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The American dream: A home of your own; a car; spouse and kids; a white picket fence, and a little business to provide for your family -- whether it’s an auto shop or atelier, a bodega or barbershop, a coffee stand or reefer. The beauty of the American dream is that it’s achievable for anyone with some ambition and a bit of capital saved up. Then, once you’ve established your way in, you groom your business to withstand the headwinds and catch the tailwinds – adjust to the market and the laws, offer competitive and unique options, modernize your technology.
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are the heartbeat of American business. As of 2022, there were 33.2 million small businesses with fewer than 500 employees – at 99.9% of companies in the United States. That makes a huge market for business management tools – and there’s plenty of competitors promising efficient one-stop-shops to pick from.
The new “it” for any business these days are tools incorporating generative AI. Industry giants Microsoft and Google recently unveiled their AI language models for businesses, plus there’s a ton of other big and small developers in the sector. Last week, I wrote about Druid, which merged ChatGPT with its conversational AI model for safe enterprise use. But now that AI is mentioned and its increasingly inescapable presence is noted, for the sake of SMBs, let’s put knowledge work aside in this particular story.
For home services SMBs, there’s Housecall Pro. The Denver-based company targets primarily HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and cleaning service providers with its easy-to-use app. The functionality includes scheduling jobs, organizing calendar, assigning technicians, keeping track of employees, and invoicing customers via QuickBooks.
For dispatch SMBs with traveling employees, consider ProgressionLIVE. Based in Canada, this tool helps manage service calls, maintenance, deliveries, order picking, and submitting purchases and quotes. Features include e-signature: the client can sign the job approval on the spot, directly on the device. Others are mobile billing, accounting via integrated Acomba, Sage50, or QuickBooks, validating employee time entries, viewing history and statistics, geocoding and GPS tracking, indicating job progress, inserting photos of the works, and notifying clients.
For the dining, retail, and beauty spaces, there’s Square, of course. Not without glitches, this platform has been around since 2010 and is worth just under $30 billion today. With Square’s software, you can process both contactless and swipe payments on-the-go, schedule shifts and process wages, keep track of client preferences, and sync up with your online store for inventory management. With Square, restaurants can accept online orders, retailers get marketing and promo options, while their customers can choose shipping and pickup, and beauty businesses save time by online booking and reminders for clients.
Independent workers can use Zoho Books to manage mundane accounting, send quotes and invoices, keep track of time, inventory, and expenses, replenish stock, generate reports, prepare audits, and comply with taxes. The app is positioned as affordable: a small business with revenue under $50K can get the service for free, though it has limitations as compared to the standard $15/month plan.
Going into trucking next, there’s Q7 for fleet management. The software targets truckload companies, freight brokerages, and LTLs, and integrates the management of billing, payables, banking, dispatch, fuel and mileage tracking, fleet maintenance and repair, driver schedules, and load planning. Q7 also operates a mobile app for drivers, where they can see trips, pre-assignments, and stops.
There are customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Thryv and marketing automation solutions like Mailchimp. There’s Trello for muti-user task management and accounting + bookkeeping service FreshBooks for small businesses and freelancers. I couldn’t possibly list all the available options for SMB tools out there. In any case, there are plenty of options that make your road toward that American dream of yours a bit easier and better managed.
Images used from: Thryv, Square, ProgressionLIVE, Zoho Books, Q7, Rawpixel
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