Paperless problems with credit card receipts

As part of my paperless drive I scan and destroy all my credit card and till receipts. Today I had an item to return to my local DIY store so searched and found (thank you Alfred) the receipt PDF, printed it out on A4 paper and went back for a refund.

The retailer, B&Q, have very distinctive orange backed receipts and it was very obvious that mine was not an original (see photo). I was told by the store staff that unless I had the original copy no refund could be given. I argued that my scan and reprint was legally valid but to no avail.

Eventually, after much debate, and because it was a low value (£7) item, as a “gesture of goodwill” they gave me a credit against more purchases.

I wonder how many people who are trying to turn their life ‘paperless’ have had similar problems. Was I right that a scanned and reprinted copy is legally valid?

Some have said that scanning receipts seems like too much effort but with a combination of a ScanSnap scanner and Hazel I have got a good workflow up and running.

Each week I empty my wallet out and run everything through the scanner on a ‘credit card receipt’ profile. This scans only one side, OCR’s and files as a PDF in a specific folder. Hazel picks it up, reads the date, renames the file and moves it to an archive.

This works very well and I can search the receipts out using Spotlight or Alfred, usually easily finding the one I need out of thousands.

I hope that retailers start to recognise that over time they will need to rely on electronically stored records and get used to customers making returns with non-original copies of their receipts.

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.

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.

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.