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: Computers and work  ( 4229 )
bobbin
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« : July 24, 2010, 09:46:32 AM »

How many of you use your computer to organize your business?  I watch my boss struggle with paperwork, wasting tons of time on pretty basic rote tasks.   And I have determined to begin using my computer to better advantage.  Do you:

1.)  use your computer for book keeping chores? what software are you using and do you like it? is it easy to use?

2.)  do you bank on-line?  and pay bills on line with your suppliers?  why/why not?

3.)  do you print invoices with your computer? and do you keep a record of work you've done for customers over the years on it? 

(and I apologize for all the business questions I put on the general discussion board, because I was too myopic to realize that this forum is the place for those topics.  Duh)
sofadoc
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« #1 : July 24, 2010, 11:59:34 AM »

I WOULD do a lot more on the computer, if I knew how to type. I still have to "hunt & peck", so sometimes entering everything on a computer actually takes me longer than doing it with pen and paper (hey, but I can "hunt & peck" 50 wpm).
Some suppliers I pay online. There are actually still quite a few of my suppliers that don't offer that option. I don't have a computer at my shop. If I did, I'd probably spend too much time piddling around on it. I answer all of my website-related e-mail after I get home every day. I tell all of my customers that I won't see their e-mails until the evening.
Less than 10% of my "off the street" customers even ask for an invoice, or receipt. I just keep a carbon of all the receipts. If I had a bigger business with several employees, I'd probably be like your boss. But for a "one-man" operation, my system suits me.
I do use the computer to print invoices for the companies that I work for.

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
bobbin
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« #2 : July 24, 2010, 01:17:58 PM »

Thanks for your reply, Sofa..  I checked out the link to your new website (thanks for that!) and I love that you have pictures of your family on it.  "Small business" is about family, IMO.  I'm working on a website of my own and it's not all that easy.  I never gave much  thought to how hard it can be to select pictures of you, your shop, and your work to easily convey your whole "work thing" to hit and run visitors on the super highway of the itnernet!  For me, "business" is all about the face-to-face thing.  You tell me what you want and I'll tell you how I can do it or what things need discussion before I'm confident I'll be able to deliver what you want. 

I know how to type and it's easy for me.  It's not for my boss, and I know that the "hunt and peck" thing is time-consuming and often frustrating.  "Personal typing" was the most beneficial class I ever took in high school.  Hands down!

Do you use something like, "Quickbooks"?  I know nothing about these programs and I would like to know other businessmen's thoughts on them.   I'm nervous about security with respect to on-line banking/bill pay.  Not because I question a bank's security system, but more because I'm afraid I'll do something dumb and leave a clear, "bread crumb trail" that will go right to my "Achilles heel". 
Mojo
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« #3 : July 24, 2010, 04:18:15 PM »

I use a computer for my business. I did my own website, I create estimates with a custom spreadsheet that my wife made for me, I create invoices, send out and answer business e-mail's, create my own ad fliers, business cards, etc.

I do pay bills and manage my bank account online but I do not use any accounting program.

Chris
MinUph
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« #4 : July 24, 2010, 05:05:43 PM »

Book keeping I use Quickbooks Pro. Been using it for many may years.
Bank on-line. Yes. Pay bills on-line No in this business.
Invoicing done in Quickbooks. Records are forever.

  There are many other uses for the computer. Estimates, E-mail, Pictures, Website, the list goes on and on. There is always a record of communications to CYA in case of a misunderstanding.

Paul
Minichillo's Upholstery
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byhammerandhand
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« #5 : July 24, 2010, 07:17:32 PM »

My business revolves around my laptop computer.  I would be drowning in paper and paperwork without it.  My business is primarily repair service and have a number of jobs a day.   Materials and supplies is not a major thing I need to track, but if it was, I would do that also so that I make sure I charged for materials specific to a project costing.

QuickBooks Pro does all the income and expenses, and sales tax (I must report this on a county-by-county basis, plus account for tax-exempt work and work in two neighboring states).  I do all the day-to-day transactions and my CPA (wife) balances the books at the end of every month, does income tax estimates and filings, etc.  Invoices can be printed, but most often e-mailed to clients (most of whom are recurring clients).  Thus they get the invoice at or before next business day.

Work orders come in on the computer, either by the client's web site, e-mail, or fax that has been converted to PDF file and e-mailed to me.   I rarely need to print them as I have a machine readable copy on my computer (laptop).  I also often correspond with clients via e-mail.  Different folders hold pending, canceled, and completed work orders.  All, then are searchable by name, date, and/or content.

Most of my banking is electronic, with the exception of depositing checks.  Recurring bills are set up to be paid automatically, and others on demand by the bank's bill payer system.  One of my largest clients even pays me weekly via EFT.

The third thing is my computerized calendar.  I have recurring appointments the same day and time each week.  I can cut and paste clients' names, location information, phone numbers, and track dates and times I've called, etc.  At the end of every  day, I review my schedule for that day and do the appropriate invoicing.

Much of my work is for third-party payers such as moving companies, warranty work, retailers, delivery services, etc.   I usually take before and after photos and kept them on my computer.  If I need to file a "technician report" I either do that on a separate word processing form or for short comments, just make tech notes on that invoice.  I can then send a professional looking report with photos, when needed.

Keith

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison
baileyuph
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« #6 : July 25, 2010, 04:55:48 PM »

Yes to most of the questions, but no to banking and formal quick books.

The character of the business is large jobs low invoice frequency.  That is possible a big variance in this buisness.  Some days a few invoices and there are some, due to large projects, no invoices.  But the need to communicate with or without pictures does come up and is a handy tool.

The records for past years are saved on the computer and in hard copy form.

Doyle
MinUph
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« #7 : July 25, 2010, 07:55:27 PM »

I have just found a new use for the Computer in Upholstery. I ran a remodeling company for some years. Getting back into Upholstery is where I am now. Anyway I used a program to layout cutlists for cabinetry and tried it laying out a custlist for fabric. It works as I thought. Now I have a quick way to figure the best layout for cutting. If anyone finds this interesting I will post a link to the program.

Paul
Minichillo's Upholstery
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Rich
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« #8 : July 26, 2010, 08:54:39 PM »

Having a record of every transaction is a benefit that can't be overrated. I've used QB Pro for many years and to have such organization is a wonderful benefit for someone like me whose memory can't be depended on much anymore.
A more recent benefit has been the use of digital photos sent to me by email. Instead of waiting until I have a trip to a customer's area, I can download the pictures and call them back with a quote within minutes.
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
bobbin
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« #9 : July 27, 2010, 04:39:14 PM »

Thank you to all who've replied and offered your thoughts.  I am in the unenviable position of knowing virtually nothing about computers and the variety of functions they can offer (aside from e-mail and entertainment).  But, that's not all bad, as you've offered great insight into how one could/should be used to make the more mundane aspects of a small business easier and faster, thus confirming my own observations.  Just means I'll have to train myself in its use and suffer the "learning curve". 

My computer is a desktop model and while functional enough for me at present I will have to consider an upgrade at some point in time and I see that a laptop is probably the way to go.  I am really interested in using photographs to help eliminate driving for estimates. 

I can start with Quickbooks Pro right away though, and get comfortable with that program.  Thanks again, everyone. 
byhammerandhand
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« #10 : July 27, 2010, 07:12:28 PM »

One thing you will have to do with quickbooks is set up your chart of accounts.  The best advice I can  give here (other than being married  to a CPA  ;D ) is to spend  some time with an accountant to guide you and take a good look at schedule C (if you are in USA) that is the "Profit and Loss from Business (sole proprietor)"  (or whatever form is relevant to your business organization)  so that your books quickly fold over into your tax forms.


It's easy to get too complicated or too simple on your chart of accounts.   I am reminded of a company I worked for in the 1970s.  We had ungodly long account numbers.  So much that every penny of income and expenses could be counted for at least 1000 times.

Keith

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison
baileyuph
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« #11 : July 28, 2010, 07:50:48 AM »

Quote
It's easy to get too complicated or too simple on your chart of accounts. 


So true, I move toward computerized support in small steps and those steps are those with an immediate pay off.  There virtually is no end to the things that could be computer supported.  It was pointed out the software programs available to compute and layout pattern requirements on yardage.  One step that come naturally after that is to store a pattern that is expected to be repeated for future use.  Call it up and plot it.  This is small step for the technology but one that could have significant potential for the small industry most here are involved in. 


Doyle
bobbin
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« #12 : July 28, 2010, 02:20:39 PM »

Doyle, I thought of that program this very day! 

I'm doing an interior on a large sailboat.  The fabric selected is really handsome (not Sunbrella!) with a very attractive, small repeat (easy match!) and there are 5 big cushions for the salon and a full V berth set up.  I've done a decent amount of drapery work and have dipped my toe into slipcovering recently (really like it), so I'm wise to pattern matching and how an entire layout can be based on the repeat.  I asked if the fabric was railroaded... blank look from boss.  "Well, yeah, railroad the patterns".  Boss does not understand that when fabric is purchased it will tell you if the goods are railroaded, or not.  OK, no schematic was provided to tell me what  portion of the cushions' boxings would be visible from other parts of the cabin.  No coaming height given, either.  "Doesn't matter, I told you to railroad the patterns".  Are the cushions to be corded?  "Let me call the customer, but you can start cutting now anyway".  Deep breath.  I had no hand in the fabric estimate (never do) so I did as I was told, having learned that stating misgivings is not appreciated.  Long story short, I finished the layout, using my notebook, calculator, and some hard-earned experience to minimize the fabric used in case I was later told the cushions were to be corded.  I used nearly every scrap of fabric in the process, using the bottom, water resistant fabric for the lower half of the zipper boxing to save cloth.  Good thing! they wanted cording!

Later, this comment from the boss, "I'm sorry this had been so hard for you, but you have to realize that it's awfully hard to guess at how much fabric will be needed". 

1.)  Is it so hard to ask (and then write down) whether or not the cushions are to be corded?
2.)  With pattern pieces traced for the spaces the cushions with inhabit, is it really that difficult to accurately calculate the amount of yardage required to do the job properly without struggling to piece the boxings and "make the match"?
3.)  If you aren't comfortable doing it, or don't know how, wouldn't it make more sense to turn it over the person who does the interior work (and knows how to calculate yardage).  Even if she does it the "old fashioned" way?

I couldn't get away fast enough.  I was ready to cry from pure frustration.  Surely, if Boss can do it successfully, so can I!
Rich
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« #13 : July 29, 2010, 08:47:14 AM »

Sounds like a whole 'nother thread on how incompetence seems to rise to the top.
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
mike802
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« #14 : July 29, 2010, 08:57:17 AM »

Quote
1.)  use your computer for book keeping chores? what software are you using and do you like it? is it easy to use?

2.)  do you bank on-line?  and pay bills on line with your suppliers?  why/why not?

3.)  do you print invoices with your computer? and do you keep a record of work you've done for customers over the years on it? 

I keep my books with Quick Books and use the manufacturing version.  I love it!  it gives me up to date information at the tip of my fingers.  Fairly easy to learn, but their is a learning curve.

No I do not bank on line and never will.  I do not trust the internet, to many virus's and hackers out there.

Yes, computer generated invoices look very professional in my opinion and quick books automatically keeps records of what I have done and for whom.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power" - Abraham Lincoln
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