6 Keys to a Successful Business

Millions of people dream about starting their own business, but only a few go further than their thoughts. Many people are unsure of the keys to a successful business, especially when today’s business world is full of unknowns, twists, and turns. 

While there are always procedures you need to follow in your business and industry, there are also certain keys to a successful business that apply to any venture. Check this article to find out what they are! 

Key #1. Know your competitors

No matter what type of business you’re starting or running, you’ll have competitors. Even if there’s no other business offering exactly what you plan to sell, there are likely to be other products or services your target customers use to satisfy their needs. Moreover, other businesses may be doing something right that you can implement in your business to make more money.

To succeed, you need to research the competition and find out as much as possible about what they sell and how they sell it. Competitive research is something you should plan on doing on an ongoing basis, too. 

If you’re running a coffee shop, you can visit your competition’s cafes, ask other customers what they think, and gain helpful information. However, if you’re running a business with much more limited access to your competitors, such as a chemicals company, you can take a different approach to research your competitors. For example, you can consult with a business professional and accountant to go over their financial information, not just what the business presents to the world. 

Key #2. Do market research

Market research is one of the main keys to a successful business. Entrepreneurs should never throw their caution to the wind and start businesses based solely on personal opinion. Business success depends on many factors, with data being one of the most fundamental. And data comes from research. What is the size of the possible customer base, and what are their characteristics? It is important to understand what drives and motivates the buyer personas to target them efficiently.

Key #3. Have a detailed plan

An accurate and precise business plan can help you focus on your goals. You’ll refine your business idea as you create your business plan, and you’ll have a roadmap to refer to before making major decisions. What do you expect from your business? How long will you take to achieve your goals? What is your monthly or quarterly target? 

So, whatever your goals are, write them down and put them somewhere where you will see them every day. Then take each goal and break it down into smaller steps. You can set a certain time to review your plan and mark what you have completed. Having a clear direction will bring you closer to your goals. 

Key #4. Provide great products or services at a reasonable price

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, your business’s products or services need to be good enough to meet or surpass the clients’ expectations once the customers are there. This is how you turn your customers into brand ambassadors, which is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get a small business on the map.

The first principle to consider in establishing any new product or service is to determine if it meets an actual, existing need that customers have right now. No product or service can succeed unless it’s somehow unique and superior to its competitors’ products or services. A new product or service must solve a consumer problem or improve the client’s life or job in a cost-effective way.

The safest strategy here is to start with a common product that already has a widespread market and then figure out how to improve it (e.g., provide faster delivery, produce higher quality, or lower the price of the product or service.) It’s a good idea to start with a product or service that people are already using and find some way to make it more desirable, instead of trying to invent a whole new thing. 

The second principle for any business success is offering good quality products or services at a fair price. Your business must have a unique selling point (USP) if it competes with other products or services. It is one or more features or benefits that make your products or services unique, different, and superior to any competitors.

Key #5. Keep your records organized

All successful businesses keep detailed records. Proper bookkeeping helps you know the business’s financial status and what could potentially become a problem moving forward. Knowing this helps you visualize future projections, create strategies to overcome those challenges, and assist in business planning. 

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Most businesses are choosing to store their records physically and digitally. By constantly backing up digital information, especially when it comes to financial data, a business owner no longer has to worry about losing their data. If you choose to keep physical records to ensure that the digital information is correct, keep specific folders for each aspect of the business appropriately labeled and organized so you and anyone in the company can access them easily. 

Key #6. Be consistent

Consistency is a key component of a successful business. Being consistent means understanding that your business will not likely make money immediately, but you still stick with your goals and never give up. Consistency creates long-term positive habits and produces the results you were hoping for so that your business will eventually make some money. 

The bottom line

Once you know the main keys to a successful business, you’ll have a strong foundation to grow your business. 

In summary, to succeed in the business world today, you need to be flexible and have good planning and organizational skills. Being a business owner means being in a state of constant learning and adapting.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Shoeboxed blog for more helpful entrepreneurship and success stories for small business owners! 

About Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a receipt management application that turns your receipts and business documents into a digital format in just one click by taking a picture straight from your smartphone or scanning a pdf. It automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over and check your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures you will always have your receipts securely stored and ready for tax purposes.

Access your Shoeboxed account from your web browser or smartphone app. Stay audit-ready with Shoeboxed for FREE now!

Efficiency Up, Stress Down: the Top 7 Business Automation Tools for Small Businesses in 2022

Technology advancements have been allowing us to do more in less time, with the help of numerous business automation tools. These tools make it easier to boost productivity, automate tedious tasks, and scale your business in ways never before possible.

However, with so many business automation solutions available, choosing the right ones can be challenging. Especially when most of the automation tools on the market are still geared toward medium and larger businesses – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

This article has picked the top 7 best business automation tools designed for small businesses in 2022. Each of them would be conducive to a particular area of the business process, helping you take your venture to the next level. Let’s get started!

(In case you haven’t already seen Shoeboxed’s Guide to Business Automation, take a moment to read about what it is, how your business can benefit from it, and discover the most common uses of business automation tools.)

Zapier for workflow automation

Zapier is a simple business tool to automate your work by offering ways to connect many different software and apps. This app comes with predefined example templates that help users turn actions between essential applications into automated workflows. By doing that, Zapier saves you time and money on repetitive manual tasks, enabling you to spend more time on more profitable actions. 

business automation tools zapier
Zapier’s display and features

Some common uses of Zapier are the following: 

  • Automatically save attachments in Gmail to Google Drive
  • Save all new Google Docs files to OneDrive and then back them up in Dropbox
  • Create a new Trello task when a specific email arrives
  • Automatically share content on social media

ActiveCampaign for customer experience automation

ActiveCampaign is a cloud software platform that offers customer experience automation features. The software combines advanced marketing features, such as email marketing, sales automation, and CRM categories. This software is optimized for businesses of all sizes, with different packages and reasonable prices for the provided features.  

business automation tools activecampaign
ActiveCampaign’s display and features 

ActiveCampaign automates your entire customer experience by providing tailored guidance for all the automation goals, dynamic content, and email marketing automation, which enhances the customer reach-out as well as engagement rate. 

Xero for accounting automation

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform that enables small- and medium-sized businesses to synchronize their bookkeeping, accountants, and bank apps. This accounting software is very flexible and keeps track of all users’ business finance-related activities using only a mobile app.

business automation tools xero
Xero’s display and features

Using Xero, business owners can check on bills, cash flows, and even clients’ claims to expenses and reimbursements. Users can automatically get all the necessary documents and key data without putting in any manual effort. Xero also offers special features such as transfer of payments, bank reconciliation, and data capture, making it the most helpful business accounting automation tool. 

Shoeboxed for receipt scanning and expense tracking

Shoeboxed is a painless receipt scanning and organizing solution for freelancers and small businesses owners. This versatile app serves many purposes, including:

business automation tools shoeboxed
Shoeboxed’s display and features

Shoeboxed’s OCR (Optical character recognition) engine and human data verification features ensure that your paper receipts are legibly scanned, clearly categorized, and approved by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service in the event of an audit. Moreover, Shoeboxed enables users to create clear and comprehensive expense reports that include images of their receipts. From there, users can export, share or print all of the information they need for easy tax preparation or reimbursement, all within just a few clicks. 

Freshservice for IT management

Freshservice is an internal IT service management platform that assists businesses in streamlining and automating their IT operations. This software enables your IT department to collaborate with developers remotely and act quickly in response to requests, threats to service availability, and security. With IT service management tools like Freshservice, you can gain the ability to put your developer team’s and employees’ requests first.

Freshservice’s display and features

Freshservice outstanding features, including: 

  • Incident and Case Management feature helps address IT questions remotely
  • Knowledge Base feature provides IT, Service, and HR information
  • Service Catalogue feature helps simplify requests 
  • Asset Management feature updates asset details 

Buffer for social media management

With the rapid growth of social media platforms, building social media awareness is essential to almost all kinds of businesses. However, working consistently on various social media platforms can be very time-consuming. That’s why you need social media automation tools – like Buffer!

Buffer’s display and features

Buffer is an easy-to-use automation tool with great scheduling features that will bring your business to the next level on social media. This automation tool can help in the publishing process and even provide accurate campaign analytics to check what works better. Buffer makes it easier than ever to build a brand on social media! 

Grammarly for content review automation

Grammarly is an online writing AI-powered assistant that helps users compose mistake-free articles and content. As businesses today want to fill their blogs, social media, email marketing, and other publications with high-quality content, using a tool like Grammarly is extremely important to save writers from basic grammar mistakes. 

Grammarly offers some powerful AI features, such as: 

  • Grammar correction and spellcheck
  • Corrections for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement
  • Suggestions for genre-specific writing style 
  • Plagiarism detector (it checks over 16 billion web pages)
Grammarly’s display and features

Moreover, Grammarly comes as a Chrome extension that helps you write on various daily tools like Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, Messenger, Slack, and many more. You can either choose the free version (if you only need grammar and spelling correction ) or subscribe to the premium package to unlock other features. 

The bottom line

Business automation tools aren’t just for the big sharks out there. There is actually a selection of tools designed for smaller enterprises. You just need to determine whether you want to automate all of your business operations or only specific elements that are time-consuming and ineffective. Knowing this will help you set the correct internal expectations as you decide which tools to use and what you expect from them. This practice also helps you reduce excessive costs and focus on what really matters. 

Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like to read more business success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed product updates!

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Automation: Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Over the past decades, automation has significantly impacted almost every industry — from IT, engineering, and finance to customer services, sales, and marketing. Business automation tools free up employees to focus on more strategic projects, minimizing costs, increasing efficiency, streamlining processes, and so much more. 

This article will walk you through the term business automation, from its definition to its basic types, and why it matters to your business. 

What is business automation?

Business automation is a term for using technology applications to execute recurring tasks or processes, which frees up employees for higher-value work. Business automation usually includes business process automation, robotic process automation, and AI-powered automation.

Why is business automation important to your business?

Whether you’re a small business owner or running a large enterprise, automation is an excellent way to streamline operations and drive business growth. Business automation tools are designed to replace manual processes with machines so you can put human resources to work elsewhere in the business.

Additionally, business automation is critical for a rapidly changing world. For example, with the help of business automation tools, you can collect and analyze data to predict post-pandemic customer behaviors — from wildly fluctuating demand to heightened health and safety precautions. Automation, especially when combined with AI, can help you fix or refine these data analytics and reports, resulting in higher revenue, better use of resources, and greater customer satisfaction.

There are some other compelling reasons to automate your business processes, which are the following: 

  • Improve efficiency: Business automation tools pinpoint inefficiencies or hotspots in your operations to help determine where automated processes can provide the greatest impact. This involves process mining and modeling.
  • Apply intelligence: The data from automating your operations, together with machine learning and AI, can recommend actions and allow people to focus more on strategic tasks.
  • Automate core operations: Apply core automation capabilities — document processing, workflow orchestration, decision management, and content services — to key operational areas to meet business needs.
  • Smarter management: An automation tool makes process management much easier. You can make changes and improvements without introducing all the changes to your team. The information under a system is saved somewhere in a database, so you won’t need to repeat to team members how things should be done on specific processes.
  • Streamlined processes: Streamlined processes are one of the great outcomes of a process automation system. Clear accountability, customizable notifications, valuable insights, and faster turnaround times make eliminating wasteful activities easier and focusing on enhancing core-valued tasks.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Customer satisfaction is a key differentiator in any industry. Focusing on process and operational excellence helps you exceed customer expectations with ease. When you consistently meet promised standards, customers are more likely to develop a preference for your company.

Four common uses of business automation

1. Marketing automation

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. Through marketing automation tools (which are usually in the form of software), companies can generate higher qualified leads that are ready for sales engagement. Companies can also use these tools to track and measure a prospect’s activity, better identify target customers by automated messages via social media and deliver leads to sales as soon as they meet predefined criteria.

With email marketing automation tools, companies can send out emails to a client distribution list on a predefined schedule, which reduces the costs of running the campaigns manually. Some tools can provide a framework for teams to target, build, implement and measure the success of marketing campaigns, taking the complexity out of lead qualification and conversion. 

2. Financial and accounting automation

For businesses of all sizes, accounting is time-consuming and includes many manual steps. By automating their accounting and bookkeeping tasks, companies can save considerable time on accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, collections, credit card applications, data backup, and other financial processes that are managed regularly. 

Companies can also apply automation to core processes like closing their books, general ledger management, and bank account management. Automation makes a complex process more manageable by removing manual elements from the accounting team’s work and handling the number-crunching and transactional work. Businesses can focus on important tasks like analysis, strategy and improve their core values. 

For example, an automated system for accounts payable management saves businesses money and time as data entry is automated, invoices are automatically matched to documents, and approvals are electronically routed. It reduces data errors and helps prevent fraud through a system of “touchless” controls that happen behind the scenes. Accounts payable automation software also frees up cash flow. Any team member can submit invoices, manage approvals, and process payments through a single platform with swift approvals, better visibility, and greater control over important financial processes and data.

The Shoeboxed app this a typical example of an accounting automation tool. Shoeboxed helps freelancers, accountants, and small business owners scan their receipts, track and manage their expenses, and easily generate expense reports. 

What’s more, Shoeboxed offers OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function, and a human-verified data feature to ensure that your receipts are legibly scanned, clearly organized, and accepted by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service. Trusted and recommended by thousands of users worldwide, Shoeboxed is your go-to option when it comes to automating your business’s financial and accounting processes. 

3. Sales automation

Sales automation tools enable sales teams to spend less time logging their deal-related activity and more time meeting clients, making phone calls, and closing deals. The tools can automate repetitive tasks throughout the sales process, whether qualifying leads based on their buyer journey, assigning prospects to the right rep, or creating data-backed sales forecasts. 

Companies that sell physical products can also benefit from these sales automation tools. Using these tools, sales reps can track stock from anywhere, at any time while consulting with their customers. They can also log order information to the system, making it easier to track every step. Should any problem arise, the sales team can find where it’s at and solve it quickly. 

Other sales tasks that software can perform are the following: 

  • Automated order entry
  • Automated batch processing
  • Automated report generation and distribution

4. Human resource management automation

Human resource management systems can handle various HR tasks, including processing job applications, scheduling interviews, sending offers, onboarding, managing payroll, and benefits administration. Since these systems automate all aspects of human resources management, it provides complete analytics across these processes, bringing accurate insights into the company’s workforce productivity and efficiency. For example, if a company is experiencing a high employee turnover rate, the business owners can use an HR management tool to pinpoint the specific problem and solve it.

There are other tasks that human resource management automation tools can handle, including: 

  • Recording employees’ retention and retrieval
  • Reviewing job applications submitted online
  • Generating work contracts, confidentiality agreements, waivers, and other new-employee documentation.
  • Calculating employee taxes
  • Providing training documents for new employees

The bottom line

Automation tools are transforming business operations and processes, making it possible to control and scale up your businesses with ease. No matter what kind of business you’re running, you can always find the perfect automating solution. If you’d like to take your business to the next level, start today with Shoeboxed
Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like more information on how Shoeboxed has helped our clients automate their business processes and other engaging success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed‘s product updates.