Estimates are the first step in completing a transaction between you and your prospective customer. The estimate initiates a formal relationship with your client, presents the first impression of your business, and sets up what the actual materials and labor will look like over a certain timeline. While some home contractors offer these preliminary estimates without charge, others find the potential advantages to doing so are not worth the loss of payment for their time. So when is the best time to offer free estimates for your customers, and when should you charge a fee? Here's What to Consider Many factors fall under consideration when deciding whether to offer free estimates, particularly when it comes to home improvement. Often, the reasoning may be based on industry and regional standards. Overall, the type of work your company specializes in, the number of techs you have available, and even the location(s) of your business are all points to consider. While some work is generally straightforward with minimal anticipated surprises, other work may involve complete inspections, potential revisions, or research back at the office. Complex or more labor-intensive work generally requires more detail, more time, and more expertise. Other cost considerations may be case by case, including the distance of the job site from your location, the scope and duration of a particular project, and even your company philosophy. Some companies want the estimate to be completely accurate from the beginning. In contrast, others want to leave it more open, in case the work takes more time than initially expected. When to Offer Free Estimates For many home improvement businesses, offering free estimates is a popular tool to get prospects in the door. By extending free estimates to prospective clients, you'll potentially attract a larger number of new customers who might just be shopping around or who are more budget-concerned. There's no obligation on the customer to commit, so they automatically feel more comfortable beginning the process. Offering a free estimate also allows you to sell in-person, talk about the project more in detail, and start a relationship with the client. Many customers have been Googling for months but have yet to hear real advice from an actual expert. Free estimates can act as the first step in earning a customer's trust to complete the job. While this can be an excellent strategy for your business, here's how to decide if it works for your company. Is the job straightforward, and does it make sense to offer an estimate for free? If a client comes to you with a clear problem that doesn't likely have any extra hidden complexities, you'll likely know the expected cost for the service based on similar services you've completed in the past. Whether it's painting a room where you are given the dimensions and know the current condition of the walls, or installing a certain number of lighting fixtures, it may be simple for you to offer a free quote without needing to invest too much time. When Should Home Contractors Charge for Estimates On the other hand, if an estimate requires a comprehensive inspection and has the potential to be more time-consuming or difficult than what can be seen on the surface, it may be in your interest to charge for your estimate. When you do decide that it's necessary to charge clients for estimates, you should do so on a sliding scale. An estimate for a single project in one room would be a lower rate than an estimate for a project that's throughout an entire home or office space. Take your time to research what competitors are charging in your area for similar projects, and communicate with your clients about their expectations and budget for services needed, before giving any quotes. Consultations requiring multiple revisions, diagnostics, or several steps in the planning process could also warrant the need to charge for an estimate. In this case, however, you should specify with your customer that they're paying for the inspection and consultation, along with the additional planning required for the job – and not solely paying based on the number of estimates. Another reason to charge for an estimate is if there are multiple parties involved in the project. If the contracting job requires you to communicate and plan a timeline alongside subcontracting companies and specialty professionals like electricians or designers, the time involved in scheduling and coordinating should be taken into account when charging for the overall estimate. Deciding What's Best for You Remember, the decision whether to charge for an estimate comes down to what makes the most sense for your business. While some believe that offering free estimates will attract more customers, others have found that charging for estimates ensures your customers are more serious about moving forward and are hiring you for the duration of the project. Either way, always be upfront with your client about what cost they can expect and what service they're paying for when setting up any kind of inspection and estimate appointment. Ready to Streamline your Estimate Process? Learn more about InvoiceASAP’s invoicing software. Spend less time writing estimates without sacrificing quality and accuracy. Try us today for FREE.
Social distancing policies have dramatically changed our day-to-day routines and interactions. With people spending long periods of time at home – and looking for ways to entertain themselves around the house – many people have taken on projects at home. The combination of wanting to keep busy and finding yourself with lots of time on your hands has made DIY projects, home repair work, and other major clean-up efforts enticing. But not everyone can handle repairs themselves, and that's when it's time to call in the experts. Increase in Demand as People Stay Home Though many industries are seeing a major slowdown in sales at this time, home repair companies are expecting to see an increased demand for work. More people are spending extended periods of time at home, and that means a higher volume of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC needs for families. At the same time, there is also a new sense of urgency for home maintenance needs. For example, a drainage problem with your kitchen sink, or losing power to the refrigerator, is now a bit more complicated and stressful. People are eager to get repairs fixed quickly and looking to home repair companies who can get the job done safely. How to Safely Serve Customers While social distancing regulations are in place, there are concrete steps you can take as a home repair business to ensure the safety of your employees and your clients – and it starts before you even schedule an appointment with a customer. Your website, phone system, and social media pages should all provide new information about the steps you're taking to ensure safety during the coronavirus. As families look online for companies who can quickly complete their home repairs, they are going to be looking to see which businesses are prioritizing safety precautions and actively communicating with customers. Read Our Full Guide for Managing Your Business During COVID-19 Customer Communication During COVID-19 Update your phone and email on your webpage and social media sites if your contact information has changed due to now working remotely. Also, remember to regularly check direct messenger chats for new customers who may reach out about a home repair need via social media. Before sending out technicians to a customer's home, be sure to communicate your safety measures so the customer can prepare and know what to expect when they arrive. Ask the customer about any current illness in the home to better protect your employees. Send a reminder to the customer on the day of the scheduled service using the client's preferred communication method and verify once again that no one is sick or showing any symptoms in the home. Communicate any reminders to the tech about social distancing practices and remain accessible remotely during the appointment should your tech need to contact you. Finally, after the service is completed, reach out to your customers with any follow-up questions to gain valuable feedback on how to improve your services for future clients. Best Practices for In-Home Repairs, Invoicing via Email, & Collecting Payment Remotely Before entering the residence, properly put on a mask and gloves, and then gather additional sanitation supplies along with your equipment and tools. You'll also want to have sanitized and prepped any equipment and hand-held tools you bring into the home. Though customers may want to greet you and lead you to the area where you'll be working, you should avoid any handshakes and try to keep a distance of at least six feet. From that point, everyone in the residence should be staying in another room or area to minimize contact. If text messaging is a preferred communication method for your client, the technician should also use texting to ask the client any questions that arise while the repair is in progress. Keep in mind, if you're touching a phone screen without sanitizing your hands first, do not bring the phone up to your ear or touch it to your face. If you need to move to another area of the home or communicate face-to-face with the customer, do your best to maintain as much distance as possible. After you've completed your repair work, sanitize any surfaces and tools that you touched. If possible, an invoice should be sent digitally, and payment should also be collected with minimal or no contact. With the right guidelines in place and an extra effort made in regard to customer communication, home repair during COVID-19 can be successfully completed with everyone's safety in mind. Learn More About Our Integrated Platform Now more than ever, businesses need the best tools and management software to help reduce costs and keep customers happy. Get improved estimating, invoicing and customer-payments software from InvoiceASAP. Streamlined technology means safer interactions and less-hassle for employees in the field and in office. Start today with a FREE account from InvoiceASAP.
As your HVAC business grows, there are some proven practices you should know and follow. From customer communication to invoicing procedures to record organization, here are common HVAC invoicing mistakes and recommendations for how to avoid them by instilling best practices at your company. 1. Allowing technicians to be inconsistent with invoices. As your company expands and you bring on more employees, it’s important to provide training on how to properly write-up an HVAC invoice. For technicians who are completing invoices in the field, consider providing completed example invoices for common maintenance projects, as well as a simple checklist for what information and details need to be included. Maintain consistency with acronyms and abbreviations and make sure everyone is following the same template. 2. Not including contract details in your HVAC invoicing. Another mistake is excluding details about your client’s contract on your HVAC invoice. Think of the invoice as an agreement of services between you and your client. Clearly write out your expectations along with any payment timeline policies. Include a place for a tech’s signature, the customer’s signature, and the date. 3. Completing HVAC invoices with missing crucial information. An HVAC invoicing header with company contact information should be at the top of all paper and digital invoices. Other crucial details include the invoice number, invoice date, an itemized breakdown of charges, and space for the tech to write additional notes. For companies who require proof-of-work or need to attach photos, the InvoiceASAP platform allows you to do just that and more. 4. Sending your HVAC invoice after you’ve left the job site. Best practice for getting invoices in the hands of your clients is to do so while you’re still at the job site. The key here is to have printed or digital invoices ready to go that your techs can fill out and adjust after completing work on-site. Not only will this speed up the invoicing process and cut down on the paper/email trail, but it will also improve the details and accuracy of your company’s invoices. The sooner you are able to put an invoice in the hands of your customer, the sooner you get paid. 5. Not being flexible with your form of payment. Flexibility with your client’s payment options will get you paid faster and create a more positive experience for your customers. In addition to accepting cash and checks, your team should also be prepared to accept debit and credit cards, and bank payments via ACH or eCheck, directly from an invoice. If you’re able to use a portable card reader in the field, make sure your techs are trained to use it correctly. Also, consider offering other payment apps built for mobile devices. Alternatively, your techs can use invoicing software to photograph the form of payment and post it directly to the invoice. 6. Disorganized record-keeping. No matter how you create and send your invoices, you definitely want to prioritize organization when it comes to filing. Use a labeling system that works for your company and train your employees who help manage records to file new invoices correctly. HVAC invoicing software can be very beneficial for making sure records for completed maintenance, payments, customer contact information, and sales history is always up to date and easily accessible. 7. Not keeping customer information updated. In addition to keeping service records maintained and updated, it’s just as important to regularly update customer information. Addresses, emails, and telephone numbers should all be updated in your records whenever you learn of a change. You should also collect this information from new clients, along with their personal preference for how to best contact them. 8. Failing to update maintenance records. Organizing your client’s maintenance history information will help you better understand the type of service completed and document important details about the client you may not remember in the future. These records can also allow you to set check-in times for when your techs may need to perform routine maintenance. Use a system that makes sense to you and meets your needs. Make sure those in charge of updating records remain consistent with how information is recorded. 9. Not providing an itemized breakdown of costs A huge part of customer satisfaction and retention involves providing clear communication. When it comes to invoicing, you want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to see exactly what they’re paying for. No matter the project, always include an itemized cost breakdown to limit confusion and maintain transparency with clients about your services. Invoicing solutions like InvoiceASAP allow you to pre-define all of your services and products in advance, making it easy to add them to an estimate or invoice, and keeping the details consistent across all of your clients. 10. Not following up for future maintenance work. Stay ahead of new jobs and help keep your revenue steady by routinely reaching out to clients for future maintenance work and any other potential services. Your record-keeping and updated customer information will make it easy to send out maintenance and appointment reminders. Get More from Your Invoicing System Interested in learning how to simplify and drastically improve your invoicing, estimate-writing, and payments process? Contact InvoiceASAP to learn more about our full-service dashboard built for those who work in the field. Create a FREE account today!
The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses Small businesses nationwide are already feeling the effects of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. With many states issuing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, the closure of non-essential businesses has led to major financial interruptions. While some businesses, like restaurants, were able to modify services by providing take-out or delivery orders to meet regulations, other businesses are cutting hours, moving operations entirely online or closing altogether. Currently, there is no set time when social distancing bans will be lifted, and until we have an effective strategy for COVID-19 testing and research, we could see more waves of social distancing in the future until a vaccine is available to the public. So what does this mean for your business? How do you manage operations and keep your business afloat during a global health and financial crisis? This short guide will help you create a business management plan of action, to help you manage today, and prepare for a future of unknowns. Your First Step: Create a COVID-19 Plan The very first step for your small business during the coronavirus outbreak is to create a plan by taking inventory of your services, your expenses, and your community of customers. Here are some basic financial and social steps to take in 2020. Assess Your Financial Situation What worked well for your business prior to the COVID-19 social distancing orders may no longer be reasonable. The first thing you should do as a small business owner is to assess your current finances. Get a clear picture of your current inventory, expenses and staffing. Review money coming in and going out. Prioritize immediate needs and mitigate waste or unnecessary expenses now. Take this time to review your financial resources and emergency funds, and assess your insurance policies to see if you qualify for additional support or benefits. File Your 2019 Taxes If you haven't already filed your taxes this year, the IRS has now extended the 2019 filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. The Treasury Department is hoping this extension will offer some relief for small businesses and individuals who may owe money upon filing. The deadline also applies to quarterly taxes that would have been due on April 15. However, if you can do them now, go ahead and file your taxes sooner rather than later. You may receive a refund that could provide some relief for your small business now. Be sure to check your state's deadline requirements for filing, as not all states have followed these extended federal deadlines. Develop a Marketing Plan to Retain Customers Creating an adaptable marketing plan as part of your management strategy will be vital to how you retain existing customers and find new customers as well. Social media posts, blogging, and email newsletters are just a few ways to reinforce ongoing dialogue with your customers. How to Interact With Customers During COVID-19 When communicating digitally with your customers, it’s important to be genuine. Be honest and transparent in your posts and messaging about what services or products you can offer at this time. Make customers aware of how to make purchases. Provide realistic expectations and explain what steps you're taking to guarantee the safety and health of your employees and customers. Remember to preserve sensitivity and be careful with your messaging, as some people may be directly affected by this crisis. Sending too many emails, using fear or hard-sell tactics can come across as opportunistic and insincere. Finally, remember to remind customers why they are important to your business and how much you appreciate them. Right now, people want to support local, small businesses. Tell your story while offering your customers reassurance that you’re open and here to stay. Tune Up Your Online Presence If you don't already have a website (or if yours is outdated), now is a great time to create one that represents your small business digitally. Keep operating hours, contact information, shipping or service delays and other critical messaging up to date and accurate. Along with posting updates about your business, your strategy may include ways for customers to make purchases online or over the phone. Think outside the box to discover what services or work products you can sell online. For example, a home repair company may consider providing “how-to” videos or guides to help people DIY. If it makes sense, allow customers to purchase gift cards for future services. Event planners can provide virtual tours and meetings to plan future events. If you haven't already, consider moving all purchasing and invoice paperwork, customer reports, and other paper management systems to a digital platform you can access remotely. Mobile invoicing solutions not only streamline your business to save you time and money, but allow you to better function and operate remotely. Remember, business will pick up again once this is over. All of these strategies can help you stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds, once they are able and ready to purchase. Set Your Company's Tone Setting the tone for your brand is just as important as having a modified marketing plan - and both go hand in hand. When talking about COVID-19, it's recommended you focus on facts and continuing developments that are relevant to your company, and within your control. Keeping an appropriate and calm tone that reflects your customers' needs will help humanize your brand and deepen connections with your consumers and followers. Model your tone for other employees and stay consistent in communication with both employees and clients. Seek Out Assistance You are not alone. Many businesses are fighting to stay open. Forbes estimates that 30 million small businesses are struggling all over the U.S. Fortunately, resources are offering financial support during this temporary period. What Resources are Available for Small Businesses? From loans to relief funds to grant programs, there are many resources available to small businesses right now. While some resources assist businesses in their direct communities, such as Amazon's fund to support Seattle businesses, other similar funds are available nationwide. GoFundMe's Small Business Relief Initiative is just one example. The U.S. Small Business Administration is also offering disaster assistance and providing low-interest rate loans to small business owners who need financial support for staffing, health insurance and more. Be sure to research additional fund programs in your home state and city. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Response Toolkit The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled a coronavirus response toolkit with information and links to emergency loan applications, sample graphics to use on your social media pages, and sample messaging for workplace best practices. The toolkit also provides information about state and local government policies, as well as a digital form that helps you create a custom flyer for your small business. How to Keep Your Business Running Day-to-Day Even if you're no longer able to offer your full range of services, there are steps you can still take to keep your small business active and operational. Your plan will need to be personalized based on your company's size, structure, the products and services you offer, and whether your business is deemed essential by your state's government. Here's our advice for running your business during a pandemic. Set New COVID-19 Company Policies Along with setting an appropriate tone, you should issue new policies and protocols specific to the coronavirus outbreak, especially for your employees. You should include the steps you're actively taking to mitigate the spread of the virus and follow all local and federal social distancing recommendations. Be clear about work from home policies, sick leave, traveling to and from work, hygiene and sanitation best practices, and any additional measures that may require adjustments. Expand Your Sick-Leave Policy Remember, this is a global pandemic which means your employees might fall ill. Support sick employees who are self-isolating at home or sick in the hospital, by expanding upon your current sick-leave policy. If an employee contracts COVID-19, they will not be able to return to work until they've fully recovered and have been cleared by medical personnel, which is a minimum of 14 days. Some workers may require even more recovery time. If Possible, Work Remotely We know not everyone will be able to take their small business completely online, but if you can do so, now is the time to work remotely. Remote work might mean employees work from home and hold meetings virtually, or it might involve reaching customers online instead of at your physical business location. If your staff is working from home, create a new routine, set clear expectations and check in on their progress and stress levels. Give employees time to adjust and find ways to connect and establish a sense of normalcy. Limit or Eliminate In-Person Meetings and Travel Any required in-person meetings should be done remotely, even if your small business isn't working from home full-time. Set up video conferences in place of any regular in-person meetings to help minimize contact and adhere to guidelines set by the CDC. Almost all industry conventions and other work-related events have been canceled or postponed at this time, but if you do need to travel, be prepared with sanitation supplies and any necessary gear to stay hygienic and safe while traveling. Be Flexible with Your Employees A key theme here is to remember why we're all here in the first place. Be flexible and understanding of the individual situations your employees are facing at this time, especially with employees who are considered high-risk or who are caring for someone at home who is high-risk. Reevaluate any policies for individuals who may require special accommodations. Make Long-Term Plans COVID-19 is an ongoing situation that's currently without a definite end date. Though we may experience times in the future where social distancing guidelines are relaxed, we'll likely see new waves of cases throughout the year. Take this time not only to create a short-term plan but also to get procedures ready for quick shelter-in-place orders at a moment's notice. What If You Can't Operate Remotely? Remote work will not be an option for every small business. For essential businesses, many companies are still providing services face to face or in-home. Take these steps to protect both employees and customers and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19. Sanitize Your Workspace Frequently Stay updated on workplace sanitation guidelines released by the CDC and know how often items need to be wiped down and cleaned. Sanitize frequent-touch items, like door handles, tablets, registers, computers, and counters throughout the day, and well as employee break rooms and offices. Promote Positive Hygiene Protocols Again, along with having a business management plan for sanitation, you should provide multiple stations for self-sanitizing. Create cleaning protocols, wear gloves and masks when necessary, limit patrons inside your building, and create floor markers to mark appropriate spacing, six feet apart. Set up visual reminders for increased hand-washing to improve the hygiene habits of your employees and customers, while also making everyone who interacts with your small business feel safer. If you're a home contractor, advertise and practice any sanitation changes you've implemented to keep customers safe while you work in their home. Proper hygiene and sanitation routines will play a critical role in your ability to keep your small business running. Check with your state and local guidelines for recommendations about providing gloves and masks for employees, and whether customers are required to wear a non-medical mask. Encourage Employees to Stay Home If Sick Because coronavirus spreads from person to person, it is crucial for employees who feel sick to stay at home and self-quarantine until they are symptom-free and able to determine that they do not have COVID-19. This is tricky because of the high volume of asymptomatic carriers with this particular virus. If you have multiple office locations, consider keeping people separate to avoid your staff from all getting infected at a central location. Make sure employees know it’s safe to stay home and don’t feel pressured to work while ill. Have a Backup Plan When Employees are Out Your COVID-19 business plan should account for time employees may be out sick. Create a list of your employees who can cover shifts beyond their typical work schedule. Establish a clear communication line to reach those staff members who would need to come in and cover for the person who is out. If the backup staff member is working a different shift for the first time, or taking on new duties, be prepared with instructions and expectations for that person to jump in and help. Start cross-training employees in different roles now in anticipation of sick time. If an employee feels okay but can't work because of a doctor-ordered self-quarantine, consider ways to allow this person to work remotely. Connect Daily and Offer Positive Reassurance As a manager, you should actively check in with your employees to get the latest updates about their circumstances, as well as physical and mental health. Your staff should feel comfortable reaching out to you. Make employees feel reassured during this stressful time. Offer support, thank employees daily, and remind them of why their work is valued and important. While this is an unprecedented time with policies and guidelines that are rapidly and constantly changing, remind yourself that this is temporary. It can feel overwhelming, but it's essential to stay positive for yourself, your employees, and your customers because your attitude and outlook will affect others who work directly with you. How InvoiceASAP Keeps Your Business Going As a small business owner, this global health crisis could be one of the toughest, most challenging obstacles your company faces during this lifetime. How you prepare now can impact your transition with employees and customers during periodic times of lockdowns, and even once this is over. Right now is the ideal time to get your technology in order and focus on the small details that have been holding your business back. From inefficient accounting and billing systems to lacking overall customer management, implementing a single solution can help streamline the critical functions of your business while saving you money. InvoiceASAP offers a multi-platform app and dashboard to help you easily manage invoicing, accounting, estimates, payments, sales, customers and more. Here’s how it works. Real-Time Business Insights Online reporting helps you know exactly how your business is doing at all times. Get daily, weekly, and monthly reports to forecast expenses and inform better business decisions. Types of Online Reports Available Invoice ReportsPayment ReportsCustomer ReportsUser ReportsSales ReportsItem ReportsProfitability ReportsJobs/Location ReportsTax Reports Automated Accounting and Finance Records Unlike most invoicing platforms, InvoiceASAP is designed to fully integrate with QuickBooks Desktop. No need to start over or retrain employees on new accounting software. Just integrate your existing data for seamless processing and accounts management. Save time and money with a view of all paid and unpaid invoices and customer management summaries. Easy Online and In-Person Business Transactions Many of our clients work in the field and need access to clean and simple estimation and invoicing creation-software. You can easily create a professional-looking invoice, attach photos, and capture customer signatures. You get paid faster by accepting credit cards and allowing customers to pay in-person from your phone or tablet. Integrate all this data with your accounting software for clean and seamless day-to-day operations. Online Training Tools Take advantage of this time to dig deep into platform functionality and ensure employees are fully versed in best practices. Review our resource library and get help integrating your current systems with InvoiceASAP’s platform. Future-Proof Your Small Business With InvoiceASAP As you create COVID-19 company policies, business backup plans, and online marketing strategies, remember to reevaluate inefficiencies and get your invoicing and accounting technology up to speed. Save money, make employees’ lives easier, and attract customers with streamlined technology built for small businesses. Find out how InvoiceASAP can help you manage your business during stressful times. Sign up to create a free account today!
With the spread of COVID-19, many small businesses are taking a hit, making cash flow harder to come by. If you have a small business, your company is likely being impacted by it and you may be worried what would happen if your company was to run out of money. This is the reality a lot of businesses are facing, so what you do with your money can be the difference in keeping your company going and running out of money. Whether you are dealing with the impact of COVID-19, or dealing with a cash flow crisis due to another event, there are steps you can take to get you through. Here are some steps that any entrepreneur should consider ahead of a cash flow crisis: Plan it outConsider Accounts Receivable and PayablesCut CostsSell EquityMake More Money!Sign Up for InvoiceASAP Make a Plan! Being prepared with a plan of action will mean you will have a better chance of survival and will be able to act strategically when the clock is ticking. Create a cash flow projection and develop a plan based on this. This will give you a clear view of when the money is coming in, going out and help you to anticipate any pitfalls in the months ahead. In your plan you should devise useful strategies for increasing cash flow and paying off debt. If you want to secure a loan, you’ll also need to share a document like this with your lender and provide them with a financial forecast, proving your ability to make loan repayments– another good reason to create this plan. Look At Your Accounts Receivable and Payables Before you start cutting costs, chase up the money that is owed and find ways to speed up the payment cycle. Here are some options to consider: Send invoices out quickerOffer customers more payment options such as credit card so you get paid fasterIf you or your team are on the road a lot, consider a mobile invoicing solution.Look into reducing your payment terms to 30 days or lessOffer incentives to customers who pay quickerCharge fees to late payers (this should always be agreed with clients in advance of carrying out the work)Request a down payment upfront or agree a payment plan with your client On the accounts payable side of things, try renegotiating contracts with vendors and lenders. Seek extensions on the timeframe of your payments – do this before payments become an issue. Cut Non-Essential Costs If you are low on cash, the last thing you want to do is pay for things you don’t need. A cash flow crisis usually involves cutting costs, but make sure you do this carefully. Star by cutting things that are considered non-essential. Do an audit across your company to see where the money is going, what is good to have, and what can be scrapped. Sometimes, cutting costs means pay cuts. If you have to cut pay, don’t start with the lowest employees. Instead, begin at the top of the ladder. This will show good leadership and loyalty to your employees. Pay cuts to your staff should be the last item on your list. If layoffs are really necessary, consider reducing full-time employees to temporary, part-time or freelance positions first. However, do bear in mind part-time and freelance employees will probably need to look for work elsewhere to make up for lost income, so do not take this step unless it is absolutely necessary. There are a ton of savings that could be made whilst also proving to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Consider e-conferences to reduce travel costs, better regulation of your thermostat or switching to more digital business solutions, ditching the paper and printing costs. If your entire team is able to work remotely, you can even save on the cost of having an office. For many companies, this can be a large expense and can save you a lot of money. Sell Company Equity or Assets If you are in need of cash, consider selling part of your business to an investor. This is someone who will take on part-ownership of your company. This can give you some quick cash, but you should be careful who you sell it to and how much of your company you are handing off. The investor you choose will be someone you will be doing business with and may potentially have a say in decisions about your company. Another option is to sell off company assets that you are not using or are no longer needed. If you have equipment, real estate, or cars that are not essential to your business, consider selling them. Get a Quick Cash Flow Going Getting more money is easier said than done, otherwise you wouldn’t need to plan for a cash flow crisis. However, there are some methods you can apply to get a quick cash flow going, but you wouldn't want to make it permanent. It may be necessary in times of crisis to reduce product costs and offer huge discounts in order to attract more customers. This is a short-term solution and you should make it clear to customers that the prices will not remain this low. Liquidating the inventory will temporarily increase the cash flow, but it is important to have a strategy for replenishing the inventory. In the end, profits may be lower, but you will have money coming in. Another quick fix to improve cash flow is last resort borrowing. Cash advances on credit cards are an option, and so is taking cash distribution from an IRA. Both of these actions can have serious consequences if there is no way to pay them back in a timely manner. Cash advances usually incur higher interest rates, and the IRA is only tax-free for 60 days. If times are desperate consider taking loans from family and friends or bringing in new investors. The situation may not be ideal, but most companies have to sacrifice to survive a cash flow crisis. If you are having a cash flow crisis due to being impacted by COVID-19, there are some resources available to help small businesses through this time. Visit our Small Business Guide to Negotiating COVID-19 to learn more about some of these available resources. Let InvoiceASAP Help You Through the Hard Times Small businesses all over the world are being impacted by COVID-19, and this impact is expected to end over 15,000 businesses nationwide. With the right planning for a cash flow crisis, and the right actions taken, your business doesn’t have to be one of them. With InvoiceASAP, we help small businesses plan for the future through online reports, while making it easy to send and pay invoices. Our services easily integrate with Quickbooks and is the only service that integrates with Quickbooks Desktop. Create your free account today to take advantage of our financial services today!
Many businesses don’t realize just how important it is to have an online presence. As of 2020, 97% of search engine users search online to find a local business and 28% of local searches result in a purchase. In this post, I’d like to discuss the four steps that have become mandatory for any business to get online in 2020. I recommend reading the entire post to understand how these steps work together to build your online presence. 1. Get your own domain and custom email address. Photo Credit Email addresses behind your own domain allow your customers to build confidence in your business. Which seems more trustworthy: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? If you’re like most consumers, you will prefer email@example.com. In fact, 77% of customers trust businesses that have their own domain, and 64% of customers have little to no trust in businesses that use free email addresses. That is an absolutely massive percentage of potential business you’re losing if your email comes from Gmail or Yahoo. Getting your own domain is simple. There are many online services that allow you to register a domain. Google Domains offers a quick and easy domain registration and allows you to use Gmail as your email interface.GoDaddyNameCheap Domains are extremely affordable and typically cost between $10 and $20 a year. 2. Get a simple business website. Photo Credit It’s important to have a website that potential customers can use to discover your business and get valuable information about your services. There are a number of services available that make creating a website simple: SquarespaceWeeblyWixWordPress If you already have your own domain (from step 1 above), these services will allow you to use your own domain for your website. If you don’t have your own domain yet, many of these services allow you to register your domain while you are building your website. This can make the process very easy. Your website does not need to be complex; a single page often does the job. While you are making your website, keep in mind that there are a few pieces of data that you must have in order to help your customers: Business Name - Make sure your customers know what business they are looking at and make sure they see it often.Contact information - Having an email address and phone number is critical. Many potential customers will want to ask questions before choosing to hire you or purchase from you.Address - If a customer needs to visit your business, be sure to list your address on your website. According to Search Engine Land, address information is the #1 piece of information sought by local searchers.Explanation of services - Customers often evaluate and compare the services offered by multiple businesses before making their decision.Positive reviews - This piece of information is often overlooked by businesses but is one of the most important. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making reviews one of your most valuable marketing tools. 3. Claim your business on Yelp & Google Photo Credit Claiming your business on Yelp is quick and easy, and 56% of local retailers have not claimed their Google My Business listing. The Boston Consulting Group has found that business owners see an average of $8,000 annual revenue from being on Yelp. That should be the only reason you need to add your business to Yelp. However, if you’re looking for additional reasons, here are a few: You will be found by potential customers who use Yelp to search for local businesses.You might already be on Yelp. Many business listings on Yelp are first created by a reviewer and not the business owner. Claiming your business allows you to control the information that displays.You can add photos of your business and the services or products you offer.You can respond publicly to reviews. If someone leaves an unfounded negative review for your business, you can make sure that future Yelpers understand exactly why that review was unfounded.You will get notified when someone leaves a new review of your business, allowing you to be aware of what information other potential customers can see. 4. List your business on Google Maps and Apple Maps. Photo Credit Much like adding your business to Yelp, adding your business to Google Maps or Apple Maps provides additional visibility. BrightLocal’s recent consumer survey found that the vast majority of consumers search for local businesses online, many performing this search from their phones. Only 44% of businesses have claimed their business listing on Google, which means that claiming your listing can give you a significant advantage over your competition. Follow these links to claim your business on Google and Apple now.
Working out in the field can make teamwork tough. In the absence of face-to-face interaction there’s a lot that can be missed. Thankfully, we live in a world now where mobile and cloud-based technology can help to bridge the gaps in communication and support greater collaboration. In this post we’ll run through a few essential tools that will help managers overcome the physical limitations of mobile working, helping team members feel more connected and productive than ever. 1. Get the right devices If your team is on the go a lot, they’re not going to be particularly productive if all they have to hand is a cell to make calls and a desktop computer sitting back at the office. We’re in the 21st century guys! Technology means that we can bring our office with us, wherever we are. Whether you decide to provide employees with the devices they need or operate a BYOD (bring your own device) kind of deal, make sure that every employee has a device that suits their work pattern – whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, laptop or all of the above. 2. Arm your team with mobile collaboration tools Now having the right device is great but it means nothing if your team in the field can’t access the important work tools and information they need to do their job. It’s important to keep the flow of information transparent so that members of the team know what’s going on at an individual level, at a team level and at a company level. Having a central platform that each member of the team can check into, no matter what device they’re using, will enable employees to collaborate and keep track of tasks and schedules wherever they are. Trello and Yammer are two industry-leading platforms that help to support great project management and team collaboration. For more day-to-day communication with colleagues, also check out Slack and HipChat. 3. Keep your team connected with regular virtual meetings It’s a known fact that with any kind of teamwork, good communication is absolutely key. If your team is remote or regularly working out in the field, you miss out on a lot of the behavioral cues that you get with regular face-to-face interactions. It’s for this reason that you really need to up the ante on communication and make sure crucial information isn’t lost between colleagues because they’re not in the office. It’s often best in these circumstances to over-communicate rather than under-communicate and discover that your team are misinterpreting or missing out on updates. If it’s not easy to bring your team together for regular in-person meetings, there are a ton of tools out there that help to support virtual meetings. Google Hangouts, Appear.in or Skype are a few that support video calls on mobile (as well as web) and can help to inject that feeling of connectedness that’s often lost in your standard voice calls or phone conferences. 4. Speed up your sales with mobile invoicing and payments For mobile teams, paperwork is the worst. It’s messy and it slows things down. And when it comes to invoicing, slowing things down is the last thing you want. If your team in the field are responsible for taking payments from customers, a mobile invoicing and payments app will be central to speeding up your sales cycle and improving your cashflow. InvoiceASAP is a mobile app designed specifically for businesses on the go. You can send and pay invoices and easily access all your customers, products and services in the cloud, wherever you are and with any device. If you already use an accounting platform like QuickBooks or Xero, it syncs your invoices and payments across too. RIP paperwork! Summary Unlike office-based teams, mobile teams have their own unique set of challenges which can make teamwork harder, but not impossible. Managing a mobile team requires a digital toolset that will help to support the team rather than hold it back. By selecting business tools that work across multiple devices, you will ensure that you can cater to the needs of both your field-based employees as well as those back at the office. Photo credit: © gpointstudio
If you’re in competition with bigger companies who are able to offer a greater selection of products or services at lower prices, great customer service may well be your secret sauce. Your customers are at the very core of your business – without them there is no business. It’s therefore in your best interests to keep their best interests front of mind. There are a lot of really simple but effective ways to improve customer service – read on to learn more… 1. Make it easy for customers to contact you If a customer can’t get hold of you when they need to, you could lose them forever. Provide a range of different contact options – from phone to email, social media or Skype – and make sure they always have someone they can reach when they need to. Being flexible to your customer’s needs not only means that you will be able to respond to them quicker, it also shows that you care, and that is what will keep them coming back. 2. Overcompensate for mistakes It’s a fact of life – we all make mistakes. Most are small and easily resolved if gone about the right way. Some are small and can cost you your customer, if gone about the wrong way. In an ideal customer service world, every customer should walk away from a transaction happy. If you or a member of staff makes a mistake, the customer should still walk away satisfied. The ability to swallow one’s pride, resist the urge to act defensive and accept blame or negative feedback is crucial. Many customers want nothing more than to vent their frustrations. Listen patiently and offer sincere apologies. 3. Allow customers to get to know you If you don’t have much face-to-face interaction with your customers, it can be hard not to come across as anonymous. Allow your customers to get to know you by adding more of a human face to your interactions with them. Share staff bios on your website, tell them who made the product that they just bought, include a handwritten note with your delivery or offer to contact them in ways other than just email, such as social media. Not only will customers feel like they’re dealing with real people (rather than a faceless company), it could also minimize any concerns of trust or accessibility. 4. Offer knowledge Offer more than just your product or service – arm customers with knowledge too. Whether it’s explaining how to take the best photograph or telling them about the history behind the antiquated plumbing system they have, if you know a lot about your trade or the products that you sell, use this to your advantage to demonstrate your expertise and help you build stronger relationships with customers. 5. Ask for feedback and follow-up If you’re looking for ways to improve your service, the first place you should turn to for answers should be your customers. Customer feedback will help you to understand what their needs and interests are so that you can better cater to them. Ask customers what is and isn’t working for them – their responses might actually surprise you! What’s more, customers like providing feedback, it lets them know that you care about their experience and are looking for ways to improve it. Put in place a simple process, for example, a personalized follow-up email with a few questions that they might receive after they’ve used your services or received a product. Try to be as personal as possible in your outreach and ensure you acknowledge their response. If the feedback is negative, outline some definitive solutions/actions. And don’t forget – if the customer is willing to complain to you they’ll have no problem complaining to their friends and family who could be potential customers. Photo credit: © Carsthets istockphoto.com
Invoicing correctly isn’t all just about what’s written on the invoice. A large part of getting it right comes down to effective communication and relationship management. Here we run through our top 10 invoicing tips to help you not only get paid faster but also keep those customers coming back! 1. Get a contract First things first, get a contract and get it signed. Starting off on the right foot, with everyone on the same page will go a long way towards setting the tone for the remainder of the project. It’s in both party’s interest to get a contract signed. Without one, you’re at risk of being left in the lurch with no payment and they’re at risk of being overcharged or being left with an incomplete or inadequate end product. Now that’s no fun for anyone! 2. Be really specific Before you provide an estimate, make sure you uncover any unknowns so that you can be as accurate as possible with your figure. Make it really clear on your invoice what you are charging for. For a customer, it can be really frustrating receiving an invoice for which the charges are unclear. 3. If you’re out and about regularly, consider a mobile invoicing solution Getting paid quickly is largely due to getting your invoices out quickly. If you work in the field or you’re on the road a lot, consider a mobile invoicing solution to enable you to send invoices on the go. InvoiceASAP is a great tool that does exactly what it says on the tin. It also allows you to attach voice memos and photos to all your invoices and estimates which is great if you need to show before and after photos or proof of work. 4. Set your own payment terms This includes your invoicing dates and due dates. Take into account that there will, inevitably, be late payers and adjust your payment terms accordingly. Consider charging a percentage of the overall amount upfront, or setting payment milestones so that you get a steady flow of cash whilst carrying out the work. Be clear with your customers about your payment terms. For example, you may require a signature on estimates, and include due dates in every written piece of communication with your customer. 5. Keep communication with your client open, especially if the scope of work creeps Often you start working on a project with a client and realize, after you draw back the curtains, the full scope of the project was greater than anticipated when you initially provided your estimate. If you think you will go over the estimated amount, make sure you communicate this clearly to your client as soon as possible. No one likes being stung with an unexpected hike in price. So, rather than giving them a nasty surprise at the end of the project, or worse, undercharging, be completely open and explain exactly what you’re charging for and why. It is also worth addressing scope creep in the initial contract with a client. Many clients may require a Change Order to be signed which is essentially a secondary contract listing the additional hours, work, products or services required to complete the job. This way you will avoid leaving clients with a sour feeling at the end of a job and maintain a positive relationship with them. 6. Get a secondary contact for your invoices in case the primary contact is on vacation There’s nothing worse than receiving an out-of-office message from a client letting you know that they’re on vacation for the next few weeks, just after you’ve emailed them an invoice. Rather than waiting it out, make sure you have a secondary point of contact who you can call on to get the payment processed. Also, if you can be clear on invoicing dates from the start, you should get the heads up from clients if they will be away during those dates and ask for an additional contact during those periods. 7. Invoice as soon as possible after, or as products and services are supplied The sooner you submit your invoice, the sooner you’ll get paid. Honor your commitments too – if you deliver on time, you’re more likely to get paid on time. 8. Broaden your payment solutions Make it easy for customers to do business with you and they’ll be more likely to come back. By increasing your payment options, your client will not only be happier, you’re also more likely to get paid faster. 9. Keep on top of cash flow, track which invoices have been paid and which haven’t Always be on top of what’s been paid and what’s owed and have a timely system of reminders, monthly statements and phone follow-ups to lessen the risk of running into cash flow problems. 10. Consider using late-payment fees or prompt-payment discounts. If late payment is a common occurrence, consider dishing out penalties to those who don’t stick to your payment terms or offering discounts to those who pay up early. Do make sure this is included in your contract so that they are aware of the implications and so that you have something to refer back to if they take issue with paying a fee. Finally, when it comes to getting paid on time, it may feel like the majority of control is with the client. But by taking the lead, being organized, open and clear you will have more influence over when you’ll get paid. Photo credit: © XiXinXing istockphoto.com