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Posted: March 15, 2013

Welcome to the new cloud

Running your business is about to get easier

Cindy Wolf

If you are a small business owner, you are always looking for ways to free up your time to do the things you really love – which might not include bookkeeping, payroll, fixing and setting up phones and computers, filing government forms, online marketing and other administrative tasks. That is, unless your business specializes in doing one of those things – in which case you still have to deal with the rest of them.

The hard part, particularly for small companies without much revenue yet, is figuring out when you really need to hire extra help. You can muddle through a lot of things, but that may cause problems, and it keeps you from doing the things that actually make you money.

Chances are, you hired a few specialists to get your business started and running, perhaps a CPA, a lawyer and a web designer. But they’re expensive, and you try not to use them except when absolutely necessary. So you, the owner, spend 20 to 30 hours a month doing all the back office functions. That’s a lot of time that could be spent doing what you love.

So, what’s holding you back? You may be darn good at doing payroll. And you can keep the computers and phones running with a little extra effort. But maybe QuickBooks makes your head hurt so invoices don’t get sent on time. Or you never get around to updating your website because you’re too tired and hungry by the end of the day. There are solutions that weren’t available even five years ago.

Take bookkeeping. Today you may do your own books on your PC using QuickBooks. It’s not too hard, but you still have to input lots of data, write checks and send invoices. There’s lots of paper. You could hire a bookkeeper, but you’d need someone part-time and super flexible to handle those month end, quarter end, busy season crunches. In the old days, you would also need to get them a computer and a desk to have access to your documentation. Even with an offsite bookkeeper, you still may spend a lot of time gathering up documents so that they’re ready for the bookkeeper to take offsite on their scheduled days. And then you still don’t have real time information about your accounts until the bookkeeper is ready to share.

Enter the cloud. The first wave of cloud solutions just freed you from buying the QuickBooks installation CD. Log in to their platform, input your data, generate the reports, print the invoices, etc. If you’re trying to get off the DIY treadmill, you need more than that. You want the convenience of having your data accessible to you online wherever you are with the service that comes with a bookkeeper that knows your business and that works on your schedule.

One Colorado company that offers that perfect blend of personal service and cloud technology is Catching Clouds (www.catchingclouds.net). We wish all that paper would go away, but that’s not a reality yet. They make that part easy by giving you prepaid addressed envelopes and sending email reminders when you need to send them paper. Then, they take care of all your accounting chores remotely yet you have complete control over your accounts and access to real time data through the Internet. Think of all the time you’ve just freed up? Not to mention the fact that you’re bills are being paid on time and your customers are getting invoiced properly by someone who knows your name and understands your business.

Payroll and other HR services can also be outsourced. When you need to hire a new employee, do you spend hours searching online for an appropriate job description and then do you know how to properly categorize it according to Department of Labor requirements? Or do you assign that job to the receptionist or other untrained employee with a little extra time? Do you delay promotions, disciplinary actions and other HR activities because you know you need to do some research first? Employer Services Group (www.esghr.com) is another regional company that does far more than process payroll.

These new service companies reflect a trend of applying professional personal service to cloud software made to handle key corporate functions including accounting, human resources, online marketing and regulatory compliance.

Note: I have yet to see a law firm do this well. DIY legal websites continue to provide me, a traditional lawyer practicing in an office, with a steady stream of cleanup work.

 Cindy Wolf is a Colorado lawyer with more than 25 years experience representing large and small domestic and multinational companies. Her expertise is in corporate law and commercial contracting, with an emphasis on international issues, technology licensing and the Internet. She can be reached at cindy@cindywolf.com  or visit her blog at www.cindywolf.com

This publication is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. There is no implicit guarantee that this information is correct, complete, or up to date. This publication is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the author.

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