Business uses for your smartphone

August 28, 2014 in Apps, Small business by Doug Andrews

I recently did a presentation at the HSBA on Business uses for your smartphone.

It (and this post) were largely aimed at those users who have a smartphone but rarely use it beyond calling, texting and checking their emails – if that’s you then you are under-utilising what can be an extremely useful tool.

At the meeting just 25% of attendees had actually downloaded an App – so starting at the beginning:

What are Apps?

Apps are small programs (or Applications) that are designed for a very specific purpose. Some examples would be things like note taking, recording your mileage or listing your expenses. Smartphones are perfect for a lot of these functions because a) you usually have your phone handy, unlike a pen and paper and b) they contain things like GPS (so it knows where you are and where you are going/have come from), an internet connection to you can upload/download/access information and also a camera so you can record things on the hop.

Where do you get Apps?

This will depend on the flavour of phone that you are using. iPhones are made by Apple and you would use iTunes to access an app. Phones such as Samsung, HTC and Sony tend to use the Android platform (which is run by Google) and the Google app store is called Google Play. Finally Microsoft Windows have their own version, with Nokia being the most prominent Windows phone manufacturer. Windows apps are accessed from the Windows Store, but in all cases your phone should have a button that will take you to the relevant App store.

Is there any difference between iTunes, Google Play and Windows Store Apps?

They are all different operating systems, so each App has to be specifically designed for each one. Apple’s iTunes was the market leader and so had the most supported Apps, but typically if it is on iTunes you will usually find the same App on Google Play. The Windows Store is a late comer and so is less widely supported. you will often find that popular Apps that are not on Windows often have an unofficial third party interface added so you end up with access anyway even if it is not officially supported.

How do you get Apps?

Find the button to access your App store and you should see options to search by category (business, entertainment, travel etc) or to search for specific Apps. Try it, you can’t break anything! Once you have found an App that you would like to try you can click on Install. Some Apps are Free, some have a trial period or upgrade options and some have an up front cost, you can see this information before you install it. Usually the cost is just a few pounds. Once installed it just pops onto your screen as a new icon, click on it to try it out.

I will start putting up a list of some of the uses, starting with Admin tools. Today I will cover how you can use an App to put your time to better use.

ADMINISTRATION

Time Keeping

Ever want to know what you spend your time on? Would you like to be able to track the time you spend on individual projects or clients and have a daily, weekly or monthly summary? Time keeping apps make this very easy. There are differences between Apps but generally they work on the following basis:

  1. Set up job or categories (admin, accounts, sales etc, whatever you spend your time on)
  2. Optionally assign these to a client or a project
  3. Start recording what you spend your time on. Click to start,stop or switch an activity as you are working

This means you can be working on a project and record the time you spend on it; if you receive a call mid-way through that takes up twenty minutes of your time simply switch to your ‘handling calls’  category whilst talking and then switch back to your project when you hang up. At the end of the day you get a summary of what you’ve spent your time on. Some Apps have additional functionality such as putting a value on your time and even generating monthly or project invoices to the relevant client.

Time keeping Apps are great for anyone who bills their time to clients on an hourly basis as you can measure this very specifically, but are also good for helping you understand better where your day goes to. Even the act of consciously recording each action makes you much more aware of what you spend your time on, and makes you want to use it to it’s full potential.

Time keeping Apps:

Harvest (iTunes, Google Play and also desktop version)

Toggl (iTunes, Google Play and also desktop version)

Time Tracker (Windows Store)

Have you tried any of the above, or do you have any other time tracking Apps you can suggest?

Check back for more business uses for your smartphone over the next few days (and weeks, there are a lot!).

 

 

 

Survey: supply and demand of workspace

July 10, 2014 in Small business by Doug Andrews

We’ve been asked to circulate a short 2 minute survey which aims to understand the supply and demand of workspace in the East Leicestershire Area for the Leicestershire County Council’s upcoming LEADER application.

If you have a view you can fill it out here, results will be compiled at the beginning of August so please fill it out before the end of the month.

 

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Mid-Summer Meet-up photos

July 2, 2014 in News by admin

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How small business can trump big business

June 30, 2014 in Small business by Doug Andrews

It’s easy sometimes to feel that big businesses hold all the cards – the staff, the marketing budget etc – but one thing they seem to all struggle with is being approachable.

There has been an almost universal move towards automated responses – so lists of Frequently Asked Questions, automated ‘Ask a question’ and get a computer generated response, complicated call menus (if you can find a published number) which often terminate in an answer followed by being hung up on. We’ve all been there, and it’s unbelievably frustrating.

My worst experience of calling a big company was to explain my reason for calling to an initial operator who then said she needed to put me through to customer services – one hour and forty five minutes later I got to the end of the queue. The lady I subsequently spoke to was calm and efficient but by then I had made my mind up to cancel all services with the company, no matter what.

Running Globe2 I sell telecom and broadband services to businesses. It would be easy for my clients to worry that Globe2 may not have the resources necessary to deal with a situation should their system fail, but the reality is that instead of having to try and negotiate the all the automated barriers that big business put up or being diverted to an anonymous foreign call centre, they can call and get through to one of a small team of people – and they are more likely to know what they are talking about than an operator with a list of predetermined list of questions and answers.

Make the most of your strengths and make sure that while you may not be the biggest company doing what you do, you can offer clients a personal service that big business seem to be unable or uninterested in competing with.

 

Registering or renewing your domain name? Shop around!

June 26, 2014 in Small business by Doug Andrews

When you register a domain name, do you stop to think about what it costs, or do you just assume ‘that’s what it costs’ and go ahead?

Domain names are like any other service – think insurance for instance – whereby prices can vary massively for essentially the same product.

Although Globe2 isn’t a domain registrar, we do register domains on behalf of clients on a regular basis and have thus used a number of different companies over the years. I knew that one company in particular that we had used previously was extremely overpriced and was waiting for the domains listed there to expire* before moving them – which came about today.

A very quick survey showed that the regular cost on the existing registrar (company A) was £23.68 per year, compared with £10 with company B. On top of that however the company A was charging me an additional £16.20 because I had allowed the domain to expire, making it £39.88 due. By transferring it to company B I was offered a 50% discount, making the total cost £6.10.

So this gave me a £33.78, or  85%, initial saving with subsequent years costing 42% of the what I had been paying.

Note that changing your registrar doesn’t affect where your website is stored so should be relatively straight forward and not involve actually moving your website – and it is a saving each year so is definitely worth considering when it comes to renewing. When registering for the first time you may find headline grabbing costs for the first year which then subsequently rise, there is nothing to stop you from taking advantage of this and then switching, as in my example you will often get a reduction when transferring as well.

Note that if you use the same company to register and host your site it might be a little more complicated, although I’ve never known a company to say they won’t continue to host a site because you didn’t use them as registrar.

If anyone needs any help on this feel free to contact me.

* note that waiting for it to expire is not how it should be done! Initiate the transfer a couple of weeks before it expires..

Are you listed in the Harborough Directory?

June 23, 2014 in Marketing, News, Small business by Doug Andrews

The Harborough Directory is now online with 1,800+ basic listings and lots of enhanced listings coming through now – is your business included?

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I will giving a short talk about it at the HSBA Mid-Summer Meet-up tomorrow morning and will be highlighting a selection of business ads to attendees. If you want to have the chance of your business being featured get your listing uploaded sooner than later, I will be choosing the best this afternoon.

Note that HSBA members get a free upgrade and we’re also offering a limited time launch offer of up to 30% off listing fees.

 

Have you checked?

June 6, 2014 in News by Doug Andrews

For those technophobes out there (no names mentioned!) you would be advised NOT to switch off at the mention of Gameover Zeus – as it could affect you directly.

What is it?

Gameover Zeus is a virus or malware which is designed to steal bank information and make unauthorised bank transfers to accounts controlled by criminals.

Why is it in the news?

The Internet is full of these threats so what’s special about this one? Essentially it is a particularly sophisticated virus, and one that the FBI and other associated agencies have warned that a) 15,000 people in the UK have been infected and b) that they have been able to disable it for two weeks (announced 2nd June) – but that after then the criminals involved may try and withdraw any funds they can from affected computers.

How do I know if I’m affected?

There are a number of symptoms:

- Your computer system operates very slowly.

- Your cursor moves erratically with no input from you.

- You notice unauthorised log in attempts to your bank accounts or unauthorised money transfers.

- Text-based chat windows appear on your computer’s desktop unexpectedly.

 

What can I do about it?

If in doubt, scan your computer with one of a number of free tools:

Symantec

F-Secure

Sophos

Heimdal

Microsoft

Mcafee

Once you’ve checked, keep yourself protected by having up to date virus protection.

I’ve checked and am clear – have you?

 

 

Don’t be ‘the one’ who forgot again..

June 6, 2014 in Apps by Doug Andrews

How many of us have been in a meeting and have been reminded that they forgot to turn the volume on their mobile down – by the sound of it ringing?

Then of course there’s the reverse problem – you DO remember to turn it down, but then forget to turn it up and then wonder why you’ve had so many missed calls later that day!

Help is at hand, Volume is a handy little mobile App for Windows 8 phones which solves this problem by syncing with your calendar and automatically turning the sound down for the duration of your meetings. If you don’t want it to do it automatically for every meeting, you have the option of adding a live tile to your menu which manually turns it down – and then automatically turns it up either at the end of the meeting or after a set period of time (which you set).

There are other options too – like creating a ‘night time’ profile which sets the volume to the level you want between certain hours.

The App works well but is limited in that you can only create two sound profiles and have one live tile – it looks like the Pro version would offer more but this is on temporary hold pending some development bugs.

I give it 3 stars due to the limitations on the number of profiles and tiles, but it does at least solve the problem of turning your mobile down and up again for your meetings.

You can see more details and download the App here:

Cost: Free

Rating: ***

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New image, new name

June 1, 2014 in News by admin

We have updated our name to the Harborough Small Business Alliance to better reflect our membership – and to go with the name change we also have a new logo courtesy of Mikki Longley Creative!

We’re very pleased with the change, we hope you like it.

A change is as good as a rest they say and we’re now looking forwards to the Summer meet-up on 24th June, have you booked your place yet? Open to all local businesses it is an opportunity to promote your business and meet with other local business owners who may be providing the service you are looking for.

Places are limited with last year’s meeting well attended so to avoid disappointment book your place now.

Local businessman campaigns against proposed Tesco out of town store

May 20, 2014 in News, Small business by Doug Andrews

Ian Joule of Joules Yard is leading the campaign against the proposed Tesco out of town store on the old Focus site, having held an all night vigil in the town square last night and a public meeting today at the Three Swans Hotel at 6:30 pm.

“I am not anti-Tesco per se” says Joule, who noted that “Many of our retailers, market traders and the commercial businesses (insurance agents, estate agents etc) have spent years building up their individual businesses [and] no doubt along with the Tesco development will come the usual satellite stores and outlets.”

What is your view, does the town need a new supermarket and should it occupy the old Focus site? Do you think it will inevitably harm the independent stores and negatively affect the character of the town?

From the HSBA’s perspective we are fully behind any efforts to ensure that small independent businesses have a voice and are protected against the interests of big business.

Let us know your thoughts.

Anyone wishing to support Ian Joule in his campaign can email enquiries@joulesyard.co.uk, tweet @joulesyard, comment on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joules-Yard-Eating-House/255502764515538?ref=hl or attend the public meeting tonight.