From the February 2012 digital issue.
Building a successful small business is a great accomplishment, one that often requires dedication, long hours and persistence. Thomas Edison’s quote about genius being “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” holds true for entrepreneurship, whether building a better mousetrap, developing more desired goods, or offering services that customers may not yet know they want and need.
Just as modern tax and accounting practices now find the need to continually assess their workflow processes and the tools they use for client service and firm management, so too must small businesses keep their eyes and minds on their own processes, and technology that can help them level the playing field against potentially larger competitors and surpass others.
Among the myriad lists of common traits among successful entrepreneurs is the ability to not only adapt to change, but to manage those changes strategically. To proactively seek out the “better, faster, smarter” ways of production or service, and to keep the customer experience at the forefront of decisions that might affect them.
What are these tools? Where can you find them? The answer to the first question, of course, is that there is no shortcut list of hardware, technology and apps that magically help every kind of client. The answer to the second question is all around us. There are literally thousands of technologies geared toward the small business market, which can make finding the right fits challenging.
In this article, I highlight a few business-focused gadgets that I think can have a dramatic benefit to some of your business clients, and I identify the types of businesses that each one is best suited to, along with how it can help.
Square Card Reader & App (www.squareup.com)
Target Small Business Type: Small retailers and service businesses wanting a simple and mobile way to accept credit and debit card payments.
Overview: Consumers are continuing the long trend toward electronic payments instead of carrying and using cash. Whether grabbing day-to-day items, making larger purchases or charging expenses, there’s no doubt that paper money is losing its popularity and the days of the paper check are numbered. This means that small businesses really must accept plastic in order to be competitive. Whether it’s a traditional store, kiosk at the mall, taco truck, consultant, plumber or a yard maintenance service, having the ability to quickly and securely accept payments takes the headaches out of invoicing and gets the revenue into the business’ bank immediately.
Until recently, a small business wanting to accept electronic payment cards was faced with the prospect of difficult and potentially expensive merchant account services programs. But with Square, all that they need is a smart gadget (iPhone, iPad or Android), a simple add-on card reader and the free Square app. The reader securely scans the card, without storing account numbers, and processes the charges according to information entered into the app. Users can instantly send customers a receipt by email or text, and additional reporting and customer management tools are also built-in, as well as functions for customer loyalty programs, discounts and deals.
Potential Benefits: Square makes it easy to accept credit and debit cards, and provides reporting into formats that can be imported into common small business accounting systems. The card reader and app are free and there are no contracts, with pricing for the service based on a flat add-on fee of 2.75 percent of each transaction where the card is scanned. If a card number must be manually entered, the fee is 3.5 percent plus 15 cents.
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 (scanners.fcpa.fujitsu.com/scansnap11/s1100.html)
Target Small Business Type: Mobile business professionals who need a scanner during their travels, including full-sized documents, business cards, receipts and invoices.