StatX: Mobile Dashboards for Small Business

Laurie: Today I’m talking to Prasad Raje, president and CEO of a new company called StatX. I met Prasad this fall at Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect Conference, and was intrigued with the demo I saw of the StatX solution, which provides users with a mobile dashboard for QuickBooks Online and several other top small business applications. Before we talk more about the StatX solution, Prasad, can you first tell me a little bit about the company, and when and why you got started?


prasad-bio-1024x716
Prasad:  Thanks, Laurie, sure. StatX has been around since about the middle of last year. I and my co-founder Pablo Bellver founded the company. Prior to that, I was CEO of Instantis, a company that was also in the collaboration space, and was acquired by Oracle. Pablo had been at Google for about 10 years, and had built Google Now, which is a very successful Android app for consumers. We put our brains together and created StatX to deliver mobile relevant business updates to your mobile phone, no matter where they are. Our motto is that StatX lets you know what changed in your business via your mobile device

Laurie: I like the term you used in our earlier conversation–that StatX is like an Instagram for business–because it relays real-time information to you in a very digestible way, right to your phone

Prasad: That’s right, that’s the way we think about it. We want the information to be visual and easy to consume, so we built the StatX platform to do this. It doesn’t take up too much of your time because that’s the way people use their mobile devices.

Laurie: One of the top applications that StatX works with is QuickBooks Online. Can you tell us a little about this?
statx-qbo-dashboard-1200x876Prasad: Sure. If you use QuickBooks Online (QBO) to keep your books up to date, you want to be able to send updates and financials to your clients or co-workers. StatX directly connects to QBO. QBO authorizes StatX to fetch your financials from it, and StatX pulls that information into a set of visual elements that we call stats. Twitter invented the tweet, and StatX has invented the stat, which is a visual representation of numeric or status information. In the case of financials, it would represent things like income, expenses, cash, AR, AP, etc., in a beautiful, easy to consume dashboard. And it brings you live, real-time updates to information when it changes.

Laurie: How long does it take for a QuickBooks Online user to get productive with this?

Prasad: Very little time. We want to compete with the best of the consumer apps out there in terms of ease of use. So, if you are an accountant that wants to set up QBO with StatX, it should take no more than a few minutes of time to connect your QBO account and start seeing live data on your phone from QBO. From there it should take less than a minute to share that information with your client. By the way, the client doesn’t need to do any setup, they simply just consume the live dashboard information that you provide to them.

Laurie: It sounds like the accountant does a tiny bit of work and the client gets the benefit of that without really any heavy lifting at all.

Prasad: Exactly. Even for the accountant, it’s a one-time setup, then we do all the work on an ongoing basis to keep it live at all times.

Laurie: How do you price StatX?

Prasad: Pricing is very simple. We have a monthly per user subscription fee for each client or user using StatX. The fee is $10 per user per month when paid as an annual subscription. That allows the client to use StatX with QuickBooks Online, and with the other apps we have on our platform.

Laurie: Before we get into those other apps, can you clarify whether the accountant has to pay a user fee for each of the clients he’s pushing notifications out to, or just for his own use?

Prasad: For each user that has the app installed on their phone. So, if the accountant sets up 5 clients, the accountant would have one subscription for him or herself, plus 5 for their clients.

Laurie: Got it. So what are some of the other small business applications that StatX already has a mobile dashboard for?

Prasad: Our connector to WordPress is one example, we can fetch your daily visitor stats and see how it trends and you can get notifications for new posts, comments, visitors etc. Another one is MailChimp for email marketing. Instead of having to go to MailChimp every time you want to see how many people opened your email and how many clicked through, we just send you live updated stats as things change.

Laurie: I know StatX also works with Microsoft Excel and you work with QuickBooks Desktop. How does it work with these?

Prasad: For QuickBooks Desktop, you can export reports into Excel, as you normally do, and we have an add-in to Microsoft Excel that lets you connect that information with StatX. So, you can provide stats to your client’s phone with a single click in Excel or QuickBooks Desktop.

Laurie: Anything else that’s important for small business owners and decision-makers to know about StatX?

Prasad: In addition to being a powerful dashboard that connects to many different apps, StatX can be used to create quick and easy, succinct workflows. For example, if you’re collaborating with your team on a particular check list of items that need to be done, instead of sending e-mails back and forth, people can just check off items on the checklist via their mobile device, and everyone gets notified of the status. Say you need approvals from your boss for different things, you create an approval stat for that. We have many stats like this that help with collaboration and to coordinate workflows.

Laurie: Very interesting, and thank you so much for your time today and sharing this info.

 

Yocale’s “Book Local” Solution for Small Businesses

Laurie:      Today I am speaking with Arash Asli, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Yocale.  Arash and I met earlier this year at a Salesforce event.  Arash’s company, Yocale, provides small local businesses with some very compelling marketing services.  Arash, can you tell us about Yocale and the problems that you help small businesses solve?

arashArash:        Absolutely. Yocale’s story started with a basic search on a smart phone for a local service, a massage therapist actually, and in the frustration of not being able to reach any therapist or book an appointment in the evening. So it sparked the idea for a listing site that people could use to find info on local service providers, and then book them online—kind of like a combination of Yelp and OpenTable, but for appointment-based services. This of course helps customers easily find and book appointments. The YoCale platform becomes the place where the local consumers can discover, book, and review local service providers within their community. So you don’t have to drive 10 miles across two suburbs for a hair stylist when there’s a great right in your neighborhood—who may also be able to recommend a local massage therapist or a personal trainer nearby.

But our key mission is to support appointment-based local businesses by helping them to attract local customers, take the friction out of scheduling, and increase customer satisfaction. Just like the buy local movement, we’re like the book local movement basically with a mission of encouraging consumers to book local with service providers.

Laurie:      This seems to be part of the trend towards more specific or individualized marketing services for different kinds of businesses, with Yocale targeting local small business service providers.

chiropractorArash:        Exactly. In addition to marketing, we also help them automate operations, such as online booking, text and email reminders to reduce no-shows, email marketing, SEO optimized search, staff scheduling and more. Our software tackles two of the main challenges that these businesses face, which are marketing and data security and records management, which are two of the top SMB challenges that you covered in SMB Group’s 2016 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. Once we help appointment-based businesses attract new clients, solution makes it easy for them to manage their entire business on securely in the cloud, from any device.

Laurie:      Right, right, and this is for service providers, which are actually a bigger percentage of small local businesses than those selling physical products, and their needs are definitely different.

Arash:        Absolutely. For these businesses, online marketing can be extremely difficult and it can be expensive to stand out and get the traffic online. With the Yocale marketplace, we group all the service providers in one community together, so we can funnel bigger stream of motivated local purchasers. This makes it easier for service providers to get discovered, and streamlines the booking process for appointments.

Another way we help is with the Yocale internal referral system. We have a community of local service providers, and we promote complementary services to the consumers or the members of Yocale that are booking services. So, when the client books an appointment with one service provider, we let them know that they can book their other services in the same area with the same account

Laurie:      What areas is the Yocale service available in?

booklocalArash:        We initially launched Yocale in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re expanding to other areas.  So, we have customers from various different cities throughout North America and overseas now. People are signing up because we help them to market more effectively, automate operations, such as invoicing and staff scheduling, and to manage clients. When they start using our software, they automatically become part of our marketplace.

Laurie:      So, if you’re a small local service provider in an area and you haven’t really heard of Yocale or familiar with it, how would you start kind of taking advantage of it and using it in an area that you guys haven’t kind of officially entered yet?  Is there a way to do that?

Arash:        Yes. Those customers can still sign up, and we can help automate their operation, with the functions we discussed.  So as long as they do business in an English-speaking country and in the appointment based business, we can help them.

Laurie:      Okay, great, and do you have anyone, just to kind of maybe wrap up, do you have like your favorite example of a local services business where using this has really made a difference?

Arash:        Yeah, absolutely.  I’ll just use an example of a well-known hair salon in downtown Vancouver. Their clients are high net worth individuals, celebrities. They were doing a lot of things manually, working 10 – 12 hours a day to just to try to keep customers happy from a point of view of being able to schedule and reschedule them. And time is a precious commodity for a lot of small, local service providers.

With Yocale, people can book online and they can reduce their no shows. It’s saving the salon a lot of time and aggravation. It’s really taken off—about 85% of their customers now book online.

Laurie:      Thanks, Arash, for the Yocale overview.

Intuit: Helping Very Small Businesses Connect the Dots

There’s no question that cloud is the new normal for very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees).  Cloud computing has made it easy for VSBs to access, buy and deploy the business solutions that they need to automate operations, and to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group research shows that VSBs are increasingly opting for cloud solutions for flexibility, speed and cost benefits, and more (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Top Reasons to Use Cloud Solutions: Very Small Businessesslide1

 

Integration Lags Cloud Adoption

However, while the cloud has made it much easier for VSBs to access and use new applications, most still find it difficult to integrate them. In fact, 32% of VSBs have not integrated any of their applications. Among those who have done some integration, 71% rely on manual Excel file uploads or custom coding, instead of using more efficient integration solutions or pre-integrated solutions (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Level and Type of Application Integration: Very Small Businessesslide2

This isn’t surprising. While there are many solid integration solutions in the market, very small businesses lack the expertise, resources and money to use them (Figure 3). And while pre-integrated solution suites can be great, most small businesses adopt applications in an incremental way. They don’t want to pay for functionality they don’t use, and don’t have the bandwidth to get productive on more than a couple of things at the same time.

Figure 3: Annual Technology Spending and IT Resources: Very Small Businessesslide3

However, the cloud makes it easy for VSBs to add new applications as needed and as time permits. But over time, they realize  automation additional functions without integrating them only gets part of the job done. They need to integrate them to streamline workflows and to gain a unified view of what’s going on in the business.

Intuit: Evolving Messaging, Platform and Products to Help VSBs Connect the Dots

At it’s 2016 QuickBooks Connect conference last week, Intuit hammered home the event theme–that connected applications can help small businesses speed up workflows, save time, and gain a more complete view of their customers. The company showcased its open platform strategy and partnerships, and its goal to help its customers connect the dots between information and workflows in different applications.

In the developer track, Intuit emphasized its commitment to provide developers with the latest and greatest tools to help them easily integrate their apps with QuickBooks Online. For instance, the vendor touted Webhooks, which makes it easier for developers to synch data between QuickBooks Online and their solutions. Intuit also offered developers numerous sessions to help increase their understanding of how broader technology trends, such as machine learning/artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and security (to name a few!) are reshaping business applications, and fuel interest in applying them to create more valuable and innovative solutions.

Intuit also announced several new, specific integrations to help VSBs connect the solution dots, including:

  • Integration with Google G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). Customers can now buy QuickBooks Online in the G Suite Marketplace, and use single sign-on (SSO) to access QuickBooks from their Google accounts. New integration with Google Calendar also enables users to import time and billing data from Calendar directly into QuickBooks Online.
  • New payments integrations with Apple Pay and PayPal. These integrations enable users to invoice payments to their customers from QuickBooks Online, and then take payments from customers via Apple Pay and PayPal. Once a customer makes the payment from Apple Pay or PayPal, the integration automatically enters and categorizes it in QuickBooks Online. This saves customers from having to use a plug-in or manually reconcile transactions between QuickBooks Online and their payment systems.
  • Payroll integration with TSheets, an employee time-tracking and scheduling app. Users can now track, approve and pay employees from within their QuickBooks Online accounts.
  • Extended integration with Bill.com. QuickBooks Online users can now manage Bill.com functions, such as bill payment, tracking, transaction reconciliation and ACH authorizations within QuickBooks Online.
  • More integrated financing options. Intuit’s Financing platform has added new integrated loan programs for QuickBooks Online users. For instance, users can now apply for American Express Working Capital Terms for short-term loans via QuickBooks Online. Intuit has also incorporated BlueVine’s Flex Credit into its QuickBooks financing platform.

Summary and Perspective

Intuit is taking big steps to educate small businesses and accountants about the value of application integration, and is paving the way to make integration solutions easier to use and more affordable.

Intuit is also the top business solutions provider in the very small business market–one that many vendors find very difficult to crack in terms of broad-scale adoption. In addition, Intuit has the advantage of being the keeper of the crown jewels for many small businesses-their financial transactions.

From this vantage point, Intuit has distinct advantages to attract developers to its community and its mission, and to help VSBs finally start moving up the integration curve. At the same time, Intuit’s open platform, connected community strategy will also help power Intuit’s next level of growth in VSB market.

Note: Intuit is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to QuickBooks Connect.

Security Doesn’t Have to Be The Elephant in the SMB Room

The Internet, cloud computing and mobile solutions have empowered people with the freedom and flexibility to do their jobs more easily and quickly than ever before. At the same time, new technologies continue to expand the volume and variety of data at our fingertips, enabling us to create and share information in new ways.

Technology is rapidly reshaping how people work in all businesses, regardless of size. In fact, the old stereotype of SMBs as technology laggards no longer fits: SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends reveal that today, the vast majority of SMBs have more favorable views about technology’s role in their business (Figure 1). Furthermore, Dell’s Global Technology Adoption Index (GTAI 2015) finds that enterprises using new technologies including big data, cloud computing and mobile solutions have up to 53% higher revenue growth rates than enterprises that don’t.

Figure 1: SMBs View Technology as Key to Success

Figure 1-SMBs View Technology as Key to Succes
Source: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

As Reliance on Technology Grows, Security Requirements Become More Complex

Most SMBs understand that data security and management challenges grow as technology becomes a bigger part of the business fabric. Our study shows that both small and medium businesses rank security as their second-most-pressing technology challenge (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Top Technology Challenges for SMBsFigure 2-Top TEchnology Challenges for SMBsSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

However, as noted in SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, “Security Remains the Elephant in the SMB Room.” SMBs often feel overwhelmed, confused or inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the seemingly endless potential for digital security breaches. The growth of data, mobile solutions, cloud computing and other technologies give users more flexibility and freedom. But with data living in more places, the risk of data loss and leakage rises. Unfortunately, as we put more information into the right hands, we also increase the likelihood of putting it into the wrong ones.

As the sheer magnitude of potential cyber-security risks grows, SMBs that continue to take an outdated, ineffective, 1990s-era “whack-a-mole” approach to security–deploying point solutions to ward off the security threat du jour–are at increasing risk for both accidental and malicious data breaches.

But, SMB Group research indicates that on average, only 22% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have full-time, dedicated IT staff, and 31% have no IT support at all. Meanwhile, although 85% of medium businesses have dedicated IT staff, these employees are likely to be IT generalists. Given the fact that there are no chief security officers in SMBs, what’s an SMB to do?

Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs

SMBs need a more comprehensive approach—one that makes security a manageable challenge instead of a bewildering, unsolvable nightmare. They need a solution that enables them to continue taking advantage of the latest mobile, cloud and other technology advancements, and also offers peace of mind that their biggest risks are being managed.

Endpoint security management solutions help close off the biggest vulnerabilities to the most critical corporate data, wherever it resides—whether endpoint devices, mobile apps, on-premises infrastructure and applications or the cloud (Figure 3). Endpoints can include any end-user device, such as smartphones, PCs and tablets, as well as specialized devices such as point-of-sale terminals and bar code readers.

Figure 3: Endpoint Security ManagementFigure 3-Endpoint Security ManagemtnSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

These solutions provide policy-based approach that requires endpoint devices to comply with specific criteria before they are granted access to network resources. For instance endpoint security management solutions:

  • Check the status of a user’s device when it connects to the network to ensure that the operating system, browser and other applications are in compliance
  • Determine whether security components are up to date.
  • Enable policies to be created to set up individual rules for different levels of access to files or applications.
  • Are deployed on both the client and server-side, enabling centralized monitoring and management on the server.
  • Are often data-centric, meaning that they encrypt and protect the data itself so that it remains protected as it travels across different devices or cloud platforms.

Sponsored by Dell, SMB Group’s free research brief, Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs, is designed to improve SMB understanding in this area. The brief discusses how endpoint security solutions work; internal considerations to keep in mind when developing an endpoint security strategy; and key capabilities to look for in an endpoint security solution.

Although you can’t eliminate every risk, endpoint security management can offer a more holistic, rules-based approach to face and address the security elephant in your business a more effective way.

This post is sponsored by Dell.

Justworks Goes the HR Distance for SMBs

justworks-primary-logo-white-blue (1)Many vendors provide human resources (HR) software solutions for SMBs. And increasingly, more of these solutions are delivered in the cloud–removing the IT burden from the backs of resource-constrained SMBs.

But as we all know, this only solves part of the problem. For many SMBs, HR resources are stretched just as thin as IT staff. Sure, HR software can automate and streamline HR functions, but it doesn’t address the problem of sourcing benefits in an increasingly complex marketplace.

Enter Justworks

Justworks, Inc. aims to provide a more complete solution, offering SMBs a one-stop shop for cloud-based integrated payroll and HR software and compliance solutions, as well as a direct link to benefits providers.

Isaac-Oates-CEO-Justworks-585079-editedI had the opportunity to chat with Isaac Oates, Justworks CEO, about the company, which in March added $33 million in Series C funding, bringing total venture investments in the company to $53 million. Oates started the company to “level the playing field” for all businesses with a single solution that not only provides the software to run HR functions more efficiently, but provide businesses with collective access to health insurance, 401K and other benefits providers.

Justworks partners with Aetna for healthcare, dental and vision plans; with MetLife for dental and vision; and with several providers for 401K plans. Just last week, the company announced that it has integrated One Medical primary care into its offering to help SMBs provide on-demand medical care to their employees. By serving as a collective across many SMBs, Oates says Justworks can provide better benefits at a lower cost than individual SMB could get on their own.

Formed in 2013, Oates and team spent the first 18 months building Justworks’ software foundation and obtaining licensing across the customers in the summer of 2014. The company has now grown to over 100 employees, and is focusing on growing its business by extending its offerings. For instance, Justworks plans to add new, differentiated benefits offerings, such as health advocacy, telemedicine and urgent care. Because health insurance options are very difficult to understand and navigate, Justworks will also devote considerable investment to providing guidance to help companies and their employees better understand their options.

Oates is also committed to continuing to deliver a “rock solid” solution to employers. In contrast to Zenefits, which raised $500 million at a $4.5 billion valuation, and ran into regulatory issues in pursuit of rapid growth, Oates’ strategy is to focus on business fundamentals and earning the trust of Justworks customers.

How Justworks Works

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.41.16 PMJustworks charges a flat per person per month fee, and employers can choose what they offer via the platform. Payroll and compliance are at the core of the solution, and employers can add health insurance, health savings accounts, and 401K plans as desired.

The vendor’s target market is 5-500 employee companies, but they have smaller and larger customers as well, and are seeing the most traction in 50-plus employee space. Today, Justworks sells entirely through a direct sales model, with enthusiastic customers helping to spread the word.

Perspective

Justworks will face the dual challenges of gaining brand awareness, and convincing SMBs to switch from existing payroll and HR systems and benefits plans. But  its all-in-one approach should click with many SMBs, especially fast-growing SMBs that currently use disparate solutions, and need to more and improved benefit plans to attract and retain skilled talent in an increasingly competitive hiring landscape. And, as Justworks continues to add more partnerships with benefits providers, it will amplify its value.

SMBs will incur an upfront switching cost to make the change. However, in many cases, access to a modern, streamlined HR system, coupled with potential cost savings on benefits programs should provide SMBs with cost-savings and significant time savings over the long-term.

Need CRM? GetApp Can Help You Select The Right CRM For Your Business

crmGetApp is a great site to check out when you are researching CRM software options and other applications to help you run your business. I first got acquainted with GetApp and Christophe Primault, CEO and cofounder when he founded GetApp in 2009, the same year as we started SMB Group.

Since we both share the mission to help SMBs better understand how technology can help their businesses, I’ve worked with GetApp on several occasions. Most recently, I chatted with Suzie Blaszkiewicz, market analyst and content editor at GetApp, to provide some perspectives on their new report which ranks the Top 25 Small Business CRM apps. I spoke with Suzie to get some more information about how they developed the report, and what they learned from it.

Laurie: Your new report ranked the 25 Top CRM apps on the market today… What were the ranking factors you used to determine this list, and why? Were they weighted in anyway, and if so, how?

Suzie: The five unique factors that we use to determine the ranking of each CRM software product are: reviews, integrations, mobile app availability, media presence, and security. Reviews and media presence are calculated using the number of reviews and their related ratings on GetApp.com, as well as the number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes that an app has online. These represent popularity among everyday SMB users, as well as relative popularity in the market. Integrations are calculated using the number of integrations a product has, which shows an app’s potential compatibility with other software that a business is already using. Mobile scores are based on the availability of an app for iOS and Android, an important metric for CRM especially because of the increasing need for mobile connectivity. Finally, security is calculated using a vendor completed, 15 question survey, based on the Cloud Security Alliance’s Self Assessment Form.

Together, these five data points provide a good first-look assessment of the leading cloud-based business apps in the industry. Each data point has an equal weighting, but if there is a tie, we prioritize security and reviews scores first, then mobile and integrations, and finally, media presence.

Laurie: It was good to see that GetApp includes ‘security’ as one of the ranking criteria, because sometimes, SMBs don’t consider this as a top factor when comparing CRM systems–even though customer and prospect information is business-critical. Why did you decide to include it, and what did you find in terms of variation in security provided by the vendors you ranked?

Suzie: There’s a lot of concern when it comes to cloud security, and we wanted to explore and factor it into our ranking. Right off the bat we noticed that vendors were (understandably) hesitant to open up about something as sensitive as security, but the questions themselves aren’t too invasive. In fact, most of, if not all the answers to the vendors’ surveys could already be found through publicly available information like Terms and Conditions, but the survey just does a nice job of sifting through all of that. Those that did choose to share their security details shows, if nothing else, that they are transparent about the security measure they take to protect users. We know that security will continue to be an important consideration for users using cloud-based CRM software, especially when contact data is involved.

Laurie: In your report, you discuss the importance for a CRM to be both scalable and mobile. In our research at SMB Group, we also see mobile capabilities as being extremely important to SMBs because smartphones and tablets are becoming the preferred device for many users, but some don’t necessarily think about scalability right out of the gate. What are you seeing in terms of how important scalability is to SMBs?

Suzie: Scalability is a really important factor for small and mid-sized businesses, especially those who are just starting out. If you’re planning to grow, you’re going to want to choose a solution that can grow with you. In the same vein, immediately starting with a mid-market or enterprise level option may prove cumbersome and unaffordable. The key is finding a solution that’s suitable for the current size of your business, but has the potential to handle more volume if the need arises. We think that the results of the CRM ranking turned out to showcase top products that SMBs could adopt and grow with.

Laurie: Agree, it’s a Goldilocks situation. SMBs need CRM that is the best fit for the business now, but can ramp up as needed. We also discussed the increasingly pivotal role that analytics will play in the evolution of CRM,  as well as other applications areas. How do SMBs that use GetApp view the role of analytics in making CRM decisions?

Suzie: We see data and analytics playing a more important role in all types of software, whether that be marketing, project management, but especially when it comes to how businesses are looking to utilize CRM systems. Most vendors now include analytical tools into their CRM feature sets to  help  forecast sales, track KPIs, and see sales performance over time.

Having access to, and being able to utilize the amount of data being gathered by a CRM will become essential in a company’s ability to making informed business decisions. It will make it much easier for SMBs to have a solid grasp on who their customers are, what they want and what the future could hold for their partnership moving forward.

Laurie: The term “social CRM” seems to have been popular for a while, but we don’t hear that term too often anymore. My thoughts are that social has become so pervasive in sales, marketing and service that SMBs expect that their CRM systems will include social capabilities. What role do you see social playing in helping SMBs decide what the right CRM system might be, and what capabilities do they need to have?

Suzie: You’re absolutely right. Social has become a key way to reach out to customers and clients and a key component of the customer relationship process to help meet customers wherever they are. The social media sphere is clearly one of those primary places. No matter which industry an SMB is in, it’s an essential platform for engaging with target customers. But that doesn’t mean that all CRM systems are built equal when it comes to social functionalities.

We see that at a minimum, social media tools in a CRM should include integrations with Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, as well as social media monitoring tools and feeds to keep track of, and interact with, conversations taking place around a selected set of products or services.

Similarly, being able to keep up with a contact’s social profiles, see related networks, and reach out via your CRM can be infinitely helpful. Being able to do this can give powerful insight into who a customer is and what their purchase decisions rely on. Whether they fit into a ‘persona’ that an SMB has determined, or remain as a personalized customer, a robust CRM allows for this kind of understanding.

Laurie: Yes, social really has evolved to become part of CRM fabric, and I think that mastering social engagement can really help SMBs to level the playing field against larger competitors.

Suzie, I really want to thank you for shedding more light on your new report, and providing these kinds of comparisons to help SMBs sort through the many CRM solutions available to determine what will work best for them.

BizSlate: Weaving QuickBooks Into ERP for Small Businesses

Laurie:  Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group and today I’m talking to Marc Kalman, who is the CEO and founder of BizSlate, which provides inventory management solutions for small businesses. So, welcome Marc!

Marc:  Thank you. Glad to be here today.

Laurie:  Thanks for coming. We’re here at the QuickBooks Connect conference, a very appropriate place to be talking about small business solutions. I’m wondering, before we get into the specifics of what BizSlate does, can you tell us about your role how the company got started?

Marc:  Sure Laurie. I’ve been in the supply chain technology field my entire career. I started off as a software engineer right out of college, did that for about nine years and had the opportunity then to move into more of the practitioner side of things where I was an EDI (electronic data interchange) analyst for a while, I was a supply chain specialist at companies like Coach Leatherware, and then I had the opportunity to direct a team for a nine division accessories business in New York City. From there, I started my last company, which was, and still is a successful EDI provider, Easy Come Software.

What we found was, because of our unique way of addressing the market for small businesses, we were upwards of 90% more efficient than any of our competitors as far as a supply chain capabilities around EDI were concerned. That led to our customers calling up after a while saying, “Hey Marc, this is great what you’re doing for us in the world of EDI. While in our case it might be 70% or 80% of our business, it’s two customers and we have a thousand customers and we’re using QuickBooks and we want to see our inventory and we can’t keep track of things correctly. And people are traveling and need access to real-time information quickly to make important decisions and keep up with the market.”

So it caused me to look at what was going on in the supply chain space for small businesses and I saw that it was a big problem. I’m very passionate about the space, I’ve been involved with it for a very long time and decided, you know what? I’m going to go do something about it and so here we are.

Laurie:  So, what specifically does BizSlate do?

BizSlate_Logo2Marc:  So, we obviously we do integrate with QuickBooks, predominantly focusing on QuickBooks Online right now. That seems to be the direction that QuickBooks is pushing everybody towards anyway, and we want to be the forefront of that.

Laurie:  Right. And new companies are starting more with cloud-based offerings.

Marc: Exactly. We are web-based, and we focus on helping small businesses improve how they manage everything–customers, orders, vendors, inventory, logistics of the supply chain–and give them the tools that they need to succeed this very intense, omnichannel market.

Laurie:  Does it plug right into QuickBooks, Marc?

Marc: It does, seamlessly. We connect right to QuickBooks through APIs, so as you process documents in our system, let’s say like you post invoices or you receive inventory, if you go into QuickBooks you would instantly see those transactions.

Laurie:  It sounds like it kind of fleshes out QuickBooks beyond accounting and basic financials into what other companies would call ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning, with functionality that manufacturers or distributors might need.

Marc:  Correct. And you know, QuickBooks is great from an accounting system perspective. But certain businesses, particularly product-related businesses that have to track inventory, as they evolve, the operations aspect of QuickBooks doesn’t always keep up with the rate of growth. This causes companies to start looking outside of QuickBooks, at companies like MAS 90 or Dynamics. And until now, QuickBooks really hasn’t had a lot of defense against that. In fact we just did a demo for someone earlier and they said, “You know, QuickBooks plus BizSlate equals NetSuite.”

Laurie:  What are you finding in terms of the sweet spot of customers that are interested in BizSlate? I would expect you have a lot of QuickBooks users that say, “I like QuickBooks but I need more.” Any other kinds of people coming by that are interested?

Marc: There are two key areas that customers are attracted to us. One is what you just described, where someone is using QuickBooks, loves it, or their accountant wants them to stay on QuickBooks. They don’t want to have that disruption of having to change the whole system, they just want to expand functionality. We give them a nice path to be able to do that with a system that will help them not just today, but sustain them for the future. Also, the power that we offer is at a very affordable price. So we also find companies that use solutions like NetSuite that maybe aren’t capitalizing on all of the capabilities that NetSuite offers, or it’s too complex, it’s too big, it’s too expensive. This is an opportunity for them to get the same efficiency but easier, and more affordably.

Laurie: Is there a sweet spot in terms of company size for BizSlate?

Marc:  We are primarily focusing on businesses that are fifty million in revenue or less. Industry-wise, we have a lot of traction in apparel, footwear, also housewares, consumer goods, and electronics

Laurie:  A lot of companies are targeting small businesses who are outgrowing QuickBooks. So why BizSlate? What makes you different?

Marc:  That’s one of my favorite questions. Because we get it. We understand small businesses. Small businesses today are understaffed and overworked. People are doing fifteen different jobs at the same time and that’s on a good day. They don’t have time to sit in front of a computer processing documents. Every single person at that company needs to focus on the growth and profitability of that organization. It’s actually detrimental to the business in a very aggressive market to have people who are wasting time on a lot of data entry.

When some vendors target small businesses, they just don’t understand what these small businesses need. They say that they do, but they don’t. These providers, what they say is, “Well, for a small business it has to be affordable,” right? It does. Has to be easy, and it has to be easy, right? But to get there, the typical provider does that by removing value. But this removes ROI. So where BizSlate is different is we bring enterprise value, the kind of tools, the intelligence that small businesses really need to be able to capitalize on the market. But we do it in a way that is affordable and easy and gives them tools that to really rev the business up and focus on things that are more important to the company.

Laurie:  I think you hit the nail on the head. Time is usually the most precious resource for many small businesses. So how long on average does it takes somebody to get up and running on BizSlate, and how do you help them get productive more quickly?

Marc:  Every customer’s a little different. There are different levels of complexity. We start our promise to our customers with ease of use by making sure that the software itself can be learned and trained and used without anybody ever having to teach somebody something. Now that said, that doesn’t mean we don’t support our customers. In fact, I believe we’re one of the few, if not only, providers of this type that offer free unlimited phone support.

Laurie:  That’s a big deal.

Marc: Because we want to make sure our clients succeed, it’s not just about selling software here.

Laurie:  Yes, in a subscription model you really want to keep them once you get them.

Marc:  Exactly. And we’re passionate about small business, I come from the space. Half the employees at BizSlate come from the space. We are really here to make a difference and we want our clients to be successful. As great as our software is, we want to be known for the service that we offer and really make a difference.

Laurie:  Last but not least, is there anything here at QuickBooks Connect that you’re highlighting that you’d like to just give a shout out for?

Marc:  We have two very exciting themes here at the show. Number one, we just found out that we were selected as one of the top twenty cloud providers of 2015 by CIO Review magazine.

Laurie:  Congratulations.

Marc:  Thank you, we’re very excited. Also we’re just finishing up QuickBooks partner certification. In about a week or two, we should be listed on apps.com so everybody will be able to find us.

Laurie:  That’s great. It looks like you’re having a good time at the show too.

Marc:  I’m having a great time. I’m meeting lots of great people, having great conversations, and excited to see that there’s a lot of interest for what we’re doing.

Laurie:  Well Marc, thank you so much for talking to me today and sharing this information so people can learn more about BizSlate and connect with you.

Marc:  Thank you.