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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to develop an internet of things strategy

Former Amazon executive John Rossman shares his checklist for developing an internet of things strategy for your organization.

By Thor Olavsrud  | Follow
Senior Writer, CIO | FEB 20, 2017 6:53 AM PT

 

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Credit:Thinkstock

The internet of things (IoT) may present the biggest opportunity to enterprises since the dawn of the internet age, and perhaps it will be bigger. Research firm Gartner predicts there will be nearly 20 billion devices on the IoT by 2020, and IoT product and service suppliers will generate $300 billion+ in revenue.

Successfully leveraging that opportunity — bringing together sensors, connectivity, cloud storage, processing, analytics and machine learning to transform business models and processes — requires a plan.

"In the course of my career, I've estimated and planned hundreds of projects," John Rossman, who spent four years launching and then running Amazon's Marketplace business (which represents more than 50 percent of all Amazon units sold today), writes in his new book, The Amazon Way on IoT: 10 Principles for Every Leader from the World's Leading Internet of Things Strategies. "I've learned that, even before you start seeking answers, it's imperative to understand the questions. Guiding a team to a successful outcome on a complex project requires understanding of the steps and deliverables, necessary resources, and roles and every inherent risk and dependency."

Before you start the hardware and software design, and before you figure out how to engage developers, he says, you need to start with a better set of questions.

Rossman says there are three key phases to building a successful IoT strategy. While he presents the steps sequentially, he notes that many steps are actually taken concurrently in practice and can be approached in many different ways.

Part 1. Develop and articulate your strategy

First and foremost, Rossman says, you must narrow and prioritize your options. IoT presents a broad swathe of opportunities. Success depends upon understanding your market, evaluating the opportunities with deliberation and attacking in the right place.

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Common Tech Mistakes Small Businesses Make That Can Be Avoided with Consultants

Ryan Matthew

Running a small business poses many different obstacles that you must overcome. It is important for small businesses to address these issues before they become major hurdles to the progression of your company. Some of the biggest mistakes small businesses can make are in regards to technology. By Tech Mistakeseither failing to stay with the times or improperly applying new technology, a business can be set back far behind the competition. However, there are consultants that can help you avoid these common tech mistakes that most small businesses make

.Failing to Stay Up to Date on Hardware

When you are upgrading your technology, it can be easy to purchase new software updates instead of staying up to date on the latest hardware. Staying up-to-date on the latest hardware technology will help your business stay ahead of the curve and up to the task of any technological issues that may face your organization. Even though software companies are spending millions of dollars to advertise their newest releases, invest your money where it counts and keep your hardware up-to-date.

Not Having the Right Digital Security

When your small business doesn't have enough digital security, your risk factor goes up greatly. There are hackers that are ruthless when it comes to destroying websites and stealing valuable information. There are consultants who can help your small business fortify itself against these potential attacks. Not having the right digital security can be a tech mistake that can end up being very costly in the long run.

Failing to Utilize Social Media

When you are trying to reach a new audience online, social media is key. There are millions of potential clients and customers who are constantly checking their social media. It is important to take advantage of the great traffic on these social media networks in order to get the word out about your small business. Social media can be a great way to get people on board with your vision. Building a loyal customer base is easier than ever before with the rise of this new technology.

Failing To Back up Your Data

Companies today are very reliant on their records and data which are almost completely stored electronically. This is very true if you are a media company that may have to access old files in the future. Make sure that you are always making physical hard-drive or cloud-based backups of your files. This will help give you the peace of mind that even if your main hard drives crash, you will still have backups of all the files you may need. There are now backup programs that will automatically backup your files on a regular basis.

Not Being Mobile Friendly

More often than not, your customers are going to see your website for the first time on their mobile device. It is important that your site has great mobile capabilities. This will allow you to be able to make a great first impression with your mobile  friendly website. This will help your small business grow more than you ever imagined.

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Best Practices for Accounting Office Procedures

by Jeremy Bradley 
Small businesses often do not have the luxury of a separate accounting office; the accounting and finance functions are Accountingtypically handled by the business owner or by the general manager. Nonetheless, some best practices for accounting procedures in small offices are worth knowing. These best practices provide guidelines on keeping your financial house in order.
 
Keep the General Ledger Current
The general ledger is the basic building block of accounting. Every company has a general ledger, even if you aren't accustomed to calling it that. The general ledger lists your various accounts and the balance of each account. In this context, "accounts" doesn't refer to your separate bank accounts but instead to the classes of finance that a company can conceivably have. These are assets, liabilities, equity, revenue and expenses. Under each of these accounts, you may have subaccounts or individual lines for various inflows and outflows of money. Each time a transaction happens -- say when you make a sale or pay a bill -- you should record it in the general ledger in the correct account and then balance the accounts accordingly. The general ledger then becomes a reference document. If you keep it continually updated, you have a constant idea of how much money you have.
 
Generate Financial Statements
Financial statements are the official reports of a company's financial well-being. There are three types of financial statements -- the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flow; some companies also produce a statement of owner's equity. The statements are produced at a minimum on a quarterly and annual basis, although you may want to produce them monthly to track changes in income and expenses. The income statement details the revenue and expenses and lists the net profit or loss for that specific period. The balance sheet lists the company's physical assets, its liabilities and its equity on the day the report is generated. The cash flow statement charts how the company's physical cash on hand has changed over time, and the statement of owner's equity shows the balance in the amount of ownership each partner in the business has. Financial statements are typically submitted with your annual tax return and are useful tools for board members and managers to monitor how well the company is doing.
 
Perform a Self-Audit
At the end of each quarter or year, it is a good idea to perform a self-audit. This is sometimes called "closing the books," and it involves adjusting any entries to the general ledger to account for mistakes or oversights. The self-audit also requires that you close the accounts that have temporary balances. For instance, if a customer owes you for a transaction, it must be accounted for in the accounts. You can decide which balances to carry over to the next period and use the self-audit to get a snapshot of changes in expenses and revenue.
 
 
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10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

 

10 laws of Social Media Marketing

 

Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or insight could be challenging.

It's vital that you understand social media marketing fundamentals. From maximizing quality to increasing your online entry points, abiding by these 10 laws will help build a foundation that will serve your customers, your brand and -- perhaps most importantly -- your bottom line.

1. The Law of Listening
Success with social media and content marketing requires more listening and less talking. Read your target audience’s online content and join discussions to learn what’s important to them. Only then can you create content and spark conversations that add value rather than clutter to their lives.

2. The Law of Focus
It’s better to specialize than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A highly-focused social media and content marketing strategy intended to build a strong brand has a better chance for success than a broad strategy that attempts to be all things to all people.

3. The Law of Quality
Quality trumps quantity. It’s better to have 1,000 online connections who read, share and talk about your content with their own audiences than 10,000 connections who disappear after connecting with you the first time.

4. The Law of Patience
Social media and content marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that you’ll need to commit to the long haul to achieve results.

5. The Law of Compounding
If you publish amazing, quality content and work to build your online audience of quality followers, they’ll share it with their own audiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their own blogs and more.

This sharing and discussing of your content opens new entry points for search engines like Google to find it in keyword searches. Those entry points could grow to hundreds or thousands of more potential ways for people to find you online.

6. The Law of Influence
Spend time finding the online influencers in your market who have quality audiences and are likely to be interested in your products, services and business. Connect with those people and work to build relationships with them.

If you get on their radar as an authoritative, interesting source of useful information, they might share your content with their own followers, which could put you and your business in front of a huge new audience.

 

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How to Set Business Goals

Your company's goals will only be effective if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve--and how.

By Peter Vanden Bos

Business GoalsA smart CEO understands the inherent value of goal setting in steering a growing business in the right direction. Unfortunately, figuring out exactly what the right direction is—and the road map to get there—isn't as much of a no-brainer.

More than 80 percent of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don't keep track of their business goals, and 77 percent have yet to achieve their vision for their company.

Though the statistics are grim, they should make sense: establishing business goals involves a fair amount of introspection into what makes your business tick, and what you want its future to be. Devoting the proper amount of time to do that can be difficult in a struggling economy, but your goals will be more achievable and effective if you do.

"You have to know what you're going for, and do it with your eyes wide open," says Francisco Dao, founder and president of The Killer Pitch, a firm based in Tarzana, California, that helps companies and entrepreneurs refine their message, and former business coach and columnist for Inc. "Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what it's going to take to achieve your goals."

Here's Inc.'s road map to setting (and achieving) business goals.


Setting Business Goals: Determine Your Long-Term Aims

Start by distinguishing your long-term goals from your short-term ones. Your long-term goals should have a timeline of about three to five years, says Maria Marshall, an associate professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who has conducted research on small and family-owned businesses.

They should articulate your company's mission statement, reflecting the reason your company was founded. "When you think about why the company is there in the first place, goals take on a whole different meaning," says Bill Baren, a business coach and founder and president of Bill Baren Coaching, based in San Francisco. "There's more energy behind them. They don't feel forced."

Marshall says that these types of visionary goals usually fall within four general areas: service, social, profit, or growth:

  • Service - Goals related to improving customer service satisfaction or customer retention.
  • Social - Goals that focus on giving back to the community, through philanthropy or volunteer organizations, for example
  • Profit - Goals set to increase profits by a certain percentage
  • Growth - Goals related to the expansion of the company, through new employees, for instance.

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