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 Reports Payment Reports Customer Reports User Reports Sales Reports Item Reports Profitability Reports Jobs/Location Reports Tax 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 out Consider Accounts Receivable and Payables Cut Costs Sell Equity Make 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 quicker Offer customers more payment options such as credit card so you get paid faster If 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 less Offer incentives to customers who pay quicker Charge 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!
Tax. Those three letters can send a shiver down the spine of even the most hardened of finance managers. It can be pretty complex. A tax rate can vary depending on where the work is carried out, who the customer is or what product or service you’re providing. But tax doesn’t have to be taxing. Set it up right in your InvoiceASAP account and you can just sit back and focus on bringing in the sales. Here we’ll explain how you can set up and edit tax rates on both the mobile app and the Manage Account website. How to create a new tax rate You can create new tax rates in both the InvoiceASAP mobile app and on the Manage Account Website (www.invoiceasap.com). We’ll guide you through how to do it on each platform. First, head to an existing invoice or create a new one. Then, if you’re using a tablet, or on the Manage Account website, tap on the blue chevron next to the existing tax rate. If you’re on a phone, tap on the ‘Pick’ button on the Tax heading line. This brings up a list of your existing tax rates (if you have any stored). If you need to create a new tax rate, select the Plus (+) icon in the upper right corner. Enter your new tax information and press Save. The new tax rate will then appear in your tax list. Select it and it will then appear on your invoice. How to edit a tax rate You can edit tax rates on both the mobile app and within the Manage Account website. First off, open up the app on your mobile device or login to the Manage Account website (www.invoiceasap.com). If you’re using the mobile app, tap on ‘Manage app’ on the main menu, then hit ‘Tax rates’. If you’re on the website, click on ‘Settings’ in the top right, then scroll down to the ‘Tax rates’ setting and select ‘Edit’ next to it (click on images below to enlarge). Here you’ll see a table listing all your existing tax rates (if you have any saved). In this section you’re able to create, edit and delete tax rates. To edit a tax rate on the mobile app, just tap on the tax rate you want to edit, make the necessary changes, then press ‘Save’. On the Manage Account Website, click on the pencil icon (on the left) in the row where the tax rate you want to change is. Edit the tax information and press ‘Save’. ** ** Note: When editing a tax rate on the Manage Account Website you’ll notice you are also able to select whether a tax is ‘Active’ or not. This setting is useful if you don’t want co-workers to be able to select it on the mobile app but you also don’t want to delete it (for example if you are going to reinstate it in future). How to delete a tax rate If you are using a mobile device, tap on ‘Manage app’ from the main menu, then ‘Tax rates’. You will then see a list of all of your taxes. To delete a tax rate, just swipe left over the one you want to remove and a red ‘Delete’ button will appear. Tap on this and it will be taken off the list. On the Manage Account website, head to the tax rate ‘Edit’ page under ‘Settings’ (where all your tax rates are listed). Then, click on the ‘X’ icon next to the tax rate you want to delete. **Note:** If you delete a tax rate from the Manage Account website, it will still be visible on old invoices that have been paid before you deleted it. You just won’t be able choose it when creating an invoice in future. And that’s it! Now get taxing!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com? If you’re like most consumers, you will prefer firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. GoDaddy NameCheap 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: Squarespace Weebly Wix WordPress 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.
At InvoiceASAP we’re always looking for new ways to make invoicing work better for our customers. From photography to maintenance — if you work in any industry that requires you to show proof of work, sometimes you need more than just a regular ol’ invoice. It’s for this reason that our customers rave most about our photo and audio features for invoices and estimates. Add before and after shots to evidence the hard work you’ve done, or record a brief voice memo to let customers know any extra details about what you’re sending over. Pretty handy, especially if you’re not stationed at a computer most of the day. How to add photos and voice memos - super easy! Once you’ve entered all the details for your invoice or estimate, hit ‘Save’ and you’ll be presented with a view of the saved document. Scroll down to the bottom of this screen and click on the camera or microphone icon. You can then select your photo or start recording a voice memo If you want to add photos and voice memos to invoices that have already been saved, head to ‘Invoice list’ or ‘Estimate list’ within the app, select the document you want to add the files to, scroll to the bottom of the document and you’ll see the microphone and camera icons.
About the Author Anne Maxwell is COO at InvoiceASAP. The end of the year and beginning of a new year is a great time for assessing your business and setting goals for the future. Here are 5 resolutions that can help you grow your business in 2018. Resolution 1: Expand Your Social Media Presence Photo Credit Social media is a great way to market and promote your business for free. But which social media platform should you spend your time on? The answer to this question depends on 2 things: The type of business you have Where your customers spend their social media time Instagram or Pinterest are great choices if your business has a visual element to it, like food, flower arrangement, event planning, design, photography, or landscaping. Even companies like roofing, plumbing, window replacement, and garage doors can show the quality of their work visually. Post beautiful pictures that highlight the work you do. Twitter is a good choice for social media when: You have a technology or information based business You sell a product or service You’re just better with words Although you can attach photos to a tweet to give it visual appeal, at its core, Twitter is about what’s said, not what’s seen. Consider Facebook or LinkedIn if you want to build a community. Facebook is great for creating business-to-consumer relationships LinkedIn is great for business-to-business relationships Resolution 2: Get Productive! No matter how much we may want it, we’re not getting any more hours in the day. So we need to find ways to become more productive with the time we have. Here are some quick ways to get productive fast: Become friends with Siri, Bixby or OK Google. Learn how you can quickly accomplish tasks by talking to your phone, rather than typing on it. Use the microphone on your phone’s keyboard to dictate to your phone, rather than typing text. It’s much easier and quicker to speak a reply to a text or email than to type it. You can use simple punctuation commands like “period,” “question mark,” “new line,” or “paragraph” to format your message correctly. There are tons of apps that can help with productivity. Take some time to find the apps that work for your business. Here are some examples: Apps to schedule your social media posts, like HootSuite or Buffer Apps to take notes, like Any.Do, Evernote, or OneNote Apps to make lists, like Wunderlist or Todoist Apps to manage your email accounts, like Notion, Newton or Edison Mail Apps to handle routine tasks on your mobile device, like Automate or IFTTT (If This Then That) Apps to master project management, like Trello, BaseCamp or DropTask Apps to communicate effectively with your team, like Slack, WhatsApp or Stride Apps to help you stay focused on a task, like Forest, FocusList or Momentum Apps to easily digitize documents, like Genius Scan or Scanbot If you are you still uncomfortable using mobile apps, try Pen and Paper, which lets you hand-write notes or draw images. And there are many other apps, like time tracking, expense tracking, and (of course) mobile invoicing. Resolution 3: Use Your Email Signature Take advantage of an automated email signature to feature a product, offer a discount, or provide your customer with valuable information about your business or upcoming changes. This is a simple but extremely effective way to communicate with your customers. And remember to keep your message fresh. Make sure you change the message at least once every quarter. Resolution 4: Don’t Just Look Forward, Look Back as Well When you are planning your new year, it’s easy to simply keep looking forward. But there is a lot of value in looking back. If you’re a new business, the natural ebb and flow of a business cycle may not be evident. But if you’ve been in business for a few years, you can benefit from looking at the past years to identify slow or busy cycles. For the new year, you want to consider at least 2 areas: How can you more efficiently manage your busy times? How can you increase business during your slow times? Answering these 2 simple questions will help you be more productive in 2018. Resolution 5: Sharing is Caring Okay, I know this is a trite saying. But hear me out. One of your biggest assets are your employees and team members. They represent you and your business. Here are some simple ways to keep them engaged in their jobs: Monthly staff meetings. Update your employees on upcoming projects, successful projects or lost contracts. What was good? What could be improved? Listen to your employees. Use staff meetings to answer questions and listen to your employees. Maybe they have good ideas, and maybe they don’t. But most people appreciate being heard. Celebrate employees’ birthdays and/or work anniversaries. It doesn’t take much to pass a card around and get the others to sign it. Your employees will appreciate that you remembered them. In-office celebrations for holidays, like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July, etc. These don’t have to be elaborate, expensive or time-consuming. A box of donuts in the morning or cupcakes in the afternoon is all it takes. If your employee feels like he or she is appreciated, feels like his or her opinion matters, feels like he or she makes a difference in your business, you’ll have lower attrition, higher employee satisfaction, and that employee will not only go the extra mile for you when you need it, but will represent your company well both on and off the job. Planning for 2018 Growing a business can be hard. It’s easy to say work smarter, not harder. These 5 resolutions can help you do that.