Received this Christmas card email today:
If that's not a Merry announcement of double super service, I wouldn't know what is!
Merry Christmas to you too - kashflow and thanks for putting the ease back into bookkeeping.
Received this Christmas card email today:
If that's not a Merry announcement of double super service, I wouldn't know what is!
Merry Christmas to you too - kashflow and thanks for putting the ease back into bookkeeping.
Running a small business means, among other things, having to keep the books. Having a "business pondering" blog means writing about relevant programs which, often, make live for small business owners easier/simpler, especially bookkeeping/accounting software.
Writing about software means attracting request from various software programs.
This morning I received the following email:
I am contacting you from Intuit UK regarding a link suggestion for your website.
Intuit UK is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small organisations and their advisors including accountants and bookkeepers. The flagship product is QuickBooks, the accounting software designed to help small businesses succeed through taking the worry out of managing business finances. Having analysed your website’s content, we think that a link to QuickBooks would be very relevant and useful to your visitors.
Therefore we would greatly appreciate you placing a link to us from your http://www.thekissbusiness.co.uk page. Should you choose to link to us, our homepage URL is: (*)
Please let me know if you would like some further information regarding linking to QuickBooks and for more information about Intuit UK, please visit (*)
Look forward to hearing from you soon,
Thanks and best regards,
(name removed by me)
Sorry, not a fan of Quickbooks and therefore it would not be fare to my readers.
(Plus most often if others ask for links from my site to a program/company they offer a "reward" or link love. Can't see anything you're offering - and that for a large business)
Intuit is "rolling" out a SaaS version of Quickbooks - a beta version you have to pay for for the pleasure of helping them out finding the bugs (Duane Jackson of Kashflow had a field day with this and so did Dennis Howlet)
Next up is Sage, banning Duane from the GEW party - read all about it on Duane's and Dennis' blogs)
Imagine my chuckle when my comment on Duane' post about the ban turned into this tweeter question by him:
How's that for proper analysing someones website - asking the competition to give out links?
Are the "big" software companies feeling the pressure of being overtaken by other - better, simper, cheaper, better value for money - software companies that they resort to shooting themselves in the foot? Not once, but continuously this week (which is Global Entrepreneurship Week for that matter ;-))
(* = links to the software and business home page removed - of course!)
ScreenSteps.Me is the latest addition to the multitude of ways ScreenSteps Desktop gives you to publish your articles/lessons.
This "lesson" - made in ScreenSteps of course - will show you how you can use it when you have an Octane HQ account to add a new step in a follow up series (email) or a new email campaign broadcast.
Utilise all the features SSD gives you, from image capturing (great tool!) to formatting, to write your message. In this particular example I'd already written a blogpost for our FAQ & News site, announcing drastic discounts on our two most popular floors which I wanted to turn into an extra newsletter for all our newsletter subscribers.
when you're article is finished, click the Share Button and select ScreenSteps.Me. After it has uploaded your article/lesson to your ScreenSteps.Me account (free) select Visit.
Open the document you want to (re)use in Octane HQ and check if everything looks and feels ok.
Name your new campaign and go the "write your email" step
In notepad I have my standard email template I use for these type of (short) messages and this template is copied in Source
I then have to reshuffle the article title to where I always place the headline of the message
But that's really all I have to edit, the rest is copied and pasted, including the images used, into the email marketing message.
Select your contact group you want to email it to, set the time to broadcast it and job done!
Simple - and effective.
ScreenSteps Desktop keeps getting better and better!
Saturday 30 October I drove home at the normal time of 5pm - in clear day light. Two days later, Monday 1 November, at the exact same time of 5pm, the drive home was in darkness.
I hate this abrupt change!
Yes, I know, the seasons change and going into the Winter there will be fewer and fewer hours of day light until the end of December where nature will pause a few days and then slowly, very slowly in the beginning, we'll have more light.
But having to adopt so suddenly in one day time instead of gradually getting used to the darkness is not natural. It's too abrupt, especially when the rush hour in most towns and villages start around 5pm and over one weekend this rush hour lands from day light into complete darkness.
All because we're switching from British Summertime back to GMT in the last weekend of October. Last Saturday Andrew Ellson (Personal Finance Editor) made some valuable points in The Times why "ditching the GMT" is an economical good decision:
Others have already indicated that not switching back to GMT will mean longer and safer training periods for youngsters in the various sports. Over three hundred sporting organisations including the FA and Lawn Tennis Association are very much in favour of keeping the BST, it would increase participation and therefore cut obesity.
And of course for shoppers it will mean lighter and longer midday shopping - welcomed by retailers, bistros, bars, pubs etc.
"Up to 80,000 new jobs could be created in the tourist industry, as longer evenings would extend the tourist season and allow attractions to stay open for longer in the year."
There's a Private Member's Bill (by Rebecca Harris - Con) working its way through Parliament that, if passed, would mean the clocks stay unchanged next winter.
This Bill is due for its second reading on 3 December.
If you support the idea, write to your local MP to demand he or she supports the legislation. They should!
According to Andrew Ellson, they - politicians - won't get many easier opportunities to put some money in their constituents' pockets.
(The MP for Ashford is Damian Green - Con and you can reach him through email@example.com or leave a message through his Ashford page).
Two articles in this Saturday's Times caught my eye:
Yolande Barnes lamenting on "Britain will be a nation of graduate students"
and ex-student Jodi searching for advice to reduce student debt so she could rent a property on her own instead of sharing with 3 friends, in Money's MoT.
(Sorry I can't link to the two actual articles online - you'll have to pay The Times for the pleasure nowadays - I did, I bought the paper version)
Since the 60's these two goals seem to be the have all for all the classes, gone are the days that only the elite could afford further study and buying bricks and mortar.
Makes you wonder what's so elite nowadays of having crippling student debts?
Mrs Barnes (head of residential research at Savills) laments about the next generation of students having to find rental properties en mass because repaying the loan for being a students will prevent them from saving for a deposit for a home.
"It means that as much as a fith of thier gross income will be taken up with savins adn debt repayment. Inconveniently, our erstwhile student will also need shelter, food, clothing and all the other neccesities of life during this time, With no equity to buy a house, they will need to rent. And they will need to do this for a good deal linger tahn we did in orevious generations."
She even "fears" that those whom finally buy a house at he age of 40 will be there for a long time and not, as was usual before, just for a few years and then to move up on the "ladder".
"This means an end to the stepping-stone game and a flight to quality. It puts added presure on the value of family homes in good locationsm which are already the most resilient properties in the market."
In my opinion getting on to this first rang of this holy grail is/will only possible for hose "poor sods" whom took/take a different approach to gaining knowledge and money: training on the job. With this I don't mean applying for an apprenticeship as part of day-time education.
I followed the same path of training on the job:
after leaving secondary school at the age of 18 I went to "college" to train/study as primary school teacher, to quickly realise that was absolutely not my forte! So after that first year of experiencing what it is to be a student - with a government subsidy, to be paid back interest free 2 years after, if I had sufficient means of income and where the repayment was spread of 10 years.
After leaving the college I didn't know what I really wanted to do, becoming a journalist was still high on my wish-list of favourite careers. The first visit to a recruitment agency landed my an admin job at a local factory (producing pure alcohol) where the ins and outs of bookkeeping were revealed to me. I thought I would give it a year to find out what I really wanted, adding a part-time reporters job at the local paper to my career path. In the end I stayed at the factory for 19 years and had completely forgotten about becoming a full time journalist, writing only stories and articles for my own pleasure or local magazines.
During those years I climbed the ranks of office jobs, started as junior clerk on a minimum wage, ended up as assistant logistic manager and had a few years of assistant bookkeeper, sales, it and quality control thrown in for good measure. All in all I studied (at home, in the evenings - weekends) for 3 highly valuable certificates. The last one, MBA - Modern Business Administration, not the Masters thingy - was the most valuable and took me 3 years in total. All the while earning money, having an ever increasing wage packet, an employer paying for the course - on the condition that if I left the company within 2 years of finishing the course I had to repay the costs, plus early on in my employment the ability to get on to the first rang of the property ladder.
Now I have to admit that buying bricks and mortar in The Netherlands - where then over 70% of the population lives in rental accommodation - made good sense the minute you earned more and the "burden" of income tax grew. The interest paid on your mortgage was deductible from your income, lowering your tax band.
On the other hand, many live in rental accommodations all their life and quite happily so. My parents lived for over 20 years in the same house, decorating it to their own wishes/style. There are various housing associations, from council to private sector, building whole estates with decent and well-sought after houses to fulfill to demand in rental properties, It's part of growing up - at least it was for me and my generation - to leave your family home (rented) to go to your own (rented) flat/appartment and clime the (rented) property market over the years like your own parents did.
Why have the burden of a mortgage if you have the benefit of renting a decent house on a long term contract in the neighbourhood you like/want to live? The long term contract gives you the pleasure of making it truly "your home".
Fact in point however is the principle I think still makes good common sense: why burden the next generation with crippling debt because of this holy grail that everyone, no matter from which background, should have the experience of being a student. Does the majority of 17 - 18 years old even know where their talents lay, what job, occupation would suit them best? Why then are they forced to decide on that age for which subject to take at a college or university?
I could have it absolutely wrong of course, only living in the UK for the last 10 years in only private rental accommodation, but it seems such a wast of precious time for "students" working up a debt before they start earning a living and then having to put their life on hold to pay of their student debt. And then some still "dare" to say that with an University or college degree you earn more quicker?
Take Jodi, the ex-student in this weekend's Money MoT: 27 year young, a decent wage of £ 19.000 but still miserable in debt, a debt that started as a student and spiraled out of control to a staggering £ 24.000 at the moment. Tired of her "student"life-style, renting a house together with 3 friends. Her goal: pay her way out of debt, renting a property of her own and taking driving lessons. She studied journalism, film and broadcasting at Cardiff University, her job now is pastoral manager n a West Sussex School. Where's the benefit, gain of her years of studying at the university?
Say she left secondary school at the age of 17 - 10 years down the road she still lives "as a student", has no savings to speak of, can't afford to take driving lessons and is faced with a very poor credit rating due to all her debts accumulated since starting the holy grail of University.
Say her neighbour left school at the same time, but started working in an office, starting at the bottom. Not very exciting, but earning a living from day one and "learning" valuable skills on/in the job. Her boss sees her as a valuable asset, worth investing in and pays for her training courses that will benefit both. After 10 years she's earning more (perhaps even more than £ 19.000), and in the knowledge that she would be welcomed by many more companies valuing her experience and business-focused certificates. She might not yet stepped on the first or second rang of the property ladder, suppose she's renting a very nice house. This would make her very flexible in moving to another part of town, county or even country - to go there where she could be paid even more.
All that in the same 10 years.
Isn't it time to forsake the two holy grails and for secondary school leavers to become their own "master" from the start. Not being crippled by debt for a study that might not even suit the economy, not being tight down by "brick and mortar" that can loose "value" without any influence of your own.
The modern economy is asking ( screaming?) for youngsters whom are flexible. Flexible in knowledge, skills and with an affinity for training/studying those subjects that will benefit both them as their employer. Flexible to move where ever their skills, experience is needed/valued most - any rang on the property ladder will never make you flexible.
Modern economy is asking (screaming?) for decent homes for long term contract tenancy - the government should focus on development of private sector rental estate, giving in the hands of associations (be it council run or private sector). There's where the money will be: "build-to-let"
Since we switched from Aweber and Mamut CRM to Octane - which does our both email and follow-up marketing - I receive an email every morning telling me which follow-up letters to print, which prospects to custom email or to call in regards of an outstanding quotation. An online program as "task-master" where ever you are (and have internet/email access of course).
I'm also used to receiving emails from my accountant on what to do next on the business, I hope your's does this too. But now even my accounting program is emailing me!
In an earlier post I explained why our existing accounting and -ecommerce desktop software needed replacement. The new Ecwid e-commerce widget was quickly found and doing what it is supposed to be doing: easy navigation for our online shoppers with a simple and straight forward check-out process (offering various payment options too).
Next up was the accounting part. The search concentrated on UK based SaaS (Software as a Service) software, eliminating waiting time on support tickets if and when needed (5 - 8 hours time difference between UK and USA is half a days work missed - been there, waited that long). Having some experience with Liberty accounting I discarded that program - not flexible enough for my standard/methods of bookkeeping, project management and financial reporting (yes, we are a small company but facts and figures does help you to know where you stand and where you want to go, so rather important).
Had a look at Clearbooks but like Liberty it has a fixed fee for limit on transactions then additional costs when you go over your "llimit", which IMHO restricts effective bookkeeping in service of financial management. So I in the end I selected Kashflow (found this program through a tweet from Duane Jackson, Kashflow's founder, when I tweeted about Clearbooks - now that's a clever and effective use of twitter).
Liked what I saw and read, specially the API link between Paypal and the online software, plus one fixed fee per month for everyone with no nonsense about limiting the number of transactions. Free trial available for 2 months - which I took. After only 1 week I decided to open an account - free trial continues, I won't be billed until this period has finished.
Kashflow comes with many (simple) features which in many cases are real benefits for those, like me, who consider bookkeeping an essential and important part of running your business in such a way that working in the business becomes working on the business.
Customer details included the source this contact came from (with the additional "feature" of setting a cost per source - enabling you to finally discover which 50% of marketing expenditure works (sure you all know the famous quote about knowing 50% or your marketing budget works, but you don't know which 50%), reports of income per month or any period you want to see, per source, drilling down to client level.
(Side-note: I have one little problem with these on screen pie-chart reports: selecting invoice issued or invoices paid gives a rather different result, one reports ex VAT, the other including VAT; just a matter of adjusting the way you "think" about "income" I guess.)
Like the first ever bookkeeping program I selected when we first arrived in the UK (there is a slight difference in Dutch or English bookkeeping methods, won't go into that here) MYOB, Kashflow trusts its users to know what they are doing and allows editing of bookings unlike other - big name - software programs. When MYOB was taken over by Mamut we added the accounting package to the Mamut CRM - only to discover that now some beneficial items of the CRM program no longer worked. The only solutions was to upgrade again to an even higher package (Enterprice 3) to resolve this problem. Strange but true.
Mamut accounting did not have the option of editing any of the bookings which meant credit notes, correction journals etc. Finally with the last upgrade this was sorted: only it seemed Mamut is so afraid business owners do not know what they are doing that every time you want to correct/edit a booking (only very limited corrections also) you had to enter your user name and password again, even when you - like me - are the only administrator in the program. For every single correction!
Come on Mamut - we're no naughty kids, we are business owners!
Anyway, those days are now gone and I'm quite happy with the Kashflow online software. When the trial period is over we'll be paying £ 14.99 ex VAT per month, plus £8.45 per month for the Paypal imports. There is a second option for Papal, importing income and outcome once a week for £2.99 a month but I decided to compare "costs" versus time to be spent on adding known data - already online - to another program manually.
Since the switch from Mamut ecommerce to Ecwid ecommerce there has been a significant increase in online orders being paid through Paypal express or normal Paypal checkout. More orders also mean more often booking the courier (also online, great company) which we pay by Paypal. All sales, purchase and transfer details are collected by Kashflow once every hour through the Paypal API, creating new customers or suppliers where needed and adding the invoice, purchase order to the contacts. IMHO this saves me more in time than the £ 8.45 represents.
Of course, there are - as with every program - minor issues. Already some of my questions/querries, suggestions submitted through the excellent and quick to respond support desk (who seem to work during the evenings and weekends!) have been added to the to-do-list of the development team. Could be that I have a different way of looking at bookkeeping than others, but nice to know Kashflow appreciates involvement of their clients.
One of the issues I have are the product codes: at the moment I have to create a product code in both the "Sales-Type (as Kashflow renamed the nominal accounts group for turnover) as well as to the "Outgoing Types" (as Kashflow renamed the nominal code groups for costs of sales and expenditures).
Why not one product code tab which has a sales type and an outgoing type as default value? I'm adding the code products now as and when needed.
Repeat purchases are easily created, which is a great time saver, only not for those suppliers who bill you in different currency than GBP
Repeat invoices and bank transactions can also be created, only not repeat journals. You can create journal templates though, so perhaps turning the templates into repeat journals once o month, quarter etc will be possible in the near future too. I hope so.
The software works so effective the "books" are now up to date every day, more and more purchases are added to the automated repeat purchase list, so next month I'll have even fewer items to book. And the normal financial management reports I create every 3 months for myself and my team, including our accountant, are already "in there" with one click of a button.
So top marks and the Kiss Award for Kashflow, makes running your business easier with in-depth instant details on how you're doing. And of course sending me early morning emails telling me which suppliers need paying and which clients should pay us today.
(Side-note on Mamut: I've now been told that because we're not renewing the annual service agreement fee I will loose access to the desktop software program the minute the existing agreement ends. A desktop program - not online "hire" of server space. When I argued I'd paid for the actual program itself and the service agreement is for updates and support all I hear is: it is mentioned in the licence agreement. Well, the person who sold me the first ever Mamut product (CRM & Sales) never told me that.
So, be warned if your business needs a more complex Enterprise Solution - check you don't end up with only the exported bits and bytes of all your historical data when you cancel the service agreement of a desktop program!)
Like yours, my inbox frequently receives marketing messages from plenty of businesses; some are expected and welcomed, plenty are really just spam, others come from businesses you dealt with one time or the other and some have the audacity to state the email I receive is within the anti-spam regulation and all I have to do is opt-out. If you know me a little bit you know how I despise this opt-out practise, there is no way in the world a practise like that can ever create a happy new client.
Then there's that other bug-bear of mine: email marketing messages you can't seem to get rid off. Why do some businesses make it so hard for their prospects/clients to unsubscribe? What's the use/benefit of that? I know nobody wants to see their email list decrease in numbers, but making it almost impossible to stop further emails coming in feels like the ultimate begging: please, please don't leave me!
Beginning last week I received an marketing email from BT (British Telecom) about the benefits of returning to them as client. Since for the last four years we're very satisfied with the tariff and service we receive from Your Connection whom take care of all our business phone lines (except mobile phones, which are taken care of by Digital World Direct, also providing us ongoing great service) I saw or see no need to switch back to BT. So I went in search of the unsubscribe link and finally found it in the small print almost at the bottom of the email. To my amazement the link brought me to a BT web page that stated the following:
"We will deal with you request to unsubscribe from our marketing list as soon as possible. In the meantime you might receive further emails from us."
Begging your pardon? Deal with my request as soon as possible? BT? Whom took over 3 weeks to connect our new home phone, doing something as simple as removing my email address from their list as soon as possible? Where the simplest - free - email marketing systems have the ability to do this automated the minute a subscriber clicks the unsubscribe link, why on earth does it take a company, who fames itself for quick and easy communication, so long I can receive further emails I don't want anyway?
True to their word on Friday another BT marketing message arrived in my inbox - grrrrr!
Found the unsubscribe link again, to discover this time I'd landed on quite a different web page where it's hard to make out where and how you can be removed from their list. It took selecting one out of two options, which brought up two new links to select between and finally two new options to let BT know for once and for all I do no longer want to receive their messages - I had to reread the sentence twice to make sure I had finally arrived on the correct option to unsubscribe. The sentence even included the wording: we do not like to see you go - no, that's why they make it so difficult to leave no doubt!
This whole episode of trying to escape from marketing messages you don't want any longer, reminds me of the lyrics from "Hotel California" by The Eagles:
So I'm now wondering when the next BT marketing email will arrive.
With more and more people entering financial difficulties, IVA advice can help those unfortunate who are borrowing more and more and whose finances are spiralling out of control.
Website cleardebt.co.uk have a fantastic debt analyser service, which is quick and easier to use and will guide you towards a better financial future.
Cleardebt can help reduce debts by over 70% in some instances, so are more than likely able to assist you or a business in difficult circumstances.
In 2005 we found our showroom very close by home in the lovely village of Charing - 150 meters from our home. Before this, the first two years, we had been trying to run our "retail" business from that homely location - not something I would recommend.
Living so close to the "work-place" come with its own perks: no commuting, no parking problems and simply crossing the road to open the shop door when needed - even after or before official opening hours. And that's what happened - in the end I "worked" 6 days per week in the shop.
That 6th day happened kind of by accident: on a Saturday we received a phone call from people in London: would we be open the next day? Since we hadn't planned anything for Sunday we said: yes, by all means drop by. As chance would have it, after this couple had left, another car parked in front of the shop and came into the shop looking for wooden floors - their only intention had been to see where we were located, but since the shop doors stood open they simply ventured in there and then.
And I'm sure you know how occasionally becomes more frequently, becomes the standard. The last three years we were open on Sunday afternoon as standard. More often than not no one visited on those afternoons, but I'd found myself plenty of tasks to do - as you do.
Until end of April this year the 3 men strong committee of trusties of the School House we had been living in since early 2002, brought us the message that the house - due to several reasons, Offsted regulations and lack of major maintenance the largest ones - would be demolished during summer and we were gracefully given 2.5 months to find another home for ourselves.
Having to say goodbye to the lovely, drafty and starting to leak, house we'd called homes for the last 8 years brought some stress with it, also because we knew there's a lot of competition out there at the moment to try and rent a home (getting on the property ladder is becoming more and more difficult for many which brings more demand than supply in rental properties).
Fortunately within a month of being told to move out we'd found another lovely home - although outside Charing this time. Where and how we found this house - that received a total of 5 applications from hopeful future tenants - would take a whole post on its own. Suffice to say we used proper marketing tactics to become more desirable tenants than others.
So for the last three months I've been "commuting" the 8 miles between home and work every morning and afternoon - on its own a very lovely drive through Kent's county roads (A roads nonetheless). Work is now too far away to simply go there that 6th day.
Sundays are now spend at home. The mornings occupied by reading the Saturday Times - like in the old house - but from then onwards the habit has changed tremendously. Late mornings are now filled with household shores - something almost alien to me in the old house - and afternoons by pottering in the large garden, walks to the local pub - a walk of over 1.5 mile - and simply enjoying time off, recharging the battery.
That is, until the weather turned. We're not ones to go out and about in the car on Sundays and are (now) quite happy to spend a whole day at home. But I see the darker days of Winter coming and started to fear boredom, since the home pc didn't survived the move. Therefore last week I purchased a lovely new toy: a Samsung N210 10.1 inch netbook to keep my mind and writing urges happy (my hand-writing is never been of such a neatness even I have trouble deciphering what is written one day later, so pen and old fashion note book were out of the question).
The Netbook arrived Saturday and the first program I installed was my beloved ScreenSteps Desktop - since I don't plan to ferry the netbook to and fro a memory stick will quite simply suffice to import newly written "lessons" into the existing SSD libraries in the office PC.
The keyboard of the N210 and its bright but mat screen are absolutely great and although I still have to get more used to all the short cuts and using the touch pad instead of a mouse (which of course could be added through one of the many ports the N210 comes with) I'm sure it will give me hours and hours of writing pleasure. This post is written on it and more will no doubt follow - which gives me the opportunity to publish a bit more regular on this blog and the FAQ & News blog of our business.
Sundays are now writing days, where the Netbook will feature on the dining table in our large room, where a wood fire will be roaring to keep the Autumn and Winter cold out.
Interim Management Jobs
A keyrole in spearheading the public or private sector are interim managers.
With the cuts in many organisations budgets, Interim Management Jobs are becoming more widely available and not as many opportunities.
However Interim Partners, help companies to lead change, with proven records in many positions such as: Chief Executives, Managing Directors and Financial Directors. In which will more likely make a company successful and potentially turning a loss into a profit.