How a web application can save your business money in a recession

We’re on the brink of a global recession and here’s me talking about web applications for your business! Well here’s the thing — why not save money while you’re making money?

Octane can help your business maximize profitability by reducing costs through automating tedious and complex tasks.

Right now, business owners all over Britain are looking at 2009 as a year of change. Many businesses are going to struggle, which is sadly inevitable. The question is a simple one: will your business survive the hardening global economy?

Building on your strengths and removing weaknesses

Many businesses have their own routines and their own ways of doing things. Microsoft Office is good to a point, but businesses need more flexibility.

Certain aspects of their business processes are automated, some are paper-based. It’s when one of those processes moves from computer to sheets of paper, and then back again, that things become difficult to measure, even harder to quantify and innumerable errors creep in.

This need not be the case. This is where a custom-built web application picks up where Microsoft Office et al and sheets of paper stop short of fulfilling their business needs.

By automating as many of their processes as possible, we remove most, if not all, of the traps that snag businesses, ruin productivity and invite error.

You, the innovator

I will sit down with your whole team and invite a candid, honest discussion, detailing specific needs, at the end of which, I’ll be equipped with an intimate knowledge of how your business functions. From there, we as a team will develop an outline of the ideal solution to your business needs.

  • Bespoke software specific to your business
  • Access your software from anywhere location
  • Secure and private access
  • Completely automate specific aspects of your business
  • Track, measure and analyze your data

Your business. Your needs. Your solutions.

  • Automation saves time
  • Greater work capacity
  • Reduced data errors
  • Increased work efficiency
  • Increased data accuracy
  • Cost savings over time (ROI)

I can really help your business possibly save thousands of pounds over time, freeing your team up to be more productive elsewhere in your business — where it matters most…


Why winners are all losers!

Average people do not do amazing things. Amazing people do amazing things.

Now, I’m guessing some of you are itching to give me an example of some totally average person doing something extraordinary, and quite aside from the fact that the person in question really wouldn’t thank you for describing them as being average, the fact remains that to do something amazing, no matter how average that person might be, for a moment — no matter how long or how fleeting — they did something amazing, which required of them to be amazing.

And so it follows that the people who constantly achieve masterfully in life and in business are the ones who do amazing things with almost clockwork regularity. But there’s a caveat; these people are also losers.

Losers? Yes. Losers.

I read a quote recently that stuck in my head and connected with me in a very profound way, which went along the lines of: winners lose more than losers. So here’s my expansion on that near truism: do not fear failure.

As humans, we are adept at learning from our mistakes. I’m not saying this is a quality unique to humans, but it’s a quality that we have shown an unerring capacity to capitalize on. In a very real sense, failure is the engine of success.

Either secreted deep within the dark recesses of their subconscious, or writ large on a sheet of paper in their offices, winners know that to fear failure is to fail once and fail forever.

Those who succeed most probably know and understand the true value of professionalism, and arguably as important, knowing what professionalism isn’t:

“A huge salary is not a sign of professionalism. Nor is a insulting the competition, getting blind drunk in public, beating up your girlfriend, illicit affairs, gambling addictions, abusive behaviour or questionable TV appearances.”

Of course, one could make an argument resting on the old adage: a death of a thousand cuts. And that would be a sound argument.

But that’s where this thought piece could easily turn into a thesis, and where we begin to fear the unknown.

2009 is the year I begin to fail graciously and then learn from those mistakes with a passion…


8 free must-have internet tools and applications for your business

So you run a business but the web is still a scary place, right? Well, here’s 8 free internet business tools you should be using right now.

On offer are web applications and internet tools specifically chosen for business people who’re on the move and need to make the most of their time, with the least expenditure of effort.

Google Local Business Center

Think of all those times you’ve gone onto Google and searched for: “car repairs Sheffield”, or: “plumbers Oxford”, and then you see the map to the left with a list of results to the right.

Here’s a chance for your business to get itself some free exposure, so the next time someone does a search for what you do in your area, you stand a great chance of being found. Pay a visit to the Google Local Business Center. If you don’t already have a Google Account, get one, sign up and add your company’s details for your free listing:

“Use the Local Business Center to create your free listing. When potential customers search Maps for local information, they’ll find your business: your address, hours of operation, even photos of your storefront or products. It’s easy, free, and you don’t need a website of your own.”

If you want your business to be found, a little search engine marketing can go a long way.

Facebook

Facebook might not seem like the obvious choice for a business tool, but there’s so much to Facebook, it’s difficult to ignore the potential.

Facebook even has its own advertising tools, which I’ve heard good things about. But it’s a must for you to know your target audience before spending a single penny, or every penny you spend might just be wasted.

Then there’s the Groups and Pages, which you can use to create a simple presence for your business, if you don’t have a website, or even if you have! The benefit here is that people can join and follow you, leaving messages and befriending you. Also, you can send group messages to all your followers, much like you would if you were making an announcement.

Facebook is also (as you might expect) a really good way to gather all of your family, friends, colleagues and clients into one place, keeping everyone up to date with what you’re doing, where you’ve been et cetera.

There’s no doubting the enormity to Facebook, but I really would recommend you persist and reap the rewards.

For those who’re new, TechRader offer an short introductory guide to Facebook. Also, if you’re totally new to social networking and social media, then I recommend you read my free ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media.

Google Docs

Yes, yet another Google tool. Trust me, this collection of office productivity tools are an excellent adjunct, or depending on your circumstances / needs, a replacement to Microsoft Office.

Google Docs consists of 3 applications; Documents, Presentations and Spreadsheets. As you can see, there’s an obvious correlation between Google Docs and Microsoft Office, which will no doubt ease the transition.

You can even open existing Word, Powerpoint and Excel files using Google Docs, as well as saving out / exporting as those formats, too.

The major benefit here is that you can access your documents from anywhere there’s a web connection. In addition, you can share your documents with colleagues, all editing the same documents at the same time.

Want to know more? Then have a look at the Google Docs guided tour.

Skype

If you’re serious about reducing your phone bill, then I highly recommend using Skype for voice calls and video conferences. If you know of anyone else using Skype, you can call them direct, either by voice or video for free. However, you do need a broadband connection to make the most of Skype.

You’ll need to install Skype onto your computer and register with them for a username. You can also get yourself a number, as well as buy credits to make calls to fixed land lines and mobile phones.

It’s worth mentioning that international calls are appreciably cheaper than with most mainstream providers, so it’s ideal for cross-continent conference calls, or for calling friends & family abroad.

Skype is also a great tool for text chats, as you might do on your mobile phone. In addition, you can send files to your recipients, which could be individuals or groups of people.

I use Skype myself all the time!

Google Gmail

OK, one more Google application. I think it’s fair to say that Google are producing some of the best productivity software right now, which is why you’re seeing 3 of their packages listed here right now.

Gmail is Google’s very own email client. To get you going, you get 7 gigabytes of storage, which is a handsome amount of space, easily enough for large email attachments. Imagine never having to delete an email again!

To help you sort all incoming mail based on a wide range of criteria, there’s Labels & Filters, so you can find all your emails quick and easy.

Related emails are grouped into “conversations”, so you can see an email conversation in its entirity, from the first to the last, even over weeks / months worth of emailing back and forth between friends, colleagues, family, clients et cetera.

You can collect email from any other email accounts (POP3 type accounts), so you can use Gmail as a central depositry for your emails, or even as a backup option for other email accounts.

You get a junk (or spam) filter, which grabs all of the crap you get sent, which are placed in a safe folder for later review. Additionally, the junk email filter is a good learner; able to figure our new kinds of junk, and sort them from genuine emails.

For power email users, Gmail can be set up as forwarder onto another account, or you can just set rules to forward specific emails to another email address, which is great for website / support contacts, checking for keywords / rules and sending copies to other people to ensure you never lose that customer because someone was out of the office or was away from their email.

Remember the Milk and Wipee List

Why the double listing? Based on the people I know, these two to-do list applications are highly prized as serious productivity tools.

Put simply, Remember the Milk and Wipee List are to-do list web applications to help you keep your life and business in check. Both boast a slew of features, but Remember the Milk may just edge things by having a version for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, plus a few more extra features for you to play around with.

And because these are web applications, you can access them from wherever you an internet connection — ideal for people who’re always on the move.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is a web browser that is growing in popularity. It’s an alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer and sports some very interesting features.

To ease the transition, the first time you install Firefox, you’ll be walked through a import option, which grabs all of your stuff in Internet Explorer and imports them into Firefox.

If you’re using Internet Explorer 7, you should be very familiar with the feel, such as the tabs, for example. Tabs are different windows within each window, so you can have multiple websites open in the same window. Ideal for people who’re busy working on different websites, or who’re into social media & social networking, like I am.

Firefox is also generally much more secure than Internet Explorer, which is essential in these strange times of scams, hoax websites and “phishing” exploits.

Firefox is also faster at leading web pages and supports a wider range of web standards; shared rules that dictate the layout and functionality of web pages. So you’re less likely to see a web page look strange, or not load properly.

And finally, and arguably Firefox’s biggest feature, the Add-ons. You install Add-ons which then enable Firefox to do things not natively supported. There are literally thousands of Add-ons for Firefox that do all kinds of things, many of which are productivity tools in their own right. However, the quality can be variable, so be careful. Some can Firefox unstable.

To get you started, here are 10 Add-ons for Firefox, which should point you in the right direction.

Conclusion

A lot of business people still suffer from web allergies, so this article is my attempt at an internet analgesic, to help you surf more easily, without the sniffs, gasps and groans!


Hungry for success? Quality is a key ingredient

Quality is one of those things we sometimes take for granted, or simply neglect. Don’t. Quality has to be at the very heart of your business.

Quality control — food for thought?

On visiting a client of mine a couple of years ago, he asked if we’d like lunch. Since it was due to be a long meeting, discussing the future of their website (which was to be re-built as a Content Management System, so they could manage the website themselves), we said yes and he gave instructions to a senior secretary to get sandwiches. He also gave her explicit instructions to not use the local sandwich shop nearby. As she left, he then began to explain why.

You see, he once bought a sandwich that had, secreted within the folds of meat and salad, a long black hair. For most, that’s the moment you throw the sandwich into a bin. For the local sandwich shop, that was also the moment they lost a huge amount of repeat trade.

When poor service leaves a bitter after taste

In my mind at least, this incident was merely the fall out from something much more serious, and that’s a lack of customer care. The guys at the sandwich shop must have been aware that a local company was spending a lot of money with them, so why not sweeten the deal? When I say “local company”, I mean a head office for a multi-national business, employing hundreds of people.

My client was vocal in his protestations, and the moment the hair-in-sandwich story got around, well guess what? Most of the office staff followed suit and never bought another morsel of food from those guys again.

Customer care — eating humble pie?

If the guys at the sandwich shop had been more attentive, instead of my client simply stopping buying from them, he may have felt compelled to have called them to explain what he’d found in his sandwich. At which point, said sandwich shop should have ensured the next time they wanted food, it would either be steeply discounted, or even free.

And you know what would have helped precipitate this more positive outcome? Just saying “Hi!” to my client when he walked into their sandwich shop.

By all accounts, that never happened. Not once. Not what I’d call a recipe for success…


Ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

The Beginners Guide to Social Media ebook cover graphicThe Beginners Guide to Social Media: an introduction to social media from a business perspective, is my new and free social media ebook, ready to download right now.

Lots of businesses around the world are struggling to understand what social media is, what it offers and what it means for their business. My new ebook will help demystify social media, helping you understand how to incorporate social media into your business:

“My eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media is your introduction to social media for businesses. This 35 page illustrated eBook is packed with advice and years of practical social media know-how and hard-earned business experience.”

Here’s just some of the many benefits of understanding social media for businesses:

  • Find out what Facebook can do for your business
  • Discover how blogging can benefit your business
  • Learn how to optimize your business website or blog for social media
  • Read what your customers are saying about your business
  • Track and monitor topics and trends in your industry
  • Maximize your business presence on the web
  • Get to know all of the top websites to promote your business

In addition to the ebook, there’s a blog, which I hope will become a good place to share all of the simple social media hints & tips I come across during my travels.

Right now, there’s three articles, discussing how to make the best of Google Alerts, Google Trends, and a discussion detailing the benefits of having a business blog.

Questions? I imagine so. That’s why I’ve written an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, to help you along.

Download ebook

To download my new ebook, just follow the link, fill out the response form and then follow the download instructions.

If you know of any friends or family members who’re in business, but unsure about social media, please feel free to tell them about my ebook and send them the link!