Start a Business, Let Office 365 Do the Work!

Start a Business? Overwhelmed at the Thought?

There are just a few basic steps to start a business. But then what? How will you attract customers? What services will you provide? Will you let another company’s brand be yours, or do you want your own brand? As a new company, how will you keep up with the backoffice side of things, scheduling and paying bills and invoicing customers, while also finding time to deliver your services?

The Rise of Micro Businesses & Unique Value of the Cloud

Micro businesses are defined as businesses with 0 to 5 employees. Many micro businesses exist today and have no employees – consultants, freelancers, and multilevel marketing reps. If you are a micro business and plan to be for the long haul, chances are high that you will just exist as a Sole Proprietor and possibly file a Doing Business As | DBA to represent yourself as your brand.

If you are a micro business, you can uniquely reap advantages from looking at the many services offered in the Cloud today.

The Fundamentals – Legal Stuff!

The basics to start your business would include the following tasks, at minimum:

  • Business Formation -Services such as LegalZoom make it very convenient to create your business entity.
  • State Sales Tax Permit – Determine whether you’ll need to collect sales and use tax for your products and services – most companies will need to get this permit to operate in their state. (Reference: QuickBooks Article)

Technically, at this point, you are in business! Now for the hard part….

What’s My Business Plan?

Do I need a plan? The answer is always yes! However, you may need very little formal planning. For example, if you plan on acting as an Associate for Scentsy or Rodan+Fields and you are just primarily in business to connect in your community and make a few extra bucks, then you can likely just dive in.

The reality is that most people start a business to make money, even if it’s supplemental income secondary to a primary job. If you are in business with a need for income, you need a business plan.

A business plan will minimally cover these topics:

  • What will I sell?
  • How will I sell it?
  • Who are my customers?
  • How much income do I need?
  • What combination of services/products can I sell to make the needed income amount?

A business plan will range in complexity, based on the structure of your business, risks in your business, etc. A great resource is offered here by the US Small Business Association (SBA).

Attract Customers

When you start a business today, there are so many options to engage with your customers:

  • Do you want to just network directly ‘old school’ style with business cards & cold calls?
  • Are you hoping for exposure in your local community via the local Chamber of Commerce?
  • Planning to attract customers to your business website via Google Search, Bing Search, etc?
  •  Do you like to reach customers through email campaigns offering discounts and coupons?
  • Do you plan on Social Networking presence – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc?

The options are endless. You could waste a lot of time and money on marketing. Be deliberate with your decisions in this area.

Office 365 and Attracting Customers

Microsoft introduced the Business Center available in the Office 365 Business Premium plans.

In the Business Center, the following apps can be used to generate sales leads and new customers:

Microsoft Connections for email campaigns.

Outlook Customer Manager for customer relationship management tailored for micro and small business.

Microsoft Listings for maintaining your business listings on Yelp, Facebook, Bing Places and Google My Business to keep business hours and contact information consistently updated.

Operations & “Office Work”

Office 365 offers Business Center apps for the following ‘back office’ roles every business needs:

Microsoft Invoicing for billing customers (Accounts Receivable)

Microsoft Bookings for customer online appointments and scheduling.

Need Help or More Information?

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Microsoft Office 365 – A Bargain for the Micro Business

Office 365 & The Cloud Is Transforming Micro Businesses

Microsoft Office has been around for years. What is so exciting about Office 365, and why has it fueled Microsoft’s rebirth?

Office 365 and the Hype

If you still think of Microsoft Office as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook, take another look. The fuel driving Office 365 is the flexibility, the range of services available, and the mere fact that cloud computing options eliminate IT staffing needs for many small businesses (see article for some thoughts around this).

Office 365 and the Enabling Services

In not too distant past, small business were looking at costly solutions for online appointments, invoicing customers, bookkeeping, etc.  Office 365 and other cloud solutions are transforming the competitive landscape by constantly expanding the breadth of available services while hardly budging on price.

Microsoft introduced the Business Center recently that provides the following basic services to small businesses, in addition to all the core Office suite applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc):

  • Maintains connections to business listings with Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing via  Microsoft Listings

  • Provides online scheduling capabilities via Microsoft Bookings
  • Provides automated invoicing via Microsoft Invoices
  • Provides built-in marketing campaign automation integrated with a Contacts center via Microsoft Connections

How much would you assume I pay for these services? Not too long ago, I would be paying anywhere from $6-20/month for each of these services. This all costs a total of approximately $10/month total and provides all the services I need to run a basic micro-business.

Office 365 – Want a Tour or More Info?

I would be happy to demo Office 365 for you or just talk with you about your business goals and whether Office 365 is a fit. You can book a free consult with me for more info!