Cloud is a Small Business Game Changer
Business owners and practice managers are always vexed with discovering paths to evolve and improve their companies and to spin old challenges into new gold. They are also on alert for methods to effectively distinguish themselves from their competitors.
“One area that holds significant promise for companies in fast growth mode or emerging markets is the IT area. Organizations that are not heavily invested in legacy IT systems can leapfrog their competitors by investing in the newest and best available systems via the most current cloud computing models,” writes Tim Caulfield, a national thought leader of cloud and IT evolution and president of Cloud9’s San Diego data center.
Businesses that are able to assess and seize the power of cloud computing will garner increased revenue more effectively and will remove the obstacles in their business processes through improved transparency and interaction with vendors and clients.
Tim Caulfield continues: “Cloud computing is all about delivering speed, agility and cost reduction to IT and other functional areas within the enterprise. And while it is true that the basic allure of cloud computing is cost reduction there are several other key impacts cloud computing will have on your business environment.”
Cloud Computing for Nonprofits?
Increasingly, nonprofits, including charities, industry and trade associations, NGOs, chartered schools, and 501(c) religious organizations are transitioning their business, contact management, and accounting applications to cloud computing for nonprofits.
See – Non-Profit Cloud Computing Solutions
Cloud computing for nonprofits helps to increase transparency and minimize costs, while gaining improved control over their finances and operations
Take for example the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, a US-based 501(c) charitable organization founded and operated by descendants of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi Worldwide switched from conventional desktop QuickBooks to a Cloud9 24/7 hosted plan in 2010.
Lynnea Bylund of Catalyst House, a Gandhi Worldwide board member, notes: “Cloud9′s tech helped us reduce the total cost of our accounting system by at least 40%, on an annual basis, while reducing stress and increasing access. At important moments myself, the institute’s chairman and our CFO can all assess a real-time accounting picture, each of us from different locations in the world, at the same time in the same file.”
Cloud Computing for Nonprofits
Cloud computing-based accounting, for example, provides two primary benefits that are especially attractive to nonprofit organizations. Continue reading
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Cloud based document management storage and cloud computing for the cemetery, cremation and funeral industries.
Business owners in the Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Home Services industry have a unique requirement in their data storage needs, as many records are considered permanent and have an infinite retention compliance to meet. The amount of data grows daily and with that, so does the liability and cost.
It is important to note that while Cloud Computing is used by businesses of all industries and sizes, this research and analysis will be focused on the Cloud Solutions for Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Service Providers. Because of this, the focus and special attention needed by after-life service providers in their technology solutions should not be minimized.
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Public and private IT Cloud services will create nearly 14 million new jobs worldwide from 2011 to 2015, according to a recent study commissioned by Microsoft.
CLICK TO VIEW FULL SIZE
“The cloud is going to have a huge impact on job creation,” says Susan Hauser, Microsoft corporate vice president of the Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group. “It’s a transformative technology that will drive down costs, spur innovation, and open up new jobs and skillsets across the globe.”
One way in which the cloud is helping companies to be more innovative is by freeing up IT managers to work on more mission-critical projects.
>> Read full release at Microsoft
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Webinar Friday Host: Cloud9 CEO Robert Chandler
In this struggling economy, many employees feel fortunate to have jobs right now. Combined with Tax Season, you have a perfect storm for professional burn out. This is another scenario where cloud computing and cloud accounting can help!
Register: Fri, Mar 9, 2012 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PST
More work while you’re at work is one thing, but a recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that nearly 1 in 10 employees bring work home on weekdays. Couple this with the fact that Americans are among workers who receive the fewest number of vacation days per year—a meager 15 on average, compared to workers in France or Finland who get about 30—and you have a surefire equation for employee burnout.
Cloud Computing For Accountants White Paper
Accounting Professionals are bombarded in literature, emails, conferences and by consultants to move to cloud computing for accountants. They think they know what it means and they know there are some benefits to the technology, but have a hard time grasping exactly how it can benefit their firm, and more importantly – their clients. In an attempt to gain a competitive advantage over their competition, they want to stay ahead of the game, offer the latest in services, technology and security while minimizing costs during a global economic downturn.* (The answer of course is Cloud Computing For Accountants)
*Related – 2012 Accountants’ New Year’s Resolution Survey
This conundrum has led to many questions that will be addressed here, but first lets answer the most important question: What is Cloud Computing For Accountants?
What is Cloud Computing for Accountants?
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Access Cloud9 with iPad
The iPad was a phenomenon overnight. It has spurred a tablet craze that rendered your local Best Buy sold out for months and every employee vying to get one. The question then becomes, is it really a useful tool for my practice or a “toy” that could lead to distractions? How about “iPad QuickBooks Hosting?”
See also – Cloud9 Delivers True iPad Cloud Computing
I can attest that when traveling my productivity has more than tripled due to the iPad. Not only does it save me time and money by not having to power up the laptop every time I want to get on my email or Skype but it also saves my battery life on the laptop for more intensive projects. Additionally, I find that while I may use the iPad for Internet browsing or the occasional movie on a plane, at least 75% of the usage is work related, like QuickBooks accounting via iPad QuickBooks Hosting access.
Benefits of iPad QuickBooks Hosting & Cloud Access:
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I get asked daily about office server security and the Cloud and I welcome these questions as it is not only important for users to understand but also opens the discussion about moving to the Cloud, meaning progress for the acceptance of our technologies.
Office Server Security: Truly Secure in the Cloud?
Recently I was speaking at a seminar and during the lunch break a gentleman said to me, “I don’t know, I just feel so much better about office server security knowing I can go in the back room of my office and see my server.” This thought and sense of security is not only misguided but it also seemed almost antiquated in today’s modern society. I responded by asking him if he still keeps his money under his mattress and he said, “Of course not” and I think he understood from there where I was going with this. Continue reading
We hear this question asked more and more: if I don’t have internet access and I’m in the Cloud, I won’t have access to any of my data?
Yes, correct – but I think the bigger question is – if you were on your current system and lost internet, what would you do? You wouldn’t have email. If you are on a network server you would not have access, and any type of online services that you use now would be down. If you have VoiP phones, you wouldn’t have that either. The benefits of moving to the Cloud far outweigh the possibility of a minor negative like if you lose internet (cost savings, security, disaster recovery plan, convenience and reliability).
If you do lose your web connection – just grab your laptop or tablet and head down to Starbucks!
And if you are in an area that is at high risk of losing internet access, or you have an unstable provider – I recommend having a backup plan. We keep a cell phone in the office at all times charged in case the phones go down so we can redirect lines there. The same should be done for internet, invest in a wireless device like the Verizon Hotspot so that you can be back up in no time. It is a small price to pay for a backup plan that could save you days of lost productivity waiting on the internet company to get you back online.
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There are a myriad of reasons to move to the Cloud and utilize QuickBooks hosting solutions. Here are our Top 10 reasons and we think David Letterman would be proud…
10. Work Anytime, Anywhere
9. Automatic offsite backups
8. No more sending Accountant’s Copies back and forth
7. Full Desktop version in a multi-user environment (not like QuickBooks Online)
6. Disaster Recovery Plan
5. You don’t want to go through the hassle of becoming a “self-host” with Intuit
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When Cloud Hosted Application & Load Speed Isn’t Everything
It’s funny the things that are “deal breakers” for firms looking to move to the Cloud. Recently, a colleague asked me about the approximate connect time with hosted solutions. “Is it 3 minutes, 2.5, under two minutes?” I believe this was her exact question. In fact, she had been testing multiple hosted solutions and recording and evaluating connectivity speeds. She was so focused on this one small factor that she was completely missing the true value that cloud-based applications offer.
The benefits of moving to web-based cloud solutions far out weigh the extra seconds it may take to connect—
Especially when you consider the overall time saved by operating in a virtual environment. The Cloud eliminates the need to manually backup client data, update and maintain software onsite, or coordinate data exchange with clients. Trust me…this adds up to hours of time savings! But wait! There’s more. Within my cloud system, I can collaborate with my clients in real time— accessing files and data simultaneously, while assured that I’m always working with the most current data. I no longer have to ask a client to close a file when I need to get into it, or log in after hours to avoid disrupting the client’s workflow.
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Management guru Peter Drucker once famously said, “that which can be measured, can be managed.” And this certainly applies to marketing. Think of it as keeping score. You want to find out what’s working and what’s not, what are the hot buttons of your prospects. Keeping score will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and react accordingly.
Make sure you collect metrics from all of your marketing activities. Collect open, bounce and click rates for your email newsletter, and a call to action or freebie will help you measure the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns. In terms of measuring the effectiveness of your website, Google Analytics is the best tool for quality feedback, and it’s free.
No-one should have ‘/Marketing’ in their job title. When Marketing gets added to a job description it immediately becomes the second priority. In tax season there’s no way marketing is going to happen when it falls to the Admin/ Marketing person. And while marketing is everyone’s responsibility, it’s also an important function that requires a dedicated person to coordinate the activities in the marketing plan.
Not every firm needs someone in a full time role. A part-time position 2 days a week to coordinate direct mail, the email newsletter and make 20 phone calls to prospects might be all you need. An intern from the local college is the perfect candidate, in fact they’d love the experience for their resume. Larger firms with more ambitious growth aspirations will need someone, with a marketing background, in a more permanent, formalized role. Look at what you want to achieve, how much you want to spend and go from there.
Some of the responsibilities for the marketing person include:
- Adding prospects names to the database
- Coordinating the direct mail
- Updating the website and social media platforms
- Setting up breakfast/coffee/ lunch appointments for the Partners
- Coordinating seminars
- Coordinating the email newsletter
- Finding events for partners and team members to participate in.
And the list can go on.
If you’re serious about marketing, make it a dedicated role. Establish your needs and then find the right person. Make sure they have the right attitude – that business is great and we’re looking for more.
Too often marketing is only done when there is capacity to fill. If this is your strategy, you will be disappointed with the results. For best results, marketing needs to be consistent. You need to create an activity plan outlining the activities you are going to do, who is going to do them and when they need to get done by. A simple spreadsheet is all you need to plan and track your activities. You don’t need an exhaustive list on your marketing mix. One direct mail piece a quarter and a monthly e-newsletter might be sufficient to keep your firm top of mind with your clients and prospects. Just make sure it happens every quarter or every month. Your phone won’t immediately start ringing, and don’t be disheartened by this, but the more regular and consistent you market to your prospect list, the more your phone will ring.
To help make marketing more consistent dedicate a particular day to marketing, for example Monday. Also make marketing everyone’s responsibility in the firm. Make sure everyone has business cards and knows the 30 second elevator pitch. Brainstorm with your team on how to respond to “what do you do?”
When developing your marketing materials make sure you do more than just promote. This is your opportunity to demonstrate the value you could potentially bring.
A final tip developing your marketing pieces, use twice as many ‘you’ and ‘yours’ than ‘I’, ‘we’, and ‘ours’.
Look for technology and implement systems that that will make this easier. An email newsletter is the perfect starting point. Once it’s created, it should look after itself.
Never assume you know what your clients want or what they’re thinking. If you do you risk losing them. In a survey done by the 2020 Group of over 12,000 entrepreneurs, more than 45% of respondents said they are “open to talking to a new accountant”. This number is significantly higher than accounts think. Unfortunately many accountants overestimate their level of client satisfaction. Ask your clients how your firm is doing. Find out from your client how you can better serve them. You’ll be surprised how much new work you generate, both with current clients and new clients.
There are many ways to survey your clients. You could:
- Have them fill out an online survey
- Conduct a survey internally
- Have a 3rd party survey your clients on your behalf
Each method has advantages and disadvantages. For example, an online survey is inexpensive, but the response numbers are likely to be low and the responses will lack detail. If you have someone from your office call to survey your clients, you’ll likely get a better response rate, but the respondents might be unwilling to be completely honest in their responses in fear of offending you. A 3rd party is more expensive, but the response rate is highest and the value of the information from respondents is most valuable.
Some suggested questions that should be a part of your survey include:
- Based on your most recent engagement with us, rate how satisfied you are with:
- How often we keep in contact with you
- How quickly we return your calls and reply to your emails
- How quickly we are able to get your work completed
- Our level of technical expertise
- The overall level of service you receive
- How aware are you of the complete range of services we offer our clients?
- Tax preparation
- Accounting/ Bookkeeping
- KPI Analysis
- Strategic Planning
- Estate Planning
- Financial Planning
(You’d be surprised how much business this question generates.)
- Other than reduce fees, how could we better serve you?
- Based on your most recent engagement how likely are you to introduce or recommend us to a friend or colleague?
The questions can go on and on, but try to limit people’s time to 10 – 20 minutes and inform them of that at the front end. For online surveys, offer an anonymous response option. And also think about offering a reward for completing the survey. Sending a coffee reward card is a great and inexpensive way to thank you for the feedback.
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When was the last time you said thank you? Unfortunately it’s something we don’t say often enough. However from a marketing standpoint a sincere thank you will immediately set you apart from the competition. Just start with the top 20% of your clients. Thank them following an engagement; thank them for being a longstanding client; and make sure you thank them for a referral or introduction.
Encourage your team to get involved, 5 thank you cards a week shouldn’t be too much of a burden, and before you know it your client base will be covered. For the greatest impact, handwrite your cards – blank cards with your logo on the front are extremely versatile and inexpensive. If you’re sending a printed letter, make sure you sign them as a printed image of a signature lacks sincerity.
So what do you say? Keep it simple.
Just wanted to drop a quick line to say thank you for being a client. We truly value our relationship with you and hope we are able to bring value to you and your business. We’re always here to help, so please give us a call if there’s anything we can do.
So what results can you expect? It’s difficult to measure, however increased referrals, improved goodwill will certainly flow from regularly saying thank you.
Another tip. In addition to saying thank you – also say welcome. A welcome letter (and “welcome to ABC Accounting” in the first line of an engagement letter doesn’t count) for new clients will definitely differentiate you from firms they have previously worked with.