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.

Kronos: Workforce Ready Mission for SMBs

Smaller businesses are usually preoccupied with what it takes to grow the business and keep the lights on—getting customers in the door, generating more revenue and maintaining profitability (Figure 1). Business growth and profitability are still extremely important priorities as companies grow, but other challenges arise. Workforce-related issues, such as improving employee productivity, meeting compliance regulations, and making it easier for employees to collaborate start to become more important. However, as business gets more complicated, spreadsheets, point solutions and workarounds that got the job done when the business was smaller are no longer up to the tasks of recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining the people the business needs to grow.

Figure 1: Top Business Challenges for Small and Medium Businesses

slide1

In 2012, Kronos, a long-time leader in enterprise workforce and human capital management with its Workforce Central solution, acquired SaaShr, which it rebranded as Workforce Ready. Workforce Ready provides a cloud-based, integrated workforce management solution designed specifically for SMBs (Figure 2), enabling Kronos to broaden its market reach. At KronosWorks 2016, held in Orlando in November, Kronos provided us with an update on how Workforce Ready has evolved and where it’s headed.

Figure 2: Kronos Workforce Ready Platform

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Integrated Workforce and Human Capital Management for SMBs

Kronos has continued to add new functionality to Workforce Ready since the SaaShr acquisition. In its most recent refresh, Kronos has taken a page from the consumer apps world, streamlining Workforce Ready navigation with simplicity and visual navigation to make it easier to use. The latest version includes “hot action bars,” to ensure workflow paths are consistent across Workforce Ready modules, and more intuitive for users. And, the vendor has upgraded dashboards and personalization features so users can do things more quickly through action buttons and icons instead of via pop-up menus.

Kronos has also enhanced employee self-service in areas inclduding employee on boarding, benefits management and performance management; and added the capability to mass populate Affordable Care Act (ACA) and 1095-C forms.

Supporting Workforce Ready’s commitment to help companies manage hourly wage earners, Kronos has also updated timekeeping and scheduling features, such as alerts that notify managers of employees’ scheduling preference changes.

Pricing starts at $23 per employee per month for all Workforce Ready modules, and at $5 per employee per month for Human Resources as a standalone module. Kronos also charges a fixed implementation fee, based on the number of employees and the number of modules the customer purchases.

Workforce Ready Customer Growth

At KronosWorks, Kronos reported that about 1 million users now use the Workforce Ready platform, and that it wins against the competition in more than 50% of the deals in which it is considered. In addition, Workforce Ready has:

  • Grown it’s customer base 45% over the past twelve months.
  • Enjoyed a 48% increase in customers selecting full-suite adoption (including recruiting and on boarding, performance and compensation management, benefits administration, time and attendance, and payroll).
  • Increased international customer adoption 110% in the last year (Kronos currently sells Workforce Ready in Australia, Canada, parts of continental Europe, Mexico, the U.K., and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S.
  • Achieved a 93% customer retention rate.

Drivers for Integrated Workforce Management

SMBs are turning to Workforce Ready when they reach a point where trying to consolidate and reconcile data from spreadsheets, point solutions and manual systems doesn’t work anymore. The manual effort required with this approach becomes too tedious and time-consuming, and redundant data entry results in too many errors. As important, siloed employee information makes it difficult for decision-makers to see what’s going on in the workforce, and take proactive measures to improve key performance metrics, such as reducing labor costs, improving employee productivity, increasing compliance, or reducing IT overhead.

For example, SMB Group research shows that SMBs using Workforce Ready were able to reduce the time it took to compile management reports 50%-80%; decrease time to perform HR administrative tasks 25%-35%; and improve employee engagement 30%-50% (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Improving Employee Productivity

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Go-to-Market Channels

Kronos sells Workforce Ready through two different channel models. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, Kronos continues to sell Workforce Ready through the reseller model that SaaShr had established prior to the acquisition. These partners, typically local payroll service bureaus, buy the solution from Kronos at wholesale pricing, add their own services and branding, and then sell it to their customers. Since the acquisition, Kronos has roughly doubled the number of partners for this market.

Meanwhile, Kronos’ direct inside sales team sells to larger organizations with more than 100 employees.

Summary and Perspective

Workforce Ready is now a $100 million a year business for Kronos, and the vendor believes that it has plenty of headroom to grow. SMB Group agrees. Fast growth start-ups will opt for an integrated approach out of the gate, and established SMBs will need to take a more integrated approach to HR to attract, retain and efficiently manage the talent they will need to compete and grow.

To that end, Kronos is investing both to improve the solution and expand sales channels. The vendor recently conducted a survey, which revealed that 75% of firms with 100-2500 employee firms only look at two or fewer vendors when considering workforce management and/or payroll solutions. Kronos will, of course, need to increase market awareness for Workforce Ready to get into consideration in more deals. Once it’s in those deals, Kronos believes that it has the right value proposition—e.g. an integrated workforce management and HCM solution—to continue to win a majority of those deals and grow.

In addition, Kronos has focused heavily on the value that Workforce Ready provides for managing hourly workers. These workers comprise the majority of the U.S. labor market (Figure 4), and Kronos has been able to differentiate in the HCM space with this focus, as most companies rely on a mix of hourly, salaried and 1099 independent contractors. However, Kronos will need to broaden its positioning to highlight how it can help SMBs to more effectively manage workers of all stripes in order to compete more effectively against HCM vendors, especially for business among fast-growth, start-up companies that tend to have a higher percentage of salaried workers.

Figure 4: U.S. Hourly vs. Salaried Workers

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Kronos’ pricing is competitive, and less expensive than vendors such as Ceridian and Workday, which should also help its cause. But, as Kronos readily acknowledges, building market awareness for Workforce Ready, and educating SMBs on the benefits of an integrated approach are probably the biggest hurdles it faces to achieving its goal.

And, although Kronos has done a good job in growing its private label reseller program for the sub-100 employee business market, the HR software vendor list is growing quickly. Many startups, such as Namely, Cezanne, Justworks and others have entered the fray in the last couple of years. Kronos will need to double down on usability to stay ahead of startups moving in on the low-end.

Note: Kronos is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to KronosWorks.

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.

SMB Adoption of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) On the Rise

—by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe

Today’s small businesses need the right mix of collaboration tools to create a productive work environment. SMBs looking for new collaboration solutions that will help them work smarter, and achieve top business goals of attracting new customers, growing revenue and improving customer experience. Flexible solutions that connect employees with each other and with customers and partners from any location, device or network will play a big part in achieving these goals.

But as SMBs increase their reliance on collaboration tools, managing and integrating multiple solutionsincluding email, instant messaging, voice, click-to-dial, presence, videoconferencing, and morecan become difficult. As a result, more SMBs are considering unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions to aggregate and integrate these functions and bring some order to collaboration chaos.

Mainstream VoIP Adoption Lays the Foundation for UCC

SMB adoption of voice over IP (VoIP) solutions is already well underway. According to SMB Group’s recently completed 2016 Small and Medium Business Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, 53% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 68% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) are currently using VoIP. In addition, 16% and 10%, respectively, plan to implement VoIP within the  next 12 months.

Figure 1: SMB VoIP and UCC Adoption

b2-picture1-768x383Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

With a VoIP foundation in place, more SMBs are considering deploying UCC solutions. Currently, just 12% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 28% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) use UCC solutions. But, over the next 12 months, 17% of small and 35% of medium businesses say they plan to deploy a UCC solution, potentially doubling year-over-year penetration.

SMBs Are Split on UCC Implementation Preferences

Our study shows differences in SMBs’ UCC implementation preferences. While small businesses tend to gravitate to cloud-based solutions, medium businesses are more likely to choose on-premises deployments. In addition, 14% of small and 20% of medium businesses favor a hybrid UCC approach.
Figure 2: SMB UCC Implementation Methods

b2-picture2-768x320Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Drivers for UCC Adoption

As shown on Figure 3, SMBs are turning to UCC to:

  • Improve employee productivity from any location, device or network
  • Standardize communication and collaboration tools
  • Increase security
  • Easier to use, monitor and manage
  • Better integration between communication solutions and business applications
  • Lower telecommunication costs
  • Create a more professional image with customers, suppliers and partners

Figure 3: Top Reasons to use UCC

b2-picture3-768x340Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

UCC Solution Purchase Channels

32% of the small businesses and 23% of medium businesses have purchased or plan to buy their UCC solution from their traditional phone carrier (Figure 4). A greater percentage 28% of medium businesses have purchased these solutions from an Online UCC service provider vs. 24% of small businesses. Small businesses prefer to buy from channels they have an existing relationship with. Medium business that have some more IT resources prefer to buy from newer online channels or VARs (if their requirements are more complex).

Figure 4: UCC Solution Purchase Channels

b2-picture4-768x354Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Most Important UCC Features

SMB survey respondents ranked the UCC features that are most important to them (Figure 5), with the following coming out on top:

  • Better security and compliance capabilities
  • Lower cost
  • Easier for end-users to use
  • Easier to integrate with other business applications
  • Easier and flexible to deploy, manage and extend
  • Better voice and video quality and reliability

Figure 5: SMB Rank Importance of UCC Features

b2-picture5-768x378Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Summary and Perspective

The market opportunity for UCC in the U.S. SMB segment is around $4.5B. Adoption among both small business and medium business segments should be continue to rise, as more employees work away from their companies’ main offices. Traveling employees, telecommuters and employees in remote offices represent different types of mobile workers and cloud-based UCC solutions can help keep them connected—both among themselves and with their customers—in a more streamlined and manageable way.

Integrated UCC solutions that also connect easily with key business applications can further fuel adoption. And, UCC solutions can help SMBs gain more control, and as a result—security—when compared to a hodge-podge of disjointed point solutions.

Especially in the resource-constrained small business segment, cloud-based options, which offload deployment and management headaches, and offer more affordable subscription pricing, will continue to help facilitate UCC adoption among SMBs.

However, the concept of UCC as an integrated set of systems and applications is still confusing and complex for SMBs who have yet to adopt these solutions. UCC vendors and their channel partners need to help SMBs better understand benefits and evaluate the best-fit alternatives to best capitalize on the growing interest in UCC.

For a complete table of contents and ordering information for SMB Group’s 2016 Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, click here.

Act Local to Grow Global: Part 1, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

world-549425_640How can quality localization help small and medium businesses (SMBs) enter, sustain and grow their businesses internationally? I’ve been interviewing customers for this four-part blog series, sponsored by SDL, to learn more about how SMBs are using localization to improve customer experience and grow their businesses.

In each interview, we discuss the role that international markets play in these businesses’ growth strategies, and how they are using centralized language localization services help them improve engagement, sales and retention in overseas markets.

In this first interview, “Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Using Localization to Grow International Membership,” I talk with Taylor Collision, Marketing Manager at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global, non-profit membership organization designed exclusively to engage leading entrepreneurs helping them learn and grow. We learn why international growth is critical to their business, and discuss how EO is using localization to help expand membership in key international markets.

Acumatica: Mapping ERP to SMB Customers

acumaticaI had the opportunity to talk with Jon Roskill, Acumatica CEO, at the company’s September 7 analyst event. We talked about Acumatica’s solution, customers, and the newly released Acumatica 6.0. Here’s a summary and video excerpts from our conversation. 

Laurie: Hi Jon, thanks for speaking with me today. Before we get into what’s new with Acumatica 6.0, can you start by giving us some background as Acumatica?

Jon: Sure, Acumatica develops and sells business applications to mid-market companies. Typically, companies that are about a $10 million revenue number, going up to…we have customers now that are in the billions. The company was formed in 2008, by a set of folks who were really ERP veterans from the ’90s, by some of the founders of Solomon saw the cloud transition happening. They said, “Wow, this cloud platform is real, and we should build an ERP product for the mid-market for that platform.” And that’s how Acumatica started.

How Is Acumatica Different Than Other ERP Vendors?

Laurie:   As you know, there are a number of companies competing for business in that space. What differentiates Acumatica from the pack?

Jon: A few things. One is we had the advantage of coming to market a bit later than many. We were founded in 2008, the year the iPhone shipped, and the year HTML5 was ratified as an internet standard. So we’re built on modern cloud technologies. But, 2008, that’s not yesterday either. It takes about five years to build a very robust platform. So, we have the right combination of new technology, and we have thousands of customers using it. It’s proven and tested. The second thing is our licensing policy’s very different from most ERP vendors, who are trying to milk as much money as they can on a user model basis.

Laurie:  With per user, per month pricing?

Jon: Exactly. Our philosophy is that ERP is the system of record for the company, and that it’s very important that people in the company who should get access to that information should be able to get that access when it’s needed–without this having to drive a decision of when the business should have to pay for another license or not. So, we basically slot customers into small, medium, or large configurations. From then they get unlimited access, both for employees but also sometimes more importantly is their partners.

Laurie:  What about their customers?

John: Yes. We service a lot of businesses that are in ecommerce distribution, wholesale warehouse-type operations, and they have customers or partners interfacing through some sort of portal, and you don’t want to have to pay a license for those customers, who may place an order once a month. And the third differentiator is mobile. Our mobile solution is really unique in that it’s extremely rich, available on iOS and Android, and we truly differentiate versus any of our competitors.

Laurie: In what respect?

Jon: It’s included. What most of the competitors do is they give you a fixed application. They’ll give you an expense app, or a time reporting app. What Acumatica does, we’ll give you a set of applications out of the box, but because we deliver through a channel–this is another thing we should talk about some point, is our partner channel–because we deliver through a channel, our partners can add value and customize so that time and reporting application is unique to your company, and not a generic.

Laurie: What kind of uptake are you seeing on the mobile capabilities in your customer base? .

Jon: Very strong. Especially lately this year, pretty much everybody is doing something with mobile. Some vendors will tell you that because they have a browser-based solution, that means they’re mobile, but it really isn’t. If you look at the typical accounting screen, it’s very complicated. So, you don’t want to take this really complicated screen and look at it on a little phone screen. You want to have simplified screens, tailored to the device, that work with your workflow.

At this point, all of our customers are using our expense app. So if you’re having dinner with a customer, you just snap picture of the receipt, and automatically file the expense report from your phone. So you don’t have a stack of them on your desk at the end of the month, which I certainly used to have.

Laurie: That brings up another question. ERP, enterprise resource management, and business application management–these labels can cover many different functions. What are the key functions that the Acumatica handles?

Mapping Functionality to Customer Stages

Jon: The starting point is financials. In fact, 20% of our customers are coming from QuickBooks. They’ve outgrown QuickBooks, and need to figure out something else. If they’re in QuickBooks Online, they’re already in the cloud, so it’s a very easy migration to an Acumatica solution. It’s typically driven by something such as having to process multi-currency transactions, because they’re getting paid in other currencies. Or they open another office as a different subsidiary. So, it starts with the financials, I call called that “tracking the business”. You go into Acumatica, and you can see what’s going on with the money.

The second phase is that customers may start using Acumatica for things like CRM and distribution. You’ve got your customers in your system, and you want to help drive renewals or service opportunities for your business. Acumatica distribution capabilities help you track inventory, shipments, and more. At this point you’re truly operating your business on top of Acumatica.

The third stage is when customers become very thoughtful about their business processes and workflows. You know, there are too many companies out there that I see where they make the business fit the software, and that’s just wrong. The software should fit the business. So, you want to think about how should your business operate, what processes do you really want to get good at. At this point, Acumatica has a workflow engine that lets you encode these processes into Acumatica.

Laurie: A company’s unique workflow?

Jon: Your unique processes, right. Our partners help our customer do that, so at that point you have a custom business solution with Acumatica, probably in the price range of $75,000 to $200,000.

Laurie: So what’s new with Acumatica 6.0? Are you announcing a new vertical focus?

What’s New In Acumatica 6.0

Jon: Our customers fall into some major verticals. Professional services, manufacturing, ecommerce, and retail solutions, and distribution or wholesale distribution are the top ones for us. We announced in February that we had acquired M5 Solutions, a service management company, and we’re integrating that with Acumatica–and it’s been selling like crazy. Q2 was awesome, awesome results for the company, partially driven by how much that new service module that we’ve been attaching.

Laurie: In addition to the fact that companies like to have things their way, what else have you heard from customers that influences product development?

Jon: Our CRM product is a good example of that. Often customers buy ERP from one vendor and CRM from another. Then you need to bring the two together and synchronize them, and you wind up with two separate customer formats. The fact that Acumatica sells both an ERP and a CRM is an advantage for half of our customers, 50% use our CRM, and they love it. There’s one version of the truth all the time, and that’s a place where…

Laurie: And what’s new in Acumatica 6.0 in terms of Office 365 integration?

Jon: In the 5.0 release, we introduced Office 365 integration, and integrated Office 365 contacts and tasks and calendar with Acumatica CRM. But we know that many users don’t spend their life in the accounting system, they actually live in things like Outlook as well. I certainly do. You probably do as well. So in 6.0, we’re launching a new Acumatica Outlook add-in. So, when you’re working inside Outlook, you’ll have the context of all of your Acumatica contacts there. So, if you’re looking at an email from Laurie McCabe and Laurie McCabe has an outstanding invoice for$200,000, it will pop up and show me that. Or if, for instance, a regular service update needs to be done, that will show up. So, it’s the sort of thing you would have in your system automatically. So, when you’re talking or emailing with someone, you see it in context.

Laurie: It sounds like Acumatica 6 has some great updates, and thanks for sharing some high-level background as well.

 

Thinking About Going Global? Read This Book First

book-cover-2016-3This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Creskoff, a lawyer and a leading expert on international trade. And Steve has just published a new book called “What You Need to Know to Go Global: A Guide to International Transactions.” The best part about this is he’s written it specifically for small and medium businesses that want to explore their options in the international market.

Laurie: Steve, I’m excited to talk to you, because in our SMB Group surveys and the research we do, we see that only a small percentage of U.S. SMBs do business outside of the United States. So, first of all, why do you think this is?

Steve: Well, this is just what the case is today, and it’s unfortunate because small and medium businesses are very competitive internationally. They need to think more about their position in global markets. The statistics tell us that, in terms of trade and goods, only about 23% of U.S. GDP is in trade and goods, and about the same for trade and services, and this is very low. The lowest for any developed economy. So, our small businesses often are not aware of the international opportunities for them.

Laurie: That is very similar to what our data says. But I didn’t realize that the U.S. is the lowest.

Steve:  For a developed economy, we’re by far the lowest.

Laurie: So why should more small and medium businesses think about doing business beyond U.S. borders?

Steve: Well, first, let me talk about services. Our economy is about 80% services, and a lot of those services are tradeable, and we’re extremely competitive internationally with our services businesses. We export more services than any other country in the world by far and we have a very favorable surplus in trade and services, so this is important. The politicians don’t talk about that, but this is an area of international trade where we’ve been very successful. And then, of course, about 94 to 95 percent of world population is outside the U.S., so there are all sorts of opportunities for small businesses, whether it’s services providers or if they have a tangible product. So, there are great opportunities that should not be ignored.

Laurie: What are the risks to ignoring the potential?

Steve: First, what you don’t know can hurt you. If you’re not aware of how your product is situated internationally, an international competitor can come into the U.S. market and eat your lunch, so to speak. So, you have to be aware of… You have to evaluate your product or service for the international market and for the global economy, no matter how small you are. For instance, I’m a very small service provider, but most of my work is international, and that’s the case with a lot of businesses that I know.

Laurie: Yes, but many business owners don’t see a ready opportunity to extend their business overseas. Do you have a couple of examples you could share of creative ways that SMBs have gone into new markets.

stephen-profile-square-244Steve: Well, first of all, it’s like domestic business. It’s all about people. It’s about meeting people, developing a personal relationship, and telling them about your product or service. You can do this at international trade shows. You can do this through visits, as you do, of course, for domestic clients. And, of course, there are government resources, which are valuable. The U.S. Commerce Department and Small Business Administration have excellent resources. And last but maybe most important are the new internet platforms that have been developed that open up all sorts of potential for international business. Probably it’s an exception about my point about meeting the people, because now you can actually put up your goods or services on an Internet platform and start engaging with prospects in new countries through that.

Laurie: Right. The Internet definitely makes the world smaller. Do you have a favorite business story about a particular business that did something innovative in terms of going to market in another country?

Steve: Well, I’m legal counsel to the Trade Association of Fencing Manufacturers, and one of the members makes equipment to manufacture fencing. They’ve sold in more than 60 countries around the world. They’re located in Southern California. It’s a small business, and it’s not a new technology, but the services component is very important because they send people to their customers to train them on how to use the equipment, and that’s been very significant. So, there are many, many examples of small businesses that have been extremely successful.

Laurie: And you can differentiate yourself with customer service.

Steve: Yes. We think in terms of products and services being separate, but they’re not really. Maybe you’re selling a tangible product, but the services might be critical to that product. Conversely, you may be selling a service, but there may be certain tangible products that support that service

Laurie:  So, once a business owner says, “Hmm, I think I do have an opportunity to compete in this market. I can differentiate on either innovation, my product, or service, or whatever,” some of the key financial or regulatory or other kinds of considerations that a business really needs to understand to be successful?

Steve: It’s not really rocket science. There’s a great deal of uniformity around the world in terms of the regulations that apply to international trade and goods and services now, whether it’s a World Trade Organization agreement or a different type of international agreement. Because our businesses are so successful in the area of technology, export controls is one issue I would identify. Not that many goods and services are subject to export controls, but anything that is a so-called dual use item that might have a military application, the commerce department is responsible for that regulation here in the U.S. But businesses can very quickly find out whether there may be an issue or not. Only about 10% of exports are subject to export controls. As far as import controls and taxation and so forth, there are a lot of advisers that can be helpful, whether they’re freight forwarders, customs brokers, trade consultants. And, of course, the commerce department and the small business administration also provide advice. And my book–I’ll be shameless and promote my book!–has a great deal of detail and provides an overview of these various regulations so that a business can have an idea of when they should be talking to a consultant or a lawyer and when they’re probably okay.

Laurie: Absolutely. This has really been interesting, and starts to lessen some of intimidation about expanding a business internationally. But we’ve only just touched on just the tip of the iceberg. As you said, business owners that want to learn more can find a wealth of information about key considerations in your book, “What You Need to Know to Go Global,” which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both in paperback, and for Kindle and other ebook formats.

Steve: Thanks. Businesses can also check out my website. And I’m happy to say that the World Trade Organization in Geneva has taken an interest in my book, so my official book launch is going to be September 28th in Geneva. I’m very happy that they like the book and they’re going to be joining me in promoting it. The book isn’t t intimidating in terms of a lot of technical detail, and you can skip chapters if you’re not particularly interested in a given area. It’s like a travel manual. You read the parts that are of interest to you and relevant to your business and you can skip the other parts. So, I hope that many of your listeners will take a look at my book and start exploring their options.

Laurie: Thanks again, Steve, and best wishes for the book launch.