December 2019 - Striven

Striven Recognized as Top 20 Most Promising ERP Software

Lumberton, NJ, December 26, 2019 – CIO Review has recognized Striven, a product developed by Miles Technologies, as one of the most promising new ERP software systems for the past year. In an article published in both its print and digital magazine, CIO Review emphasizes Striven’s versatile functionality and its exceptional customer service.

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In its year-end 2019 review of the top business management software products, the magazine notes Striven’s unique place among its competitors. Though ERP software can provide data transparency and improved operations, many solutions are prohibitively expensive and difficult to onboard. Striven’s model easily accommodates a small business budget, while offering a level of customer service rarely experienced in the world of enterprise software. The article cites Striven’s 91% customer retention rate for the past three years. 

The CIO Review article notes that “[i]n addition to ease-of-use and great service, Striven offers true automation to businesses… Executives can easily monitor work across the company, while employees can complete tasks much more efficiently.” Evaluating a case study where Striven replaced a restaurant group’s unconnected financial and customer management systems, CIO Review found precise financial data and greater reporting accuracy as core measurements of success for the company.

The article concludes by covering the wide spectrum of Striven’s capabilities, noting the product’s attention to both the “smallest functional issues” and big-picture data. It quotes founder and CEO of Striven, Chris Miles, by saying “the biggest reason for [Striven’s] success is that we give people their time back. Every Striven customer is supported by employees who work faster and achieve more.” 

“We are honored to receive this distinction,” says Pashupati Shrestha, Director of Product Development at Striven. “At the same time, we aren’t surprised. Though every member of the Striven team has worked hard to support the product, we never lose sight of our original goal: helping people accomplish more. We see Striven as a means to help businesses be their best. At the end of the day, it’s all about the connection between people.”

About CIO Review

From their website: CIO Review is a leading technology magazine that is at the forefront of guiding enterprises through the continuously varying business environment with information about solutions and services. The magazine serves as a trustworthy knowledge source as well as a platform for the C-suite executives, industry experts, IT buyers, and other decision-makers to share their valuable insights about new technology trends in the market.

Read the full article here.

3 Smarter Accounting Moves To Boost Cash Flow In 2020

I recently shared three smart moves a business owner can take in 2020 to boost cash. Well, you know what? I’m not done— and these moves might be even smarter than the ones before. If you’re running a business, here’s what you can do to increase your cash flow. 

Move #4:  Make It Easy For Your Customers To Pay

When it comes time to pay their bills, some customers – at least some of my customers – get creative in finding ways to delay. Maybe they “misplaced” their invoice. Or they have a question. Or the dog ate their credit card. Or they can’t find their checkbook (yes, their checkbook!). The list goes on.

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I used to get frustrated, but now I realize that people are just people, and some will look for any excuse to get out of paying their bills. So it’s my job – and yours – to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay. Don’t mail invoices— email them. Don’t just accept checks, also take credit cards, mobile and electronic payments (yes there are fees, but isn’t it cheaper to have the cash in the bank rather than spending money collecting it?).  

Make sure customers can pay with a click when they receive your invoice. Take advantage of software that gives your customers an easy access portal to view their invoice history and make online payments. Leverage technology to get reminders and send out automatic emails to help guide them through the payment process. 

All of these actions are designed to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay you. If you don’t make it easy, some will take advantage. And when they do, your cash flow will suffer.

Move #5:  Leverage Tax Reform

Regardless of whether you supported or opposed 2017’s tax reform, it’s tough to argue one thing: tax rates for small businesses have come down because of it. The smartest business owners I know have been meeting with their accountants to wrap their minds around all the things that changed, and even the things that haven’t, so that they can fully leverage any tax benefits that are due to them.

What kinds of benefits? Depending on your business, you might get a 20 percent deduction for your “qualified business income.” You may be able to write off up to $1 million in capital equipment this year without spending any of your cash (just finance it and put it into service). You can get tax credits for starting a 401(K) plan or offering paid time off for family leave. You can take deductions for your employees to attend training and enroll in certain healthcare plans. You may be able to put away more pre-tax money than you think for retirement or get a tax break for helping your employees out with daycare. 

There are lots more, but that’s for a discussion with you and your accountant. Just remember— federal, state and local taxes are likely the biggest drain on your cash, more than any other expense. The business owners I know who are smart about their cash flow are also smart about their taxes.

Move #6:  Re-Visit Factoring

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Accounts receivable “factoring” has gotten a bad rap over the years. But it’s unfair. Businesses have been factoring their open invoices since ancient times.  Factoring is just another term for financing. When a business factors its invoices, it’s basically selling them to another company who – for a fee – is assuming the responsibility of collection.  Just because you factor doesn’t mean you’re facing hard times or cash flow struggles. In many cases, it just means that you’re being smart about your cash.

If you use a good factoring firm – like BlueVine, for example – you can sell individual invoices to them and get the cash upfront. 

“More and more small business owners are discovering online business lending. In fact, roughly a third of non-employer firms turned to online lenders for financing, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve report,” BlueVine’s CEO Eyal Lifshitz told me when I wrote this Inc.com article earlier this year. “Factoring is not about collections. It’s about allowing you to access capital through your unpaid invoices.”

Think about it. You’ve got invoices open from customers – large companies, foreign companies, the government – that notoriously take a long time to pay. Why not get the cash now and put it to better use? Factoring firms like BlueVine leverage cloud technology to submit invoices, get quick approvals and turn around cash as fast as 24 hours. They also set up lines of credit so you can just pick and choose which invoices you want to factor and get the funds even quicker.

Having cash in the bank is better than waiting for it, even if you have to pay a fee to get it in quicker.

I hope these additional ideas help you generate even more cash in 2020. I know they’ve helped me and my clients.

What Your Employees Wish You Knew About ERP Software Implementation

Open communication: the key to employee satisfaction and productivity when a business is changing its daily operations. That’s why one of the most effective things you can do when attempting to solve roadblocks during periods of change is to keep it simple: ask your employees what they need.

Implementing new software forces internal changes like few other events in a company’s lifecycle. Employee needs will multiply, their time will be strained, and there will be a lot of new information to learn. Adaptation for everyone is key, and it will be your responsibility to help facilitate it.

Implementation concept illustration. Idea of innovation and development.

Managing change through ERP software implementation goes deeper, and is more profound than an isolated process. Proper change management and employee support through the duration of a major shift in your office’s digital makeup determines their future engagement in company culture. It impacts responsiveness to requests for collaboration, fuels their motivation to set long-term career goals, and cements their understanding of company leadership’s authenticity.

Here are some of the things your employees wish they could tell you about the right way to handle change management when switching to a new cloud software system, sourced from employees of small businesses.

Know Your Employees’ Needs (and Set Expectations)

“I wish management had thoroughly researched our needs beforehand – asked what could improve our overall process, and created a viable timeline for our software implementation.”

How you anticipate the need of your workforce is a powerful tool that significantly improves the process of software implementation. And that extends through the life of the project—from the research stage through what comes after ERP implementation.

When it comes to change management, your success requires one critical component: that you listen to your team. 

It’s vitally important to source information from those who work with your systems and data directly, because, as Liz Ryan writes in Forbes: ”Your employees know a lot more about hundreds of aspects of your business than you do.” They’re your touchstone for the things you don’t personally encounter on a day-to-day basis. 

Ask yourself questions designed to help guide your team toward success: Does accounting need a fully integrated way to track hours, salaries, expenses, and generally streamline the way it does payroll? Do your departments need a better way to track project management across multiple teams? 

erp software communication

Transparency between you and your staff is your best friend before and during the onboarding process. It helps you evaluate both the scope of the shift and its timeline.

After you’ve exhausted your team’s input, it’s time to go beyond your immediate knowledge base. Absorb the information that other business owners and consultants can offer to see whether there is a system that addresses most or all of the needs your employees have expressed. 

This kind of research also helps you get a good sense of how long the onboarding process is going to take from multiple sources. And when you create your projected timeline for the transition, don’t forget to share it in detail with your employees. They’re relying on you and your plan to formulate their own expectations of workload.

Get a Responsive Support Team 

“I wish we had access to a live support person in our time zone for help with data importing, training on a particular part of the system, or just general technical help.”

When you’re looking at a new system, the last thing you want to worry about is having adequate support to guide you through the process. It should be standard.

A good support team is there for you every step of the way and provides a baseline for the onboarding process that every office should have. The relationship between an office in transition and the support team in charge of implementation needs to: 

  • include members who are thoroughly trained on the system,
  • have a process to report any software issues you may be having, and
  • be available to you during your team’s hours of operation.

Otherwise, they aren’t supporting your business—they’re creating a roadblock on your speedway.

That same support team also needs to be available to you after deployment of the new system to discuss how things can be made even better. Companies move forward and become more effective when the tools they need to grow aren’t just handed to them.

Provide Access to User Documentation

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“The onboarding process was difficult because management wasn’t completely trained on how to use the system. And the support staff wasn’t in our time zone. I would have loved to have user documentation or a manual on hand that is written by the software developer and distributed to all users.”

In addition to a great support team, having support documentation readily available is a necessity. 

Even if support is accessible, no one wants to be on the phone all the time when they have an issue. They may not have the ability. Especially if they consider it to be minor, or if they know that there’s a simple fix. Maybe it’s something as easy as finding a support article that illustrates a small function they learned while on a training module. 

Either way, distributing a web-accessible manual and video instructions can save your team time and considerable effort while they learn the basics of the new system. And speeding up your employees’ understanding of a new system while creating a manageable workload is what it’s all about.

Conclusion

Sometimes all it takes to be successful is reinforcing your own common sense: get your employees to speak up about their needs and concerns. You will only know what they know if you ask.

Provide an ERP software implementation that streamlines your employees’ process, supplies the framework for a smooth transition, and ensures an atmosphere of future transparency. Do it in a way that promotes a healthy work transition for your team.

You Love Your Legacy System. And It’s Killing Your Business.

You need a new pair of jeans. Your current pair is fraying around the cuffs and has a permanent rectangular impression in the front pocket where your phone fits. It has one visible coffee stain and several more that blend into the indigo. Though others can’t see all the flaws, you know they’re there.

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Your family has threatened to order you some fresh denim. But why are you so insistent on keeping your current pair?

The answer is obvious: they’re comfortable. Despite their imperfections, they fit you perfectly. Years of wear have practically molded them to your exact shape. When you buy new jeans, they’re going to feel a bit starchy at first. Adapting to them will take time.

Sooner than later, your current pair of jeans is going to fall apart. In fact, it’s already happening. The frays will turn to tears (pronounce that either way), and unless you’re careful, you’ll be left pantsless.

The Burden of Legacy Systems

business management software system

You love your company’s legacy system for the same reasons you love those jeans. You’ve used it for years, and it has fit most of your processes exactly to your liking. (You have probably adopted many of your processes over time to fit the system without even realizing it.) 

And though you can’t see it happening in real-time, your old apps are falling apart right before your eyes. Here’s how you can tell:

  • It’s slow; running reports, exporting files, and using the interface all take too long
  • Updates are scarce; they negatively  impact your productivity 
  • There is no cloud connectivity— you’re tied to the desktop
  • New employees complain about all the things it can’t do
  • The support team is essentially non-existent
  • You’ve given up thinking you can grow your business with it

It’s not that you haven’t noticed the ever-growing list of negatives; you’ve simply looked past them. Why? Because your legacy system feels just comfortable enough.

There’s a real danger in that type of comfort: you tie yourself to processes that only work with outdated software systems. Since your system doesn’t integrate with anything else, your operations become fractured. You lose the type of transparency and data interpretation capabilities that characterize most businesses today.

Simply put, you’re behind the times. In a situation like that, it’s impossible to think clearly about the future. One day soon, your legacy software system will move from being outdated to being completely obsolete. And unless you’re prepared for the next steps, there’s not really much you can do about it.

Agility and Competition

There are deeper concerns about working on legacy apps than just process time and growth impediments. From an IT perspective, software systems that exist outside of the cloud can pose serious security risks. IBM (via AltextSoft) estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $4 million.

It gets worse. In a TechCrunch interview, COO of Docker noted that “companies are spending up to 80 percent of their IT budgets supporting… legacy applications.” Think about how a cloud-based, fully supported app can help you reallocate that budget.

Numbers aside, the companies who figure out how to stay agile and competitive in a changing business environment will succeed. Software systems play an increasingly important role in that process.

Moving Away From a Legacy System

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Even if you love your old software system, saying goodbye to it might actually be the easiest part of your journey forward. You need something new, but the products at your disposal have only multiplied. At first glance, none of them are likely to suit your exact needs. Treat that feeling as an opportunity, rather than a deterrent. And start preparing to find a solution.

Here are some quick tips for doing so:

Talk to other business owners and executives.

See what software systems other people are using and whether they’re happy. Ask about support, functionality, and longevity. Ideally, you want a business management software that will be around for a long time to come— it’s the best insurance against the current problems you’re having.

Work With a Consultant

Depending on how complex your business operations are, it may be beneficial to hire a business technology consultant. You want to look for a group that implements multiple products, has many years of experience, and isn’t just trying to sell you something. At their best, consultants value their own reputation and will only point you toward the best solutions. You’ll know the right ones when you see them.

Do Your Own Research

As you sift through the opinions of others, it’s always good to get some first-hand experience with software systems. If you’re looking for an ERP or an all-in-one software solution, there’s no substitute for getting on the phone with a technology advisor and asking some questions. You’ll quickly get a feeling for their communication style and find out whether you’ll get the answers you’re looking for.

Conclusion

Unlike your old pair of jeans, you’re going to have significantly fewer fond memories of your software once it stops working for you. The discomfort will feel all-too-real, and the money you’re losing in upkeep doesn’t help, either.

But if you’re looking to grow and get more competitive, the way software systems handle your operations is about much more than comfort. They’re about the vitality and future of your business. Importantly (and sadly for this metaphor), you’ll end up taking this process much more seriously than your favorite old pair of pants.