Running a company is tough, and presenting your business professionally to both clients and investors can be even tougher if you’re small or just starting up. Here are a few solutions that can help you put off a polished and professional image for those oh-so-important early deals.
Perhaps the strangest on this list is x.ai. I first stumbled on this company organically when trying to set up an interview for a story. The person I was speaking to referred me to his assistant, Amy Ingram, to set up a time for a meeting. After a few emails back and forth, I got curious about who this assistant was and did a quick Google search. As it turns out, Amy wasn’t an employee of this company. Amy isn’t even a person. She, or it depending on how you classify this entity, is a virtual personal assistant who helps schedule meetings or calls.
This service helps to remove the tedium of scheduling events over email and automatically updates your calendar. All of this comes at a cost of zero dollars, which is quite a savings when considering the alternative, hiring a personal assistant.
Earth Class Mail is a small company filling an interesting niche in the startup world—automating mail reception and providing premium addresses to businesses regardless of size or stature. Once signed up for the service, all paper-based mail can be sent to an Earth Class Mail managed P.O. Box in 19 states and at 20 premiere addresses. These documents are then digitized and uploaded for easy viewing. The service can even detect checks in envelopes and have them deposited into your accounts automatically.
What’s really interesting here is the company’s network of “premium addresses”. Say you’re operating out of a small building or co-working space in the suburbs of Boston, on some street with no name recognition. With Earth Class Mail, you get access to one of the company’s addresses on Park Street, a name sure to wow potential partners or customers.
The Oregon-based company has come a long way since its inception in 2004 as a way for nomads or RVers to check their mail. Earth Class Mail plans to grow its service to small startups across the nation by reaching every metro and every state in the coming years.
Wordsmith is a solution offered by Durham-based Automated Insights
which helps companies provide professional automated reports at an affordable rate. This service can create earnings reports, marketing analytics overviews, Google Analytics summaries, or even real estate or crime listings with just a few clicks and a bit of logic. Keeping employees, clients and/or investors informed of your business metrics is crucial for small businesses.
I can attest that producing reports on web metrics or earnings by hand is an absolute bear. Instead of hiring an analyst and UI personnel (or trying it yourself if you’re a masochist), give AI’s Wordsmith tool a look.
Burgeoning entrepreneurs might be working out of their living rooms or home offices. Often the team is scattered, without a central phone system or directory to help customers get in touch with who they need to talk to. Getting in contact with the right person can mean calls to several individuals’ cell phones before getting to the sales or the customer service person. Grasshopper of Boston eliminates this problem.
The company has created a virtual phone system in the cloud that requires neither hardware nor software installs. The product allows you to set up a central company line and program in your own extensions that lead to departments or cell phones of company employees, whether they're across the hall or across the country. Instead of giving out your personal cell number, hand your clients a business card with your Grasshopper-made central phone line.
No one wants to call what they think is a business line only to hear your nine-year-old pick up the home phone.
Shoeboxed is a Durham company that makes dealing with paper receipts, business cards, mileage reports and other physical forms of information go the way of the dodo bird. For those of us born into the digital age, dealing with paper documents can feel archaic, cluttered and sloppy, and business owners have it worse than the average joe who deals with a few bills and some car payments. Among the features this company offers are archiving and digitizing receipts received both on paper and through email, digitizing and organizing stacks of business cards into usable contact information, creating comprehensive expense reports and recording mileage using a phone’s GPS.
One of the more interesting features is a Magic Envelope solution. Take a stack of business cards, mileage reports, receipts or any other paper records you don’t want to deal with, and send them in a prepaid envelope to Shoeboxed. They’ll organize and digitize it for you. Stop losing receipts and calling contractors for their mileage records again and again. They’ll thank you.
“New year, new you”, the saying goes. Whether you’re starting a new business in 2016 or improving the operations of an existing one, you can never be too polished. Put these tools to use to have a better image and less stressful work day, and without going bankrupt.