5 Things You Need to Know About Business Phone Systems and What to Look For

Before you take on the task of researching the best business phone systems out there, here are a few general things you need to know to help you make the best decision for your business communication needs.

1. Premise-based PBX vs. Hosted PBX

For the most part, there are two types of PBX business phone systems: Premise and Hosted. A premise-based business phone system requires clunky equipment to be stored within your office and is usually seen in larger enterprises. Small business owners are recommended to use hosted business phone systems for seamless expansion and cost efficiency.

2. Expensive Equipment is Not Always Necessary

One way your PBX business phone systems save you money is by not requiring you to make expensive purchases on hardware. With BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), you can use your mobile phone or keep using your existing hardware without any issues. Wiring and cabling is also not necessary as hosted PBX business phone systems are powered using your internet connection.

3. It Can Boost Productivity and Help Retain Customers

You won’t have to worry about letting a message slip through the cracks. Many business phone systems have features in place like call continuity and voicemail to email to ensure you always stay on top of your messages. Cloud receptionist features like auto attendant are also available so you can offer an overall better customer experience and keep your buyers satisfied.

4. Promotes Workspace Flexibility

Modern systems provide users with the freedom to work from anywhere. These days, you don’t need to have an office to have a business phone system; all you need is a reliable internet connection and electricity (unless you’re using a virtual PBX and operating straight from your cell phone). It’s also easy to expand your team and add extensions, as well as move from one location to another with an easy plug and play solution.

As you search for business phone systems, you will come across providers ranging from those that have been around for decades and some that have sprouted in the last few years. Although we praise experience, it may not always be best to choose a provider solely on their shelf life. Go with a provider that focuses their efforts on business solutions (some providers go as far to make focus medium-sized and small businesses their main focus) to ensure that your business communication needs are being met. Check out their services and decide whether or not they have what your business needs.

5. Not All Business Phone Systems Are Created Equal

How A PBX Phone System Can Benefit Your Business
Don’t be fooled by the jargon and heavily technical literature you may find on PBX systems. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to learn how to operate a PBX system. If you’re purchasing hardware from a provider, you will most likely receive a pre-configured phone that is ready to use as soon as it arrives. This makes it possible to just plug in the device and start making calls with barely any set up. Cabling and wiring is not necessary with a hosted PBX system so installation fees and downtime is not something you would have to worry about.

All of these benefits lead to one thing: more savings. Without set up costs or expensive hardware, you can use the time and money you’re saving and invest it back into your business. For even more savings, you can choose a virtual PBX phone system that allows you to run your business from your mobile phone using your business phone number. It’s the simplicity and professionalism many entrepreneurs look for without the cost of a major PBX phone system provider.

Small Business Phone System Features to Look Out For
If you’re looking for any limitation that PBX business phone systems bring, it would be that they rely on an internet connection to function. As long as you’re using a reliable internet provider your system will stay up and running; however, many PBX business phone systems offer the ability to forward your calls to an external device, like your smartphone. It’s an added security feature that gives business owners peace of mind knowing that they won’t miss an opportunity regardless of unexpected circumstances. Just like this simple call forwarding feature, there are many services within a small business phone system that can save your business.

Call recording is a great way to keep voice records, just be sure to follow your state’s laws in regards to voice recording. It comes in handy with industries like travel agencies and medical offices when there is miscommunication or an incident regarding an exchange of information over the phone. It’s a way to meet compliance standards for certain industries and has been a crucial tool for business owners who rely on record-keeping for accountability and training purposes.

You can easily streamline your customer’s calling experience with an automated attendant and customized caller menu. These two features work together to give your caller relevant information, like new promotions or upcoming changes to your office hours, and direct them to the people they need to speak with. Your callers will appreciate the updates and their positive experience will encourage them to recommend your service to others.

Overall, keep it simple. You might not need all the bells and whistles a major provider might offer, so be sure to understand your specific business communication needs. Look for business phone systems that reduce the headaches, not add to it.

How to Start a Plumbing Business

So, you want to start a plumbing business. This could be a terrific decision, or, it could be the worst idea ever. Starting a plumbing business, or any business really, involves a certain amount of structured thinking to put everything in place, and making sure that you have thought of everything. By following this strategy planning process, you will have covered all the important aspects of getting your planning and strategy in the right place, and this will make the starting of your own plumbing business some 450% more successful.

The Strategy Required to Start Any Business

Starting a plumbing business, a bakery, or a high-tech company all requires the same basic thinking strategy. To remember it best, use the EASI acronym. In this case, E stands for emotion, A for achieving a win, S for simple and straightforward and I for the implementation.

Everybody wanting to start a business should be aware that it is going to involve plenty of challenges, hardships, stress, worry, and a multitude of other issues. The process of starting a business has often been likened to jumping off a cliff, and building an aeroplane on the way down. It will mean sleepless nights, long working hours and the unwavering support of family and friends around you. This is real, and the reason so many start-up businesses fail.

The first step, therefore, is to examine the reasons that you want to start the business in the first place. This involves an examination of the emotions, or feeling behind the rationale of starting your own plumbing business. Everyone will have their own reasons for wanting to start their business. It may be as a last resort as they are unable to find employment in the field, it may be that they hate having a boss, it may be that they want to become extraordinarily wealthy. Whatever the reason, it is essential that the owners of the business, if there are more than one, are aware of the strength of their emotions regarding the venture. This will determine the power of the motivation, the real forces behind the venture, and, with the aid of a skilled consultant, allow the prospective business owners to determine if their vessel will survive the storms on the ocean, or if there needs to be some additional emotional management included.

The second item speaks to the vision, or goal of the organisation. A prospective plumbing business may have as its goal to be a loss leader and therefore a tax write-off. It may be that achieving a win with the business would be familial survival, or putting children through school. Either way, all the owners need to be able, collaboratively, to understand what the goal is and to have a combined vision of the business that everyone can buy into. Without this shared vision, any subsequent planning and strategizing will ultimately be negated and sporadic, with everyone involved having different goals and aims, instead of pulling together in the right direction.

Keep Things Simple and Straightforward

It does not take any real skill to make things more complex. The real genius in any situation is to make things more simple. This line of thinking is propagated by all the top entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. Albert Einstein often used to say that if you couldn’t explain a thing to a six-year-old, you didn’t understand it yourself. In light of this strategic thinking, the next piece of advice is to keep all your plans and strategies simple and straightforward. Set a goal that everyone involved, all the stakeholders, can buy into. See where you currently are, and plan a way to get to that goal that all concerned can understand, appreciate, and take ownership of.

The final step in setting up a new plumbing business is to implement the strategy. Without a rigorous implementation strategy and plan, all the goal-setting and personal examination of business vision and motivation will just become a distant wish. Implementation plans fall into five basic categories; overall business strategy, financial planning, human resources and communications, sales and marketing, and project management. All businesses must be able to conduct planning with respect to these five regions of business expertise in order to be successful.

Implementing Your Plumbing Business Strategy

The first step in initiating the plan within all the five sectors that need examination is to complete a real, practical, and genuine business plan. Having gone through the initial strategic thinking process as outlined above, compiling an overall business plan should be relatively easy. Nevertheless, failing to spend sufficient time aligning a business plan to the strategy will mean that the business is also likely to fail, because one of the well-known factors in determining business success is that more than 80% of successful businesses have determined their overall strategy in detail, aligned the business plan, gone into each aspect of the business plan in detail, and repeat this strategic thinking process regularly amongst all the stakeholders.

Once the business plan has been compiled in detail, with all the necessary inputs being not only realistic but pragmatic as well, then the detailed considerations in each of the five business aspects can begin. This should dovetail with the business plan, but expand on the details simply stated in the plan to some extent. In the case of a plumbing business as we are considering here, some of the parameters in these five aspects of the business will be examined. Not in an attempt to intimidate any prospective plumbing entrepreneurs, but rather in an attempt to illustrate the importance of this strategic thinking process, and the reasons why it should be conducted in detail, and why utilising effective and experienced business consultants will not only increase the chances of success, but probably save substantial money in the medium to long term.

Five Business Areas to Conduct Planning

These five business areas, as related to a plumbing business, are strategy, financial, sales and marketing, human resources and communications, and projects. Overall strategy has been discussed in some detail, and following the above instructions will guarantee success in this regard.

The financial planning aspect when starting a plumbing business is of crucial importance. A detailed understanding of potential income, and expenditures related to the running of the business need to be examined. Whereas these are obviously tied in the overall strategy, the practical aspects of a plumbing business will need to be added by the stakeholders, using their experience and knowledge of the field. Office premises, the maintenance of stock and supplies, transport, and the ability to survive until the income exceeds the costs needs to be determined. All potential financial considerations, such as stakeholder input, the possibility of generating loans and financial support and receiving up-front payments all need to be planned in great detail.

Income of a plumbing business is directly related to the amount of work undertaken and the charges levied on this work. In an overall sense, the amount of income must exceed the costs of the business, and the aim of any sales and marketing plan is to ensure that this is, in fact, the case. With the advent of social media and the internet, the avenues available to market a business have increased exponentially. The starting point for any plumbing business, like any service related business, is to determine in as much detail as possible who exactly the people are that would be providing the business with revenue. These people, as a whole, are called the buying persona of the business. A plumbing business may, for instance, decide to stay small and provide after-hours services to family and friends, or it may target large corporate projects and tenders. Or anything in between. The better any prospective plumbing organisation understands exactly the behaviour, like, needs, wants, and aims of their prospective market the better they will fare. The example here is that a plumber who caters to the lower end of the economic market would use more print media and posters to advertise the business, while a plumber catering to an upper market segment may elect to use social media more since richer people have smartphones and will be reachable using digital platforms.

Human resources and communications requires detailed planning on its own too. Depending on the structure of the plumbing organisation, and their unique selling points, there may be a customer service department required, or a marketing department if this is the determining factor of achieving business. Planning and structuring the organisation accordingly will depend on the overall aims and vision, but will need to take the entire business plan into consideration.

Plumbing services generally will require on-site operations and the effective management of these operations as individual projects. Good project management is key to any service industry and the basic principles of project management is going to be essential. Once again, though, project management should not be seen as a complex and difficult issue, but rather a simplified and straightforward way of dealing, and communicating with all the stakeholders involved in every project.

The Required Starting Blocks of a Plumbing Business

These steps, as outlined above, if conducted thoroughly and efficiently, with the businesses core vision in mind and a positive collaborative mindset as a starting point, will ensure that the business has a better than 80% chance of success. However, as stated numerous times during this discussion piece, this is not a 5-minute exercise. This is a detailed strategic thinking process that will require honesty and commitment. There are certain things, therefore, that should be borne in mind before even embarking on the strategy process.

The first is an audit of the emotional intelligence of the stakeholders in the plumbing business. Like any service industry, plumbing involves hard work and much on-site work where things can easily go wrong. A high emotional intelligence score amongst the business owners is the best possible indicator of success. Emotional intelligence means being able to cope and manage the stresses and challenges involved, it means training your mind to find solutions in the midst of chaos happening all around you, and it means being able to be an effective leadership team who can steer a business through uncertain times. On the other hand, it does not mean someone who succumbs to the influences of anger or vindictiveness. Emotional intelligence can be learned and improved upon, so it certainly can be developed, but it is key that this quality be determined before initiating any business.

Secondly, there needs to be an understanding that knowledge is vital. The prognosis for a baker who wakes up one morning and sees a plumber friend making lots of money and then decides to start a plumbing business is unfortunately not very good. Plumbing, in order to be successful, needs to be done well. In a highly competitive business environment such as there is today all over the world, any business needs to actually be good at their job to be successful. It is for this reason that it is a prerequisite of starting a plumbing business that the stakeholders at the very least have access to high quality plumbing services. This includes knowing all aspects of the work, the market potential, and the survival rates of their competition. Without this core knowledge, no matter how good the strategizing process and the plans that come out of it, there is no chance of success.

In conclusion, therefore, starting a plumbing business is easy. Starting a plumbing business that is successful and over the short, medium, and long term can deliver on the aims and requirements of the owners is less much less easy. The key differentiator here is having a good, well thought out and innovative strategy, and using this strategy to generate and compile effective implementation plans in the right areas. JFK always used to say that efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction, and so it is with many things, and starting a plumbing business is one of those things.

Why Business Analytics Is Essential for Running a Successful Business

WHY IS BUSINESS ANALYTICS IMPORTANT?
The foremost goal of any organization is profitability, and customer satisfaction is a huge component of the success of a business. When an organization innovates and stays ahead of its competition, it fulfills and goes beyond customer expectations. Many businesses still rely on ineffective, time-consuming traditional techniques for decision making processes that cannot keep pace with the competition.

The use of “Gut feel” in taking strategic decisions still plays an important role among business leaders. But does reliance on “Gut feeling” and “Traditional techniques” make for smart decision-making? What’s the best approach?

The technology boom has given rise to innovations in how data is used. Business analytics is the solution and the best move to ensure competitiveness in today’s era. To define the term: “Business analytics, one of the emerging fields in the data science, refers to the methods and various statistical and quantitative techniques used by an organization for informed decision making and business modeling”.

Analytics is the change that helps you to get your business on track. It assists the businesses to convert the humongous amount of generalized data into observation, patterning and vision.

BENEFITS OF BUSINESS ANALYTICS
What was discussed above is just an academic definition. Now let’s discuss why one needs to adopt it in business operations:

  1. Fast decisions are easily taken, but what matters is smart decisions taken in a short period. It helps to inculcate faster and smarter decision making into business culture of your organization. With the help of business analytics, the company can empower a team for data analysis to extract targeted information. When a company accesses accurate and essential data, undoubtedly, it will take the right decisions.
  2. Analytics helps in quantifying business values.
  3. Most businesses provide training programs for fresh recruits or older employees where the core business values are imparted or refreshed. Instead, companies should go a step further and undertake the help of business analytics to translate business values into numbers. This is a more cost and time efficient undertaking.

CAREER PATH OF A BUSINESS ANALYST
A business analyst is one who assists organizations in the process of business analytics. The career path of a business analyst is not strictly defined as there are several options based on industry, qualifications, interests, preferences etc.

  • Training provides trainees with the skills and knowledge needed for a proper understanding and interpretation of data.
  • Training courses help students in getting exposed to data systems and tools like R, SAS, Python etc. making them eligible for various analytical jobs.
  • The best incentive for undergoing a course is that the industry-best average salary of a business analyst is Rs 491,522 a year. There are various skills that can increase the pay scale of a business analyst like project management, SAS etc.

CONCLUSION

  • The role of a business analyst is often seen as one that bridges the gap between different departments in an organization. There are various business analytics courses which can help you achieve all the benefits mentioned above. Candidates with these skills can help an organization to strategically improve operational efficiency.

New Business Startup Checklist

STARTUP CHECKLIST OUTLINE

INTRODUCTION

BUDGETS

LEGAL STRUCTURE

NOT-FOR-PROFIT ISSUES

DBA

TAX ID

PAYROLL REGISTRATION & COMPLIANCE

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR VS EMPLOYEE

INSURANCE

SALES TAX

BOOKS AND RECORDS

INTRODUCTION

There are a few fundamentals that every business must have in order to operate as a business. First and foremost is the fact that your primary objective is turning a profit. Even the IRS takes the position that if all you do is continuously generate losses they will consider your “business” a hobby and disallow your losses. There not only needs to be a profit motive but a profit generated. This may seem like a no-brainer to you but in my 30+ years of experience I have seen far too many startup generate nothing but expenses and there are some good reasons for that which I will cover next.

Before quitting your day job to open your 1st business I suggest checking off on a few items of importance. The first item on your list is to have a product or service that people will actually pay for. Not something you think they will pay for because in the end it doesn’t matter what you think, it’s what “they” think. That’s the plain, simple truth. If you’re not sure about it then before you spend tons of cash and bankrupt yourself do some testing. Use your circle of friends and family and then their circle of friends and family. It’s important to be able to get people that don’t already know, like and trust you to buy. If you can show that without a shadow of a doubt that you have something that will generate revenue continue reading. If not the rest of this article is of no use to you.

BUDGETS

Once you determine that you have a product or service that will generate revenue these are the next steps you need to take and why:

1: Prepare a monthly personal expense budget.

You need to determine how much you need to generate in distributions from your business to at least meet your monthly outlay. Unless you are already out of work with no other income options you need to keep paying your bills. Don’t just quit your job unless you have at least a year’s worth of savings to carry you through.

The reason for this is that without a cushion you will feel the stress of having to make money. Stress clouds our judgement and drains our energy. You always need to be in tip-top shape mentally and physically. You’re going to have enough distractions and obstacles to begin with and don’t need to add any self imposed burdens on yourself. Additionally, knowing what you need is 1,000 times better that operating in the dark. Knowing your numbers is essential if you want to run a successful enterprise.

On the next page is a simple worksheet to help you determine your monthly nut. Don’t make the mistake of omitting things like meals and entertainment, vacations, holidays, birthdays and the all important surprises that are sure to occur like car and home repairs. If you have children leave a nice big fudge factor. This is just your expenses, not revenue and not even broken out on a monthly basis. It’s just an estimate so don’t go into needless details. Keep it simple!

PERSONAL MONTHLY EXPENSE SCHEDULE

CATEGORY

FOOD

CLOTHING

RENT/MORTGAGE

DWELLING REPAIRS/IMPROVEMENTS

CAR PAYMENTS

CAR REPAIRS/MAINTENANCE

GAS

AUTO INSURANCE

UTILITIES

CELL PHONE

BIRTHDAYS/HOLIDAYS/VACATION

DOCTORS/DENTIST

OTHER INSURANCE

LAUNDRY

LOANS

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS

MISC-FUDGE FACTORS

TOTAL

After checking off the personal expense budget one of two things will happen.

  1. Reality will set in and you will realize that starting a business is a big risk not worth taking or to proceed with caution.
  2. You want to go on to the second item on the list.

2: Prepare a schedule of startup cost.

These are all the expenses and capital investments associated with getting the business off the ground before you start generating revenue. This is another potential blow to your plans on starting a business. Reason being is that entrepreneurs are full of enthusiasm and optimism which is needed but also one of the characteristics that get us into trouble. Getting the numbers down on paper and reviewing them accomplish a few objectives. It brings us down to earth revealing exactly what’s at stake financially. It’s also the first step in learning how to know your numbers. You will learn that part of running a successful business is knowing your numbers.

BUSINESS STARTUP COST

INVENTORY

1ST MONTH RENT/RENT SECURITY

UTILITY DEPOSIT

EQUIPMENT

WEBSITE

FURNITURE

COMPUTER/OFFICE SUPPLIES

LEGAL/ACCOUNTING

PRINTING

ADVERTISING

TRAVEL

TOTAL

3: Prepare a schedule of monthly business expenses.

Going back to fundamentals, you need to generate positive cash flow which is not the same as generating revenue. Positive cash flow occurs when your revenue exceeds your expenses. This must exceed expenses (net profit) to the point that it covers your personal expenses, the 1st schedule on the list. If these numbers don’t work you’re going to put stress on yourself and nothing positive comes from stress. That’s why I strongly suggest having the 1 year expense cushion.

I realize that these numbers are only estimates and that your actual expenses will be different. I highly recommend overestimating these because inevitably you will get hit with unexpected expenses, both business and personal.

MONTHLY BUSINESS EXPENSES

RENT

UTILITIES

SUBSCRIPTIONS (WEB HOSTING,

MARKETING

PAYROLL

PAYROLL TAXES

ACCOUNTING & BOOKKEEPING

OFFICE

INSURANCE

AUTO (GAS, REPAIRS & INSURANCE)

TRAVEL

TOTAL

This is a simple list outlining the basic issues every small business must address. It’s highly advisable that you know and have a general understanding all of these areas before making any decisions about formally starting your business. I can guarantee that if you don’t address these issues now you will be forced to address them later, hopefully not under duress when you are more likely to make mistakes.

Legal Structure:

These are your options when it comes to your legal structure as a business. If you don’t formally choose one of these you are a Sole Proprietor by default. If you don’t formally set up your Not-For-Profit you can face some serious legal repercussions. Before you do anything seek the advice of a good accountant. I say accountant and not an attorney because most attorneys are not versed in tax strategies and choosing the wrong structure can cost you a significant amount of money.

Sole Proprietor

Partnership

Corporation

“S” Corp

LLC

Not for Profit

Most small businesses should be structured as an “S Corp” for legal and tax planning purposes. I’ve seen many new business owners choose to be structured as an LLC without knowing the tax implications. I have included an article on being taxes as an LLC and self employed vs being taxed as an “S Corp”.

Not for Profit issues:

It may seem obvious but you would be surprised by how many individuals mistakenly think they can set up a Not for Profit to make money. Not for Profits do occasionally pay salaries if it’s in their budget but there seems to be a general misunderstanding about how and why these entities are created. That is why I am addressing it here.

There are several types of Not for Profit organizations. Many people believe that every Not for Profit organization can accept tax deductible donations. They may be able to accept donations but in order for them to be tax deductible it must be set up as a 501 (C) 3 corporation. A 501(C) 3 organization is not simple to set up and must first be organized under state law and then go through a rigorous IRS process to be approved as a charity. The organization is exempt from Federal and State income taxes as long as the money received is consistent with it’s Not for Profit purpose. I believe that this is where the confusion takes place.

Case in point-The NCAA is a Not-for-Profit college basketball tournament. They receive millions of dollars in advertising revenue from the tournament and had to pay millions of dollars in corporate income tax on that revenue because it was what the IRS considers “Unrelated business income”. It had nothing to do with the organizations Not-for-profit status.

So if you want to start a Not-For-Profit do it because you want to make a difference, not because you want to make money.

DBA- another misunderstood concept. A DBA (Doing business as) is for a sole proprietor which distinguishes the individual from the business. There is no legal separation with for a sole proprietor meaning that the owner is personally legally liable for any business conducted. A DBA is usually your business name, registered with a local jurisdiction such as a county clerk. In order to set up a business bank account you will need to get a DBA.

Tax identification # – You need this to open a bank account and conduct business when you form a business entity beyond being a sole proprietor. You also need a tax id number if you’re a sole proprietor with employees. You get a tax id# by registering with IRS.

Payroll registration -If you are paying wages either to yourself or employees you need to notify IRS (usually when you apply for your tax ID) and the state you are doing business in. Each state requires you register to file and pay unemployment taxes and requires a separate registration number beside your Federal Tax ID#.

Payroll Compliance – This is a big one and way to much to cover here but here are the bullet points:

Hiring- Forms W4 and I9

Withholding and employment taxes

Form filing

Remitting “trust fund” and employment taxes

Employee vs. Independent Contractor – I mention this because it’s a very big topic with IRS and state agencies and insurance companies. It comes down to payroll taxes and insurance risks so “they” are scrutinizing these classifications with a microscope. It’s your responsibility to learn what the difference is and how you want to classify those workers in the “grey” areas. A mistake here can cost you plenty.

Insurance – A really good advisor is needed on issues from commercial liability, truck and auto, etc. If you have payroll you MUST have workers compensation AND Disability. For some reason many employers forget about the disability part and I’ve seen way too many bad brokers get the workers compensation set up and forget about the disability.

Sales tax – A lot of businesses sell goods and services that are not subject to sales tax. Don’t assume you’re one of them. Sales tax probably the most complicated and hardest tax to calculate and fully comply with. My advice is to assume everything is taxable. Check with your state agency for the details including if you need to be registered as a sales tax vendor or not.

Books & Records – one of the easiest concepts to learn and one that wreaks fear in any business owner that has received a letter stating something to the effect of “We command you to bring your books and records to IRS agent… “

Every business, and every organization for that matter needs to keep proper books and records. Very not sexy and boring but required. I recommend getting IRS Publication 583 “Starting a business and keeping records” for starters.

This is just a beginning. If you feel overwhelmed at this point I suggest keeping your job instead of starting a business. It takes a lot to be your own boss. It sounds like fun but until you try it for real you can never truly know all that’s involved.