The main reason that some people take opportunities when they arise, and others do not, is that some people are ready.
They have their business plan ready and all they need to do is take advantage of the opportunities.
Where can you find the right business plan?
If your business is based in the United States - click here
If your business is based in the U.K. - click here
Ideas To Action.
Part 55 - Software Downloads.
From simple bookkeeping packages to full-blown ERP systems, open source software can provide free options for small businesses that do not have the budget for big-ticket enterprise applications.
Take a look at the next desktop PC or laptop you come across. Odds are good it will not be running an open-source operating system. Microsoft's closed-source Windows has by far the highest share of the PC client operating system market, followed in a distant second by Apple's Mac OS X. Linux and other wholly open source operating systems have only a tiny market share.
It is not hard to see why. Despite the advances made by distributions such as Ubuntu, desktop Linux is still miles behind Windows and OS X in terms of the look, feel and slickness that most office workers have come to expect. The vast majority of businesses simply are not prepared to make employees use an open source OS; and most are not prepared to use them anyway!
Is it possible, then, to run a business entirely on software that can be downloaded for free? There certainly are many options that make it possible - and many more ...
Here are four open source alternatives to Microsoft Office:
- Apache OpenOffice, a comprehensive suite for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux;
- Open Document Foundation's Libre Office, a fork of Open Office for Windows, OS X and Linux;
- NeoOffice, a Java-based fork of OpenOffice for OS X, and
- Calligra, which runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and OS X.
These three financial packages provide open sources alternatives to commercial packages such as Quicken, Sage or QuickBooks.
- GnuCash (Windows, OS X and Linux) helps very small businesses apply professional accounting principles and track bank accounts, income and expenses to help ensure balanced books and accurate financial reports.
- TurboCASH (Windows), aimed at the small to medium-sized business market, provides a general ledger and offers core functionality such as posting transactions into accounts and producing financial reports. The product supports 80 tax regimes, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
- Finally, xTuple offers both a free and commercial supported version of Postbooks (Windows, OS X, Linux, BSD) to medium and larger businesses. It includes accounting (general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, bank reconciliation and financial reporting) as well as sales, CRM, inventory and distribution, and other management functions.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is complex and can be very costly, but open source alternatives to SAP or Microsoft Dynamics exist:
Enterprise Resource Planning Software
- The popular and comprehensive open source ERP package ADempiere (Windows, OS X, Linux and Unix) offers accounting, manufacturing management, material management, finance, human resource, project management and maintenance management features.
- OFBiz is the Apache Foundation's Java-based, multi-platform enterprise business package. It includes ERP, accounting, CRM, supply chain management, manufacturing resource management and enterprise asset management functionality.
- OpenERP (Windows and Linux) provides a full suite of applications, including sales management, accounting and finance, recruitment, purchase management and manufacturing resource management. A paid version — which includes support, automated updates and an unlimited bug fix guarantee — is available for $50 per user per month.
Commercial customer relationship management (CRM) software is available from niche vendors, software as a service providers such as Salesforce.com and large software vendors such as Oracle. Here are three open source alternatives:
Customer Relationship Management
- The SugarCRM Community Edition (Windows, OS X, Linux and UNIX) is the free, unsupported version of a comprehensive CRM product that includes sales force automation, marketing campaigns and customer support.
- OpenCRX (Windows, OS X and Linux) is designed for businesses that need multifunctional, enterprise-wide coordination of sales generation, sales fulfillment, marketing and service activities for customers, partners, suppliers and intermediaries.
- The multi-platform Fat Free CRM is a Ruby on Rails-based CRM platform that features group collaboration, campaign and lead management, contact lists and opportunity tracking out of the box.
Content management systems power websites — and many of the world's largest sites use an cross-platform, open source CMS such as the following:
Content Management Systems
- Big-name sites such as The Economist, Examiner.com and The White House use Drupal. Features include user account registration and maintenance, menu management, RSS feeds, page layout customization and system administration.
- WordPress started as a blogging system but has evolved into a full-blown CMS with thousands of plugins, widgets and themes. It is the most popular blogging platform on the Web and powers about 20 percent of the top 10 million sites on the Internet.
- Second only to WordPress in implementations, Joomla is used by organizations including Harvard University and Citibank. Thousands of extensions, both free and commercial , are available from the Joomla! Extension Directory.
- Java-based OpenCMS offers a browser-based work environment (including a WYSIWYG editor) as well as asset, user and workflow management.
Ecommerce software packages, such as the three cross-platform products listed here, include everything from product presentation to shopping carts, checkout and payment processing.
- OpenCart is a turnkey shopping cart for small and medium-sized businesses. It includes order management and multiple payment gateways, provides the capability for customers to leave product reviews and ratings, and offers lifetime free community support. (Commercial support is available through an international partner network.)
- PrestaShop is a popular and easy-to-use platform that offers product displays, translations, marketing, localization and taxes, and product export to eBay. Support is available as a paid service.
- An older ecommerce platform that branched from OSCommerce, Zen Cart is aimed at developers and advances users. Features include discount coupons, gift vouchers and multiple payment options.
Do you know your businesses customers?
What do you know about the prospective customers who have filled out forms on your website or who are on your email list?
How often does your sales or marketing team interact with them?
Is your customer information compiled in a database that is up-to-date, as well as easy to access and navigate?
If a possible investor wanted to see your businesses sales growth throughout the past few years, how easy would it be for you to provide that information?
These are important questions to ask yourself.
The reality is that if you do not have a CRM software system in place, your business needs one.
All businesses do and there really is not a way around it.
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Therefore, CRM software is a database and automation tool businesses utilize to store all interactions with customers and potential customers (leads).
Here are the most important reasons why you must use CRM software to grow your business:
- A safe and complete lead, customer and project database. All businesses, no matter the size, need a CRM tool to hold comprehensive information that everyone within the company can access to get real-time information.
- Lead tracking. Build or connect your landing pages and their contact forms with the CRM, so when your business gets a new lead, it is automatically added into the CRM.
- Project or product tracking. If your business provides services, a CRM makes it incredibly easy to decipher what step the project is on and what has yet to occur.
- Reports for employee productivity and business growth. CRMs can also generate all types of reports, which can show you or managers what certain sales representatives did during a certain period of time, if the sales from this period are stronger than the sales from a previous period and other helpful data.
- Automation. Set up automatic reports and even automatic emails, such as automated drip campaigns or “Thank you” emails that get sent immediately after someone has filled out a contact form on your website.
- Create marketing lists. This database is comprised of fields that are filled with information that you can search for or sort into marketing lists. Marketing lists are groups of customers and/or leads that are categorized by products / services they have bought, interests, job, location, etc.
- Import and export leads and contacts. Does an employee need a list of every customer who ever purchased a certain product or service your business provides? Did your business exhibit at a tradeshow and do you want to make sure you contact those leads again soon?
- Tie it to your email marketing software. By connecting the CRM to your business’s email marketing software, you can easily send different marketing lists relevant and interesting information, increase traffic to your social media sites, nurture leads and persuade people to buy.
- Use it for or tie it to finance and invoice software. Ensure an invoice is sent and your business is paid after a project is completed or after a product has shipped.
Ideas To Action - next
A Great Business did not just happen - It was planned that way.