interview, etc.

Merge Fields in Forward to Client/Hiring Manager

Previously you could only forward resumes to clients only with the pre-defined merge fields. Now Zoho Recruit supports merge fields in “Forward to Client” with all the form fields.

We hope these improvements help make Zoho Recruit just that much more convenient and easier for you! If you have any comments or suggestions, please dont hesitate to get in touch.

Should a CRM Give Everyone Complete Visibility?

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ECS Business Services has a competitive sales environment where reps are very protective about their leads and clients. If they deployed a company-wide CRM application it would reveal all that intimate information. Zoho worked with ECS Business Services to come up with a solution.

The business

ECS Business Services audits utility invoices, such as electric and garbage expenses, for large commercial properties. They make sense of complicated utility bills. They look at each line item to make sure their clients are not being overcharged, and if not, they look for ways to help them save money on an ongoing basis, explained Joel I. Kruger, Vice President of Business Development.

The challenge

“It was archaic…It was old school. There was no method to the madness,” admitted Kruger of ECS’ organization method for leads, prospects, and clients that existed all of just 12 months ago. Each person managed their own client case. And there was a big filing cabinet where much of the data was stored. Some was copied into an Excel spreadsheet. There was tons of overlapping information.

If a rep wanted to know if someone had spoken to an existing client or a potential client, they’d have to call into the office and hope somebody knew. It became very poor for client relations and attracting new clients because they’d have two different reps from ECS calling the same potential client. It looked horribly unprofessional, admitted Kruger.

Finding a CRM solution for their internally competitive environment

Given that a few people in the office had some knowledge of CRM, they knew they needed a CRM solution. It took them quite a while to come to a decision as they did trials with multiple CRM vendors and looked at quite a number of solutions such as Salesforce, ACT!, Goldmine, and anything that was web-based. They wanted their reps all across the U.S. to have access to the system, even on the go, so having a mobile solution was important as well.

What they didn’t like about the big companies is you really had to take it as is. There was very little easy customization they could do.

They had one request that wasn’t that unusual at all when you look at traditionally competitive sales environments. Each rep wants to keep their client base as much to themselves as possible. Meaning they don’t necessarily want other sales reps to see their clients, their notes, and relationships. But at the same time, they don’t want anyone accidentally stepping on their work by calling an existing client or prospect without knowing there had been previous contacts, explained Kruger.

ECS wanted a general search feature within the CRM where a rep could search a company, see if it belonged to anybody, and when was the last day of contact. It would reveal nothing else. That would signal to the other rep that it was either owned, or had been languishing. The inquiring rep could contact the other rep to ask the status. Kruger’s research revealed that none of the other CRM programs had that feature, including Zoho.

Zoho was eager to listen. They set up a conference call with ECS and asked what they wanted in the CRM application and why they wanted it. Even though Zoho didn’t have this feature, they were intent in creating the feature and making available for ECS and all their clients. This was just a few months ago and while the new feature is not 100 percent ready yet, Zoho has a variable that ECS is using now, explained Kruger.

“As a small company it’s all about the way you’re treated. You want to be treated just like the big guys are,” said Kruger about how well they were treated by Zoho. “Expectations were blown out of the water…They were really interested in us and our needs.”

We’re always talking about CRM offering complete transparency to all, but in a competitive sales environment, that’s not always desired. You want a certain level of visibility and non-visibility.

CRM became transformative to the business

We saw an instant change because everyone has visibility and you can collaborate on projects, said Kruger who discovered, thanks to the Zoho implementation, that one of his prospects was actually the best friend of one of his coworkers.

“If you’re in a small business, one, two, or three people, it doesn’t matter, you need to get some kind of program that will help you get organized, and remind you to call people when you need to call them and not lose out on a major opportunity,” said Kruger. “It is such a great organizational tool that will help your business grow.”

Announcement: Zoho Creator API now supports Authentication Token

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Previously, an API included a ticket that had a lifetime of 7 days, after which it would expire. The API had to be updated with a new ticket once every 7 days. This was getting tedious as there was no way you could automate this process. As a measure of minimizing manual effort involved, we introduced Authentication Tokens to API’s.

The Authentication Token is bound to an account. Generating it is a one-time activity, and is valid for eternity. This token can be used in all your API calls. All the tokens associated with your account can be managed in Zoho Accounts.

Authentication Token is certainly better in every way, so we strongly recommend all Developer API users to switch. Here is how you can generate the Authentication Token. In order to enforce this better alternative, we intend to discontinue support of API tickets and API key. API users will be notified well in advance.