SME’s and Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The use of Customer Relationship Management systems by SMEs varies widely. Often this is dependent on the industry or sector they are in but perhaps these days, all businesses should consider what they need in terms of tracking and maintaining their customer relationships.

Those who have a very small customer base often say that CRM is not needed as they have a close watch on all the interactions. However, particularly in the age of electronic communications, it is essential to have all the dialogue together and easily accessible. That’s where CRM comes in.

A huge range of software tools are available, usually fitting into easily defined categories and have clear target markets. For example, Salesforce.com is a high spec system covering sales, service and marketing for medium and large companies. It is a complete cloud platform on which other applications can be developed. This is typically used by companies with a high number of customer or prospect records.

At the other end of the scale are such as Zoho CRM, a much leaner cloud based system which is ideally suited to SMEs. The learning curve is low, deployment quick and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.

One key area for SMEs to consider is email integration. If the objective is that every email to and from a customer or prospect is logged or referenced in the CRM tool then this must be a critical area of functionality. Check to ensure that the system integrates with your preferred email platform.

In fact the way in which CRM links to other systems in the business is critical if we are to prevent multiple instances of the customer relationship appearing across the organisation. Anyone considering a CRM implementation should spend some time looking at this area and process mapping how the proposed solution will integrate with existing processes.

This is a vast topic with many good resources available online to gain a far better understanding of CRM before committing to a particular solution. My main point would be to ensure that you understand where it all fits into your business process.

Move from a PC to Mac

Several ago I decided to move from PC to an Apple iMac as my main desktop computer. So with many months of use now behind me, what are my thoughts on this operating system and hardware setup which is loved by so many?

The mechanics of a move from PC to Mac is very easy. As a Dropbox pro user it was a straightforward job to download the application and wait for the files to sync across the wifi network. I used a portable hard drive to transfer large file groups such as video and music.

Loading the standard office and graphics applications proved hassle free, opting for MS Office and some Adobe tools. I added some of the must-have apps such as Evernote, Chrome and Photoshop.

Microsoft Office applications were originally not as good on the Mac as PC. Excel in particular proved to be very frustrating in the early days with some functions needing to be relearned as MS seems to have changed shortcuts just for the sake for it. However, with the latest versions of Office, the gap has been closed and there is very little difference between the two. I would probably find it very strange now going back to the PC versions!

The biggest difference anyone making the PC/Mac change has to cope with are the little ‘quirks’ that are pure Mac. For example, the lack of a Delete key on the short keyboard and the need to still close the application after the windows have been closed.

Probably the best thing about the Mac is the way that, together with an iPhone and iPad, the Apple ‘ecosystem’ brings everything together in a way that is impossible with the PC. It really takes your personal computing to a new level.

After several years of the Mac, I would never go back. However, anyone changing does need to invest some time in learning the Apple way of doing things in order to get the best from the system. Ultimately it is a far better system than Windows, in my opinion.

Kashflow online accounting software

For a long time I had been looking for a better financial accounting package. The Sage range of products are cumbersome to use for a non-accountant and used to have to be installed on a single PC. Multi-company and multi-user versions of Sage are expensive. What I needed was a simple cloud based system which could be accessed from anywhere and by other users who have the necessary permissions.

After an extensive search I settled on ‘Kashflow‘. It is an extremely easy to use, cost effective and built for small businesses who do their own accounts.

As a cloud based solution, the software can run on any platform with a browser and be accessed by anyone with permission. There is a separate accountants portal which enables you to give permission for your advisers to access the data when completing annual accounts.

Kashflow are a UK based organisation and seem to have an excellent community of users who push for new functionality and updates. Weekly backup files are sent via email which, while hopefully not really necessary, provide an element of reassurance for those who are not comfortable with no data on their local computer.

After several financial years of Kashflow I would never go back to Sage. I find it pitched just right for small business owners who would rather run their business than struggle to learn accounting software.

See their site www.kashflow.com for more details and give it a try.

Project management training

I am now offering two packages of project management training through Lawson Consulting. Firstly, the course ‘Project Management for Business Managers’ is a one day training event focussed on developing project management skills in those who run projects as just part of their day to day role.

Secondly, I can create bespoke project management training for companies who have managers with a variety of existing project management experience. This option includes discovery sessions with current managers and tailoring of content to match their requirements.

See my Project Management Training page for more details.

Software Developer Opportunity

If you are a successful software developer looking for a new opportunity I may have just the thing for you.

I am looking to recruit a developer who is skilled in Angular and Node.JS. You will probably also have a background in web development via languages such as PHP.

Many thanks for any contacts you can give me from your network who fit the above profile. Please make contact with me via the contact form.

Boating and Sailing

I am interested in all areas of power boating, cruising and sailing.

Henley Business School Sailing Group

I am team leader and co-ordinator for Henley Business School’s sailing group. We compete in regatta’s held for business schools and MBA alumni.

See photo, right, for the 2018 team who competed in the Cranfield MBA Regatta held on the Solent.

For more details see our site at the Henley Sailing blog.

 

MBA Sailing

The main regatta for us each year is the Cranfield MBA Regatta which is part of the MBA Sailing series. See their web site for more details at mbasailing.com.

Mobile App Developer

I am looking to recruit a mobile app developer for a client. Ideally able to work across different mobile development languages in order to deliver iOS and Android apps. Experience of Objective-C and Swift is essential. Needs to be UK based and able to work in North London.

Many thanks for any contacts you can give me who fit the above profile. Please make contact with me via the usual methods.

Notes forever on any platform

I am a prolific user of Evernote, the cloud based note taking service. For those who are not familiar with the product, it is a cloud based virtual ‘notebook’ which is available on all popular platforms. With the capability to hold text, graphics, sound and other documents there is not much you can’t put into a note.

Platforms

I have the Evernote client installed on my Mac computers, iPad and iPhone. I also use the web based version when I am working away on a PC. The ability to sync instantly between the various clients is so useful, meaning that you can start a note on the mobile and then finish it at home when at the desktop.

PDF’s and Paperless

Evernote enables you to insert a PDF into a note which it then OCS’s and indexes. This means that the search is very powerful and makes it virtually impossible to lose your information. The whole set up provides an excellent platform for going paperless.

An account is free to set up and a ‘pro’ option is available which provides more features and a higher upload limit.  See the Evernote web site to download and try for free.

MBA

During the years 1997 to 2001 I completed an MBA at Henley Management College (now called Henley Business School, part of the University of Reading).

The course was distance learning and we were grouped together into a syndicate with colleagues from other companies. Syndicate 34 started in June 1997 and consisted of 18 people from the UK, Germany and the USA.

Group photo taken on 4th June 1997. It’s 20 years today since this was taken!

During the course the original group dispersed as people moved companies, changed syndicates or decided not to carry on with the studying. A distance learning MBA is a long slog with many late nights and early mornings, especially if you have a busy full time job at the time (as I did).
On graduation day there were just four of us, two from the original eighteen.

Clipper yacht knock-down

Great video of a Clipper race yacht knock-down in the Southern Ocean. Bet there were a few bruises afterwards!

This happened in November 2013 after the crew had left South Africa, heading into the Southern Ocean. The poor helmsman is knocked over and the crew demonstrate the importance of being strapped on.