Software Spotlight on Minutedock

MinuteDock is a timesheet software that I’ve been using with my team for several years now, and it’s an invaluable tool for me to be able to keep a track of the hours we spend on customer work and different types of work.

In a nutshell, you log into your account, select the customer you are working for, the type of work you are doing and you set the timer going.  You can pause the timer if the phone rings or you need to leave your desk, and when you’re finished the task you can add detail of specifically what you’ve done and ‘dock’ the time.

Some nice touches that make this software particularly useful are:

· Internal invoicing facility or integration with several popular online accounting software packages

· Log time from anywhere - web browser bookmark, twitter, mobile, Eon

· Comprehensive reporting

· Budget/Goal tracking

· Real-time view for customers

Many of you may know that I have another business, Mosaic Virtual Office, and my VAs are virtual from me as well as my clients.  They each have a log-in for MinuteDock and whenever they do any customer work they login, set the timer going, add the details of who they’re working for and what they’re doing.  When they ‘dock’ work hours I can see it in my login and I can use this information to invoice the clients.

The real-time customer view also means that our customers always know the hours that are being worked, so there should never be any surprises when the invoice lands.

The other great thing is the ability to set goals, so if a customer is working to a budget, we are able to easily keep an eye on the amount of time we have spent working for them and flag up when it’s reaching their maximum spend limit for the month.

And even if you work on a fixed fee basis, it is useful for tracking and monitoring.  I record all the customer work I do, even if it’s not necessary for charging purposes.  What it has helped me do is ensure that I get a true picture of how long it takes me to do different tasks, so that when I’m quoting for a job I know it’s based on reality, not my best guess.  It makes for interesting reading as well—I bet you don’t realise how long it takes you to do things!

The cost for the first user is $16 NZD per month (which is approximately £8) but additional users are only $4 per month.  There is a free 14 day trial if you want to give it a try, just go to www.minutedock.com.

 

 

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Software Spotlight on SimpleMind

SimpleMind is a free mind-mapping app that I use on my iPad when I’m carrying out the documenting stage of  my work with clients.  I’m sitting in their office taking down details of the work they do, the order things are done in, the instructions of how to carry out tasks, etc, and this app gives me flexibility to put the information in the right order, move things about and capture an initial rough draft of the process.

The thing I like about this mind-mapping app over others I’ve seen, is that it allows me to move the bubbles around to wherever I want them to sit on the page.  Some other software creates a very structured map with everything in rows and that doesn’t work for what I’m using it for. 

Also, you will see these mind-maps in my workbook, free download and in the on-line course I’m creating.  Again, for me, the flexibility with the structure and the colourfulness of the bubbles, is more visually appealing and inspiring and I find they are a great way to get information across.

The other thing that’s great about this app is that there is a desktop version, so anything I do on my iPad can be sync’d up to Dropbox and accessed via the desktop software.  This is a great way to be able to get the maps from my iPad to my VA and makes it a truly flexible option.

Licences for the desktop software can be bought for just €24 or €37.50 for a family pack of 4 licences.

Other bits of functionality that make this great for my use are:

· I can create folders for each client and create multiple mind-maps in each folder

· I can save a map as an image for use in other documents

· I can create a new mind-map from a section of another map-mind, allowing me to easily expand a section into more detail

· I can create cross-links between bubbles so you can feed into one bubble from multiple bubbles.

For more information about SimpleMind visit: www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/desktop.

 

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Software Spotlight on Xero

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrases “Cash is King”, “Turnover is Vanity, Profit is Sanity” and Entrepreneurs Circle members will regularly hear Nigel talking about “knowing your numbers”. 

This is all very well, but if you’re not very good with numbers, keeping on top of these things can seem like very hard work.  I’d agree, if you’re trying to keep it all going with a spreadsheet, which is why I can never recommend enough, using an accounts package like Xero. 

There are several different online accounting packages for small businesses, and in many ways they all do much the same, but my personal favourite is Xero.

These online accounting packages are aimed at small business owners who don’t know a lot about accounts, with the specific aim of making it easy for them. 

There is a Dashboard which shows you a summary of your bank accounts, monies coming in and going out, etc, so you can see what’s going on at a glance.  Here are some of the key features that I love about Xero that make my life easier:

Bank Feed

Providing you use a bank that allows automatic bank feeds (I know for sure that Santander, HSBC & Barclay’s do and I suspect most of the main banks will) then you are able to refresh your bank feed whenever you want and all your transactions come straight into the bank statement.  Xero will provisionally reconcile any transactions that it thinks match with invoices already on the system.  This makes it really easy to stay on top of your bank reconciliation and  you can quicklyspot any unexpected/incorrect transactions.

Repeating Invoices

If you have regular invoices that you send out or receive, you are able to set them up as repeating invoices.  This function allows you to set  the date the repeating invoice is produced, whether it should be saved as a draft or be approved and added to the accounts, and if it’s a sales invoice you can set it to send automatically to your customer.  Depending on how many regular invoices you deal with, this can save a lot of time as it’s an automation to your accounting process.

Email

When you want to email an invoice or statement you can do this from within Xero - no need to save to PDF and then go to your email client.  This also means that it’s logged in Xero (automatically) when the invoice/statement was sent and by whom.

The other function that helps your accounting processes run more smoothly is the ability to save different email templates.  There’s no need to worry about what a team member might put on the delicate email asking for payment of an overdue invoice, they just need to select the appropriate template from those that you have pre-stored in the system.

Reports

You are able to get all sorts of reports from Xero which will help you stay on top of your numbers.  No need to wait until your accountant sends info through to you,  it’s at the click of a button whenever you want it.  You can also put in a budget and get reporting against the budget.

That’s a whistle-stop tour but I’d definitely recommend a free trial at Xero.com.

 

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