Providing help to customers shouldn’t feel like trying to coordinate disaster relief. Yet, the expense of implementing external help programs, the process of putting new protocols in place, the repeat answering of the same questions – often amounts to a time-money-energy suck of tragic proportions.

 

Keeping offers a refreshingly simple alternative to existing helpdesk solutions. It turns Gmail or a Google App email account into a helpdesk. Instead of looking outside for a way to manage customer issues, you need look no further than the inbox your eyes are already watching.

 

Keeping Support Simple

Field customer questions directly from your email using the Keeping extension. Uncomplicated helpdesk functionality spares you from having to set up any additional support channels, and it lets you move between assisting customers and taking care of other business emails seamlessly.

 

 

keeping

 

 

Not only does Keeping eliminate the need to have multiple applications and websites firing to answer questions, it cuts down on the time spent answering the same questions over and over again. Keeping identifies familiar questions – despite typos, different phrasing and other oddities – and suggests automated replies based on previous answers.

 

If you need to draft an original response, saving your reply adds it into the mix for the future. This enables Keeping to better suggest appropriate phrasing, which helps you to make maximum and efficient use of previous answers – basically, you’re able to address common customer service issues more or less instantly.

 

Not in the mood to field a question yourself? With Keeping, collaboration is a simple as assigning a question to a team member. If everyone already knows their roles, a shared support mailbox lets team members attack questions accordingly. No one is left wondering if someone else has responded before, because conversations are highly visible and easy to track.

 

 

 

 

Just because you’re managing email support inside Gmail doesn’t mean that you lose out on any metrics. Keeping also lets you monitor team performance. You always know how fast and how successfully questions have been answered/issues resolved so that you can deliver topnotch customer support. Need to maintain multiple support email accounts? Done.

 

Need an enormous team to share access to emails safely and privately? Done. Even better, for the time being you can sign up to become a free beta user. (Over 1400 companies have already signed up with Keeping in a short time, so take advantage of this offer while it’s available!)

 

If you’d like to turn your current inbox into a helpdesk with barely any effort and to deal with support emails more efficiently, request a free beta account at keeping.com.

 

Photo & Video Credits

Keeping

The post Keep Customer Support Simple With Keeping appeared first on KillerStartups.

By Cliff Ennico

For most people, the end of December is called “the holidays.” For lawyers, accountants and other financial types, however, it’s called “year-end.”

While most of us celebrate with turkey, egg nog, ugly sweaters and football (often all at once), these folks are working late hours trying to save their clients as much money in taxes as possible before the ball drops in Times Square.

Thanks to the midterm elections, 2014 wasn’t a big year for major changes in the tax law. The basic year-end advice still applies: defer the recognition of taxable income into 2015, and accelerate deductible expenses into 2014. But there are a few other strategies you should think about, for at least a few minutes. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t Disappear Over the Holidays. If you read newspapers, you know that Congress is pushing to adopt a 2015 budget bill that will keep the Government running without a shutdown like last year’s. Quite a few individual tax breaks expired at the end of 2013, such as the $250 school teachers’ deduction for school supplies, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, the $500 credit for qualified energy-efficient home improvements, the deduction for qualified home mortgage insurance premiums, and the temporary 100% exclusion of gain from sale of “qualified small business stock.”
  • Congress has not as yet extended these tax breaks retroactively, as it has done in past years, but may well do so in the final budget bill. I personally predict the breaks will be extended: the soon-to-be-in-control Republicans will be under tremendous pressure to do lots of extremely popular things taxwise next year in order to stave off Hurricane Hillary in 2016.  So be prepared to do some last-minute deductible spending between Christmas and New Year’s if the breaks are extended.
  • Get Yourself Some Health Insurance. The ongoing rollout of Obamacare hits a milestone on December 31. If you (or a dependent) are not covered by a qualified health insurance plan on that date providing for “minimum essential coverage”, and are not exempt from the insurance mandate, you get to pay the “Shared Responsibility Tax” on your 2014 tax return.
  • Also, if your 2014 income was between one and four times the 2013 “Federal Poverty Line” (described at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm), you may be eligible for a “premium tax credit” by buying insurance through the Obamacare marketplace.
  • Embrace Alternative Energy. The temporary 10% credit (with a lifetime cap of $500) for qualified energy-efficient home improvements expired at the end of 2013, but the 30% credit for installing a qualifying solar water heater, solar electric generating unit, geothermal heat pump, or small wind energy property did not (it will remain on the books until the end of 2015.
  • Contribute to Your Retirement Plan. You can still deduct contributions to an IRA, 401(k) or other retirement plan, even if the contribution isn’t made until just before you file your 2014 tax return sometime in 2015. Heck, you can even set up a new retirement plan after December 31 and still deduct your contribution in 2014 as long as you make the contribution before you file your 2014 return.
  • If you are over age 70-1/2 and are forced to take taxable distributions from your IRA, consider donating up to $100,000 of your IRA funds to charity. The transfer will count toward your “required minimum distribution” for the year, and will not be included in your income as other distributions will.
  • Hold On To Your Stock, Unless You Lost Money. Short-term and long-term capital gains rates took a big jump last year because of the 3.8% “net investment income tax” that was part of Obamacare. To avoid the tax, hold onto any stock that appreciated in value during 2014.
  • If, however, you lost money on your stock portfolio this year and incurred a capital loss of more than $3,000, consider selling some of your short-term securities before year-end and reduce your loss to $3,000. That way, the short-term gain on the sale will be netted against the excess loss.
  • Self-Employment Income. If you are self-employed and use the cash method of accounting, consider delaying year-end billings to defer income until 2015, but remember that if you receive the check before December 31, deferring the deposit does not defer the income. Also, you may not want to defer billing if you think this will increase your risk of not being paid.
  • If you have the chance to buy equipment or make other deductible expenses before December 31, do so. Make sure the check is mailed on or before December 31 to take the deduction in 2014.
  • Don’t Obsess. Enjoy your holidays. Worry about taxes next year.

Thanks to My Tax “Elves.” I want to thank the accountants, CPAs and other tax advisors who help me with my column each year and make sure I am more or less accurate and up-to-date. They are: Margaret (Peg) O’Donnell ([email protected]); John D’Aquila ([email protected]); Russell Abrahms ([email protected]); Paul Piasecki ([email protected]); and Michael Paolini ([email protected]).

Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

The post Year-End Tax Planning For 2014 appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

by James McAllister

 

First impressions count for a lot in the business world, and often the first impression a customer or client will have of your business, is your company name. It’s for this reason that new businesses should take the time to choose a name that’s not only appropriate, but also memorable, interesting, and reflective of the industry the business operates in.

 

 

naming a business

 

 

Your business’s name is an important calling card for your brand, and if it fails to create a strong impression, your brand identity runs the risk of becoming lost amongst your competitors. If your company name is too generic, complex, or even too difficult to pronounce, then it could leave people with either a bad impression of your company, or worse, no impression at all.

 

We’ve established that naming your new company is an integral part of setting up a business, but it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you kick-start your business-name-brainstorm, here are five top tips to follow when naming your new business:

 

1. Be unique

Ensuring that your business’s brand distinguishes you from other businesses–even those operating outside of your industry – is essential to ensure that your company doesn’t get confused with others. There is no harm in looking for inspiration from fellow businesses, but remember that your business is unique, and so your business brand should be as well. Not only will an original name help distinguish your brand from others, but it can also help to empower and reinforce it.

 

There are also legal requirements you must adhere to when choosing an original name. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you should carry out a trademark search to see if your chosen names infringe on any other businesses. Failure to do so could land you in legal hot water – which is definitely not something you want when setting up a business.

 

2. Keep it simple

If something can’t be understood, it often can’t be remembered. You should try to avoid using made-up, strange, or unfamiliar words in your business name. Enabling customers to build familiarity with your brand is key, and this can be made difficult if they can’t understand or pronounce your business name.

 

3. Consider your web presence

For a modern business, your website domain name is a pivotal part of your identity, and it can help to take this into consideration when selecting your business name. There are a number of funny examples of businesses who failed to learn from this lesson, such as American Scrap Metal, which chose the website URL www.americanscrapmetal.com for their business. Similar considerations must be made for social media, as businesses begin to rely on a social presence more in their marketing efforts.

 

If you’ve found your ideal business name, but you’re having trouble securing a domain name, consider making your domain more specific. For example, Firefly, a legal service provider, included the word ‘legal’ in theirs, to secure www.fireflylegal.com.

 

This is not to say that you should allow your domain name and social media handles to solely dictate your decision, but they can certainly help to strengthen your brand continuity, which can quickly become diluted online.

 

4. Don’t forget your branding

Your business’s brand is made up of many different elements, but your company’s name plays an integral part in your core identity. As such, it’s important to consider how your business name fits in with the wider concepts of your brand.

 

For example, a family brand may be misrepresented by a name such as Johnson’s Inc., as the inclusion of ‘Inc.’ suggests that it is a large business separate from the family name. But, by dropping it, the name becomes less corporate and aligns much better with a family brand.

 

5. Don’t limit your business

Finding your niche and maximizing your appeal to current markets is an essential task in business – but it’s also important to keep one eye on the future of your business.

 

By including specific products, services or even geographical locations in your business name, you risk limiting the scope your business has to develop. For example, a clothing boutique called ‘Debbie’s Dresses’ suggest that the business specializes in dress making – not ideal if you wanted to expand your business into male fashion.

 

There is a lot to consider when coming up with your business’s name, as your name is going to play an integral part in many aspects of your business. While it may not be feasible to take all of these considerations into account, it can help to cover as many as possible, to make sure you get it right.

 

Do you have any of your own business naming tips that we haven’t mentioned? What experiences have you had when deciding on a business name? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

James McAllister is a content writer specializing in the online, technology and business industries, and is the creator of The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Starting an Online Business. You can reach James on Twitter at @JaMacca01.

 

Photo Credits

Do u remember

The post 5 Tips For Naming Your New Business appeared first on KillerStartups.

This is a post from The Pursuit of Happiness, a blog on happy workplaces and work culture at my company, GasPedal. Check it out for more posts like this every week.

Here at GasPedal, we have functions that each team is responsible for. They’re the recurring things we have to do to keep the business running — things like paying the bills, preparing for an upcoming event, or taking the time to write this post, for example.

They’re important, but they’re not always urgent.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest new project or new “emergency” and the other, everyday stuff suffers. It’s not that the new stuff is actually more important, is just feels more urgent.

Rodrigo Medina did a good job of putting it this way:

The main problem of making everything urgent by default on your organization is that people start loosing sight between the difference of important and urgent, if everything simply gets piled up in the urgent stuff it will always be easier just to do trivial urgent stuff than the actual important things that should be addressed, besides creating an unnecessary permanent state of drama and hysteria which produces people to burn out or that simply constrains them from doing their best work.

Read his full post here.

YEC Member Spotlight: Ross Beyeler, CEO Of Growth Spark

A graduate of Babson College, Ross Beyeler has been an active entrepreneur in the technology space since 2005 with experience ranging in digital marketing, business development and strategic management. Follow him @rbeyeler.

 

Ross Beyeler, Growth Spark CEO

 

 

Who is your hero?

As clichéd as it might sound, my father is my hero. At 74 years old he’s still working as actively as when he was my age. He’s seen ups and downs in his life but has always been able to maintain a relentless focus on moving ahead and providing for his family. His ability to continue fighting regardless of the situation is always an inspiration.

 

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

The single best piece of business advice that has helped shape me as an entrepreneur is the notion of “Learn Before You Earn.” A mentor of mine once said that as a reflection on his own experience as he grew from a young entrepreneur to a more experienced one. Although he did cite that once he hit 30, he felt that many new doors were opened to him that were not previously open, this doesn’t need to be applied only within the context of age. When thinking about entering into new markets or launching new products, I’ve applied this notion as well. By focusing our early sales/marketing efforts primarily on learning about our customers, their needs and their buying process, we develop a deeper understanding of our customers that translates into building products/services that are more meaningful to them. The more we focus on learning early on, the more likely we’ll become successful down the road.

 

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

The biggest mistake I’ve ever made in business was in my first company where we outsourced the design and development of our product. I’ve come to learn that outsourcing can be an incredibly effective way to add scale to an organization, but only if done correctly. In my first company, we distanced ourselves from both the core product strategy and our customers. We provided vague and largely uninformed directions to our outsourcing partner that left too much room for interpretation. Given that our outsourcing partner had no interaction with our customers, it was easy to see why they came back with a product that was far from what our users needed. Going forward, I’ve approached outsourcing as a strategy for tackling highly specific tasks within a project, rather than the core project itself. I’ve also learned that specificity in your directions is critical for a successful result.

 

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

The first hour of my day rarely involves me actually doing any ‘business.’ I’ve found that my most successful mornings include four key things. The first is an activity I like to call BrainRain, which is a modified version of Morning Pages. Almost as soon as I wake up, I grab my laptop and open an old-school text editor where I just let my mind wander for 15 minutes. Sometimes I’ll think of a specific question or specific theme to expand on, but most often I just start typing and see where the text takes me. I find it’s a great way to start my creative juices and gets me in the habit of writing. Second, I have a solid workout. I prefer lifting (which often takes an hour) as the feeling of strength I get from it carries into the rest of the day. Following that is a HUGE breakfast. Typically this includes three eggs, a meat, two veggies, coffee and juice. I often don’t have time to eat lunch, so getting a massive meal like this in helps to tide me over. Finally, after I shower, I take five to 10 minutes to sit and meditate. This is the last thing I do before I officially start working.

 

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Create a financial dashboard. Keeping your accounts balanced is obviously a must for any small business. Early on you can easily do this yourself with Quickbooks, until it makes sense to hire a bookkeeper/controller to take care of it for you. Your financial dashboard should include a snapshot of account balances, major outstanding AP/AR and a projected runway of cash flow in the business for at least the following three months. This tool is vital for knowing the real health of your organization. It allows you as the entrepreneur to understand where things are without having to plow through crazy reports or documents that are geared more towards tax filings than running a business.

 

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Teach. The best way to learn something is to teach it. The best way to sell something is to teach it. Teaching your team, partners, customers, etc. is at the core of how I approach business.

 

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

Success to me is building an organization that can continue to grow without my involvement. That isn’t to say I’d actually want to step away from the company, but knowing I’ve built a company that doesn’t require my input means that I have created a truly valuable asset. This requires the right team, the right market position and the right processes to make happen. We’re continually on a journey of refining all three within our company. We will know we’ve struck a chord once I can take a step back and still see things moving ahead.

 

Originally published by StartupCollective.

 

Photo Credits

StartupCollective

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