Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 13:35

Gary Vaynerchuk made a local appearance this week at Kepler’s bookstore in Menlo Park and a few of us Bill-dot-comers went out to hear what he had to say. We’ve read his new book “The Thank You Economy” – as well as 2009’s bestseller “Crush It” -- and believe Vaynerchuk’s message can help small businesses win loyal customers for life. (It can also help small businesses turn into gargantuan ones, as evidenced by Wine Library TV metamorphosis into $60 million annual business.)

If the 234-page book had to be distilled down into a central premise, it would be these words from the book jacket:

"Gone are the days when a blizzard of marketing dollars can overwhelm the airwaves, shut out the competition, and grab customer awareness. Now customers' demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents' day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.”

Or to Twitterize this thought even further with Vaynerchuk’s own words at Monday’s gathering:

Caring is the new battleground.

If you can out-care your competitors, you win. If you don’t, someone else wins. Vaynerchuk predicts that we’re living through the biggest culture shift of our time and only brands that can be humanized have a chance of surviving.

Recognizing that small businesses are stretched as it is, Vaynerchuk recommends seeing social media outreach not as a distraction from your core business, but part of it. The most effective tool for every business owner? Search.twitter.com, which Vaynerchuk recommends business owners use daily to do an “audit” of their own business name and industry terms. Then respond quickly to happy or disgruntled customers, learn about opportunities early, listen to how customers describe their needs and join the conversation.

In short, care.

And... be sure to follow Bill.com on twitter... we're listenning! @billcom, @billcom_acct, @rlacerte, @morttung

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 10:22

Logo-asap Homeowners associations depend on their members' monthly dues to pay for all the services needed to maintain their common facilities, from mowing the lawns to plowing the parking lots. Collecting these assessments is easy when homeowners are ... at home.

But the owners of houses, townhomes and condos in resort communities like Telluride, Colorado, may be anywhere - at their regular homes, at other vacation houses or even vacationing abroad. Tracking down and notifying 900 resort-area homeowners about their assessments and reminding them of missed payments was an enormous task for Colorado-based ASAP Accounting and Payroll Services. Then ASAP began working with Bill.com as part of the Bill.com Accountant Program through CPA2Biz to develop its online payment management system that automatically bills far-flung homeowners, keeps track of when they pay their dues, and nudges them when they don't. "Bill.com has streamlined the dues receivables process down to almost no effort at all," says Diana Murray, ASAP's director of business development.

ASAP is a 21-year-old accounting firm with five offices, in Denver and four Colorado resort communities, including Telluride, Durango, and Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley. Among their 400 small and mid-sized business clients are 35 homeowner associations (HOAs) that usually collect dues 12 times a year. "Every month," says Murray, "our workers were mailing out dues notices to hundreds of homeowners. When the homeowners mailed back their checks, we'd pile them up, enter each one into the HOA's database, and then deposit them into the right bank accounts. When individuals missed payments, we'd mail out reminders."

Today, Bill.com's receivables package synchronizes into ASAP's accounting programs and automatically sends out e-mail dues invoices to individual homeowners. "Homeowners like the new arrangement," says Murray, "because they have control over their accounts. They can choose to initiate electronic payments each month and decide which day to pay their dues.  Some elect to set up recurring payments when the dues are consistent. "

Dan Lind, Bill.com's vice president of operations and support, reports that, on average, customers using the company's Receivables program with its e-payment option are getting paid 2 to 3 times faster than with their previous paper systems. E-payments, Lind says, average just five days from the invoice due date, while payments by check take 12 days. Murray says, "Getting paid faster makes an enormous difference to our small and mid-sized business customers who rely on steady cash-flow."

Although ASAP initially worked with Bill.com to accommodate their HOA client, the accounting firm offers it to their other clients and now has a total of 106 customers using the paperless system. "The most recent convert," Murray says, "was a firm that was manually entering their receivables into an Excel spreadsheet. Now that Bill.com is managing their payments, they have more time to devote to their clients." 

HOAs, too, need timely payments. The New San Juan Owners Association, for example, assesses monthly dues to the 26 owners including of retail stores, office suites and penthouse apartments located in historic downtown Telluride. Using the Bill.com receivables system, ASAP collects from all owners at about the same time, whether they reside in the area or live far away and rent out their mountainside condos to tourists.

Homeowners who miss the first notice receive e-mail reminders and homeowners that don't pay on time are automatically assessed late fees. The receivables system keeps a separate 'portal' for each customer with an audit trail of invoices and payments, so homeowners in Aspen, or New York, or Paris can check their accounts online, using computers or even their iPhones. "The ability for owners to access their own accounts online means fewer people calling in with questions," Murray says. And because Bill.com automatically routes HOA vendor bills through each association's approval process, board members are spending less time completing their volunteer duties.

Bill.com's paperless receivables program is also freeing up time for ASAP's staff. "We can reduce our fees to our Bill.com customers," Murray says, "and use that time to improve other services for our existing customers and attract new clients. Bill.com isn't just helping us do our work; it's actually helping us grow!"

Download Case Study PDF

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Friday, April 1, 2011 - 10:05

Friday, April 22 is Earth Day, the 41st year of celebration for our planet. This year’s theme is A Billion Acts of Green®, celebrating over 45 million personal, organizational and corporate pledges to live and act sustainably.  How can your company get involved? Here are just a few ways:

  • Organize an earth day hike, walk, run, swim or bike outing.
  • Call your local Parks Department and offer to plan a park clean-up, invasive plant removal or tree planting.
  • Join forces with other local businesses and environmental organizations and host an eco-fair to inform the public about ways they can build a greener future. Schedule it to coincide with your farmers market or other popular local event.
  • Call a school or community center and offer to build and plant a vegetable garden and help maintain it during the year. Donate the supplies and your employees’ time.
  • Host a competition for the best idea to reduce your company’s carbon emissions and support sustainability. Reward the winner with a paid day off plus the gratification of seeing their idea realized. Or invite your customers into the competition via Facebook and reward the winner with free products or services from your company throughout 2011. Check out our Earth Day logo competition!

Whatever you decide to do to recognize Earth Day, consider registering your planned action at www.earthday.org/earth-day-2011. Your employees will be even more motivated knowing they’re participating in the largest-ever environmental service movement.

And if you’re using Bill.com, pat yourself on the back. Digitizing your bill payment processes saves paper, ink and mail truck emissions.

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 12:07

If you’re looking to grow your business (and who isn’t?) here’s a technique we learned via a recent podcast with author Michael Port. In his best-seller “Book Yourself Solid,” Port introduces a method for outreach that, done daily, he claims can be transformative.

Rather than think of networking as something you do to meet new people, Port recommends defining it as developing deeper relationships with people you already know. Then Port offers up a new term -- direct outreach – to mean meeting people that you don't yet know but would like to know.

Why? Because rather than casting a wide net and trying to get on everyone and anyone’s radar on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, Port argues you’ll get better results by being strategic about who could really help you.

With us so far? Good. Now let’s move from the “defining” part to the doing part.

First, you make your List of 20. These are people in your industry with whom you’d like to develop professional relationships. They are people you don’t yet know – influencers in your market who could have a significant impact on your business through their referrals, introductions, and advice. Limiting your list to 20 keeps your focus expansive, yet small enough that you're able to focus on each person individually.

What you do next is this: reach out to one person on this list each day, starting with #1 on the list and working your way down, one name per day. You might mention them in your blog post or post a comment on theirs. You might tweet about them or Retweet a few of their tweets. Or you might send them fan mail: an email or note telling them what you admire about their work. Here’s the important part: don’t ask for anything in return.

Do this each business day and in the course of a month, you will have connected with every person on your List of 20. Port says this should take about five minutes a day – definitely doable no matter how busy you are.

Ready for Part 2 of his plan?

Next you make your Network of 90. These are folks you already know and like and believe to be valuable contacts. Your daily marching orders with this group are to introduce two people in your network who might find each other relevant (personally or professionally) and to share something relevant or helpful with one other person in your network. That’s it.

Who’s up for trying it? For those of you raising your hands, good luck. And please, let us know how it goes.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 06:00

4 Questions is a recurring feature on the Bill.com blog where we ask the same 4 questions every month of a different Bill.com customer. Given the tremendous passion and can-do attitude of small and mid-sized businesses, these same four questions result not in repeat answers, but in interesting insight into many different journeys. Want to be profiled? Tweet us at @billcom and let us know!

  Q. How did you get into your line of work?

By taking the road less traveled.

While I was in college at Princeton University, I had a chance encounter with music legend, Quincy Jones. We talked for a while and later kept in contact. His words were encouraging. I also had the opportunity to perform at the World Famous Apollo Theater. That's when I knew I would have a career on the creative side of the entertainment business. The key word is "business." More than just being a "singer" or "entertainer," I knew it was important to run my career as a business. That was a significant reason why I went to law school. It was a necessary step for being prepared to deal with the inevitable business and legal issues that are part of the entertainment industry.  Afterwards I formed my production company, released my first album and directed a few videos. I've been merging creative and business ever since!

Q. What have you learned through the school of hard knocks?

Well, I'm still learning... but my top three lessons thus far are: (1) You can not afford to lose control of critical aspects of your business. In working with employees or contractors, make sure you have a system of checks and balances; (2) Create your own luck! Basically, the harder you work, the luckier you get; and (3) Change is always around the corner, knowing that helps you better prepare for it. 

Q. What keeps you up at night?

It used to be writing checks, paying bills and stuffing envelopes... LOL but now it's two things: (1) Creating new music and videos that entertain, inspire and empower my fans. Many of them ask me questions about non-music things, from money to travel to relationships to fitness, they are looking for ways to improve their lives. I'm working on ways to get that information to them; and (2) Thinking of new ways to be able to reach my fans. I have lots of fans overseas but some are really remote. I'm focused on trying to reach them, wherever they are. I want my fans to have a personal experience even if they never see me in person.

Q. How has Bill.com helped your business chase its dreams

Travel is a constant for me. Whether I'm accessing Bill.com from the air or in a different country, it's features and ease of use make dealing with the financials easy and frustration free. I'm able to easily coordinate things with the rest of the team, regardless of where I might be. Bill.com has helped free up my time to be able to spend more energy on the core aspects of my business, not just the administrative things. 
Also for those, like me, who have multiple businesses, Bill.com's dashboard helps keep everything in order. In addition to all the great features (and they are constantly adding more), one of the best things about Bill.com is its affordability. They seem to understand that there are lots of small and medium-sized business owners that can't afford a fulltime bookkeeper but need the functionality of one. Bill.com is the perfect app!
 
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Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 08:00

Your small business likely has a website. And, if you’re serious about growth and profitability, then you should also have a strategy for Search Engine Optimization.

For those entirely new to SEO, its most basic definition is this: the process of improving the visibility of your website by those doing unpaid search (i.e. via Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines). Making your site discoverable by search bots (and therefore, potential customers and investors) requires a little forethought when building and coding it.

 Here are some basics to get the SEO Overlords smiling in your favor:

  • To target a suitable market, try to be specific with your keywords, and remember that people no longer use single keyword search phrases. The average search phrase contains 3-5 related words.
  • Unsure how many websites are competing with your keywords? Find out. Do a search on Google and see how many results come back. The more sites competing for your same keywords, the less likely you’ll be to appear on the front page of search results.
  • Have your web developer optimize title tags, page content, and your site’s architecture, so a web “spider” can easily examine and identify your site. These search bots don’t “see” images and certain types of text, making site maps and page tags crucial to your site’s SEO visibility.
  • Work links to your favor. Backlinks (websites that link directly to your website) suggest to search spiders that your site must be good if others are linking to it. The more backlinks you have, the higher your pages will be ranked. But never trade links or take money for links, which can subject you to penalties plus hurt the user experience. Better strategies for getting links are to: provide something on your website that others will want to link to; blog regularly and leave comments on others’ blogs; participate in online forums; and submit your site and blog posts to relevant industry directories.
  • Work local terms into your site copy. More than 20% of searches have a local intent (and 80% of smart phones will have GPS by 2011), making where you are as important as who you are.
  • Remember that good content drives good traffic. More than anything, create useful, quality content and use social media to promote it to like-minded people. Refresh your site regularly to keep people coming back.

Lastly, set up analytics so you can track traffic, especially conversion. Looking only at clicks won’t reveal the most important thing: that the search terms leading people to your site are turning them into customers. Nothing’s more important than that!

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 11:35

JMP We’re proud of the great work the Bill.com team is doing, but it’s always nice to get a pat on the back from the industry. That’s why we’re honored that JMP Securities has picked Bill.com to be a part of “The Hot 100,” the investment bank and research firm’s Best 100 Privately Held Software Companies for 2011.

Bill.com was selected as a top Application as a Service, an area that JMP Securities foresees as not only sticking around but also flourishing over the years. In a 260-page report on Computing as a Service (CaaS) the firm published last April, JMP expects to see CaaS increase from a $20 billion industry to a $96 billion market opportunity over the next 10 years. They also predict that CaaS, which represents 5% of the $372 billion spent on enterprise IT, will account for 16% of all enterprise IT spending within the same timeframe.

Being selected for “The Hot 100” reminds us why we’re working hard every day to ensure SMBs and CPAs get the most out of their time and their money – by seamlessly integrating with your existing accounting software; eliminating the need for paper invoices, checks, envelopes; creating a customized online portal to communicate with your customers right on your invoices. We’re excited to be leading a growing trend of better services for businesses, so you can chase your dreams instead of paper.

The Bill.com Team

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Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 17:49

Bill.com Mobile-Optimized Site Now Available! Your day-to-day financial tasks are processes, not transactions. And we are laser-focused on making those processes more efficient. That's why you can focus on what matters most-- your business, your clients, your lives.

We are excited to debut our Bill.com Mobile (beta).

If you are like most of our customers, you use Bill.com on the road all the time via mobile devices to gain access to documents, workflow, and payments anytime/anywhere. (We've even heard a story of a customer approving payments in a Macy's changing room -- you know who you are!). With Bill.com Mobile we've made it even easier for you to do the tasks that are most common on the road: Approving bills and making payments.

With the Bill.com Mobile you can:

  • View bills and approve them
  • Make payments from any bank account you are authorized to access
  • Access all of your Bill.com accounts from a single dashboard

Of course, the new site contains all the safety and security features you expect. Users can only perform tasks they are authorized to do, everything is logged in the audit trail, and your bank account information is encrypted and never sent over the airwaves.

Starting Saturday February 26, when you log onto Bill.com from a mobile device you will automatically be routed to new Bill.com Mobile site. Need to access all the features of Bill.com? Simply switch back to "classic" view.

As this is a beta we are always looking for feedback and plan lots of enhancements in the future. What other features do you need on the road? Let us know!

And remember...

"Out in the woods, Or in the city, It's all the same to me, When I'm drivin' free, the world's my home, When I'm mobile." - The Who, Going Mobile

The Bill.com Team

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Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 10:00

We’re excited to announce updates that streamline the way you pay bills, and the way you invoice customers. These updates will be available to all current customers this Saturday morning! 

Bill.com Receivables is Ready for Prime Time!

Invoice your customers with the same efficiency you use to pay vendors:

  • Automate Customer Payments: Help your customers to help you.  They can choose to electronically pay each invoice you send them, automatically.  That’s one less thing for them to remember, and a more predictable flow of cash for you (without the hassle of following up for late payments).  Payments are deposited directly into your bank account.
  • Get Paid via Credit Card:  Make it easier for customers to pay you, letting them pay the way they want:  by credit card.  Add your PayPal account to Bill.com Receivables, and you’re ready to go. Payments are deposited directly into your PayPal account.
  • Collaborate with your customers:  Add notes to invoices to make sure customers have all the information they need to pay you promptly.  You can also send them a copy of the note via email.   They can respond directly to your note through their invoice (online), where the entire exchange is always available.
  • Automate reminders for late payments:  Rather than following up with each customer who has missed a payment, make it automatic.  You control how often to send the reminders, and you can tailor the message to be as friendly or as stern as you need it to be. 
  • Speed through data entry:  If you don’t use QuickBooks Desktop, we’ll automatically number the invoices you create in Bill.com, and we’ll show a running total for invoiced items.  You can now enter discounts and show sales tax on invoices created in Bill.com  If you use QuickBooks Desktop, continue to create invoices in QuickBooks as you usually do, then sync with Bill.com (we’ll be adding these speed entry benefits for you soon).
  • Clone invoices:  Make that next invoice “just like the other one”:  copy (clone) an existing invoice, then update the line items, quantities and amounts that are different.

Items, items, items!

QuickBooks Desktop users:  you’ve asked for it and we‘ve got it!  Now when you enter a bill in Bill.com, you can split the total dollar amount among items, accounts, or both.  Then each time you sync, your QuickBooks Desktop company file picks it all up (and we pick up items from QuickBooks Desktop).

Going Mobile!

We’re beta testing Bill.com Mobile, a mobile-optimized site that will allow you to approve and pay bills from your mobile phone.  Starting this weekend, when you access Bill.com from a mobile device, you will see the new mobile site! If your phone has bars, you’ve got access.

Cashflow is King

See where all your cash is going, and where it’s coming from, when you use Bill.com payables together with Bill.com receivables.   We put all the dollar amounts on your Bill.com calendar, so you can see everything at a glance, then zoom in for more detail.

Peachtree Sync is blooming

Still using CSV files to get your bills into and out of Peachtree?  Save yourself some typing by getting the new Peachtree sync.

NetSuite Sync is taking root

We’re beta testing a way to sync NetSuite with Bill.com. Contact us if you’re interested in participating!

But wait, there’s more …

Validate bills BEFORE syncing:  If you enter a bill with an invalid account type or item type, we’ll prompt you to select valid choices.

Due date editing: You can now edit the due date on a bill, even if you’ve already paid it.

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As always, we look forward to your feedback!

The Bill.com Team

 

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 08:00

Bill.com is excited to be working so closely with so many Franchisees! Over the next few weeks we'll post some case studies showing the many ways they are benefiting from Bill.com. Do you have stories of your own? Share them with us! Enjoy!

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill Franchisor Steve Paperno is on a mission to “change the way the world eats” by providing great tasting Mexican food made from organic and natural ingredients. Paperno says his priorities are to focus on his guests and franchisees, which is why he is such a supporter and advocate of Bill.com. The solution has enabled Paperno and his franchisees to minimize the amount of time they spend on accounting. Paperno says, “The more time I spend on my business and the less time I spend in the office, the more of an impact I have on the overall guest experience.”

Paperno, whose parents owned a deli and whose own first business venture involved gourmet chocolate-covered bananas, was not always focused on light, healthy eating. He worked at his parents' traditional restaurant until he was 18, when he started Top Banana, a manufacturer of dipped bananas sold at amusement parks, zoos and supermarkets. He visited banana plantations in Central and South America and at one time even moved his manufacturing facility into Mexico. By the time Paperno sold Top Banana to Chiquita Banana, he was 28 and hooked on the "organic, wood-fired food" he'd found south of the border.

"I couldn't find the great tastes of Mexico that fit my healthy, athletic lifestyle," Paperno said, "so I decided to start my own restaurant." The first Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill opened in Sherman Oaks in 1992, with fresh food prepared in an open kitchen, on a wood-fired grill and a stone-fired oven. Paperno now has 19 locations with 12 more on the way, but serving only fresh food created another problem. All those daily deliveries of fresh-caught fish, natural chicken breasts and just-off-the-tree avocados meant that his Sharky’s restaurants generated a mountain of vendor invoices.             

Store managers collected the invoices into envelopes that they sent to Sharky’s corporate offices each week. "Our in-house accountant had to go over about 125 bills each week, to make sure that everything was correct, then passed them on for my approval," said Paperno. When it was time to pay each invoice, the accounting office cut a check, which someone stapled to the invoice and put on Paperno's desk for signing. Each signed check was then folded into an addressed envelope that someone had to seal shut and run through a postage meter.

Paperno says the process wasted both time and paper. "I looked for a way to streamline this process, but when I came across Bill.com on the Web, I was skeptical that it could work with our invoices, which come in all sizes and shapes," said Paperno. "I tried it out in one of our restaurants and now I'm an advocate."

Today, Sharky's managers scan all invoices into the Bill.com system, which integrates them into the company's QuickBooks program and passes them on for corporate approvals. The accountant adds a payment date and Bill.com pays each vendor at the right time, via check or electronic transfer. "We're saving hours of employee time," Paperno says, "and there are no stacks of paper on my desk. Well, at least not bills.”

Paperno started franchising in 2001 and has 12 more stores under contract to be built. Fast, casual Mexican restaurants are popular, and Paperno admits he could have expanded more quickly. "But I'm picky and want to sell franchises to only the right people, who share my passion for organic, natural foods and  fit into the Sharky's culture," he said. And Paperno will not approve a location unless it falls within the distribution area of the companies that provide the chain's signature fresh food. So far, that means he will only sell franchises in California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. 

“The reality is paperwork, just like e-mail, has become a huge distraction that has no benefit to our guests,” said Paperno. “We want our franchisees to focus on what really makes a difference like hiring the right people, impeccable training and culture building, along with getting to know their patrons. What we do not want is a franchisee who is burdened with paper work and not focused on building sales by providing great tasting food and exceptional service.”  Now that Paperno has experienced Bill.com, he will be implementing it into his franchise system making it part of the accounting training for new and old franchisees alike.   

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