Putting your business at risk?

‘If I lose it, I’m sunk. It’s my life at Emma’s Cottage. All the notes, to do’s, grape production weights.

This is what Therese Kramer, the proprietor of Emma’s Cottage www.emmascottage.com.au (a vineyard, restaurant and guest house in the Hunter Valley) told me about the notebook in her hand. We were catching up several weeks ago while I was there for a conference. Chatting about the new vineyard she had bought about a year ago.

Therese was keeping all her important business information in a hand sized book, which was her constant companion so she could write the notes and record information that she needed.

We both agreed how risky that was. You know the insurance question – what if something happens to it? What if it’s in the car and it’s stolen? What if it falls in a lake? Anything can happen. By the way, Therese had ‘in hand’ also (of course) a Galaxy smartphone with mobile broadband.

This is what I suggested to her as a cheap, easy, effective immediate solution.

Dropbox www.dropbox.com To snap a photo on her phone of each important page. Then upload all the images to a dropbox account. Dropbox is like a free memory stick in the air so to speak. You get seven gigs of free storage. The images can be named. And they can be shared. But this way you’ve got a back up to your book.

OneDrivewww.onedrive.com Microsoft has free Office 2013 in the cloud. You just have to sign up for it. It has Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It’s better than a memory stick in the air because all the files in addition to being up/down loadable – they can be shared with others. Microsoft has a MS Office App for Galaxy and also a OneDrive App. Again free. Easy.

OneNote- part of OneDrive above is similar to Evernote. http://www.evernote.com. Both operate like paper notebooks/ scrapbooks. You can create one or more notebooks. Create sections. Images can be embedded, screenshots captured. It’s great for organising your information online.

After listening to all of these suggestions and agreeing, Therese said ‘You will be proud of me Debbie, I am taking my business into the 21st century. My brother is an electrical contractor and he has been raving to me about Xero www.xero.com and saying ‘you’ve got to get it’ so I did. I started using it a bit ago and each week I learn something new.

Having an interest in this area of productivity my ears picked up so I asked ‘how do you find it’?

‘It saves me so many hours every quarter and has cut down on my accountancy fees, even though I sometimes call to ask her how to do something (so I don’t have to look through the online help.) The time and money saved are put directly into growing Emma’s Cottage business.

I love the invoicing. They’re easy to create, the drop down menu enables me to allocate income/expenses different cost centres (vineyard, restaurant) saving 5-10 minutes by itself. I write little personal notes on invoices and with a click to ‘approve’ they’re out as a pdf and my customers can pay them directly with a click too. For the first time I can accurately see who has and has not paid.’

I asked if there were any other features she liked. ‘Payroll!!! Was her response. We have lots of casual staff. I used to spend so much time recording information then transferring funds to each of their accounts. Now it is so quick and easy. You set it up. Hit approve. Xero then does all the work.

So what is the moral of this story?

With Therese we see the yin/yang of everyday business owners. Using the newest best technology in one aspect of her business (Xero) but on the other hand, the risky old, old school way of writing things in a single source of paper with no backup.

What if Therese wanted to look at vineyard production over time? In the notebook you can’t. However if she had it in a simple spreadsheet, she’d be able to instantly see production through graphing. Be able to compare it with other local vineyards if that information was available.

Even if you/ she doesn’t want to eliminate pen and paper, at the very least back it up with photos, but it’s best to have it in software where it can be worked with. The convenience of having all your information available through cloud software applications means one’s phone can replace the notebook. If the phone is lost? The information is still there, online.