Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word, netbooks? Odds are you pictured the lightweight mini-notebooks that are so popular and so cheap you can practically get one at 7-11 with the purchase of a Big Gulp.
The meteoric rise of this new product category caused quite a problem for NetBooks, Inc., a company whose Web-based financial and business management software bears the same name. Back in 2007 when we first wrote about NetBooks (the software), netbooks (the hardware) had not yet arrived on the scene in any substantial way. But you just can’t beat some trends, which is why NetBooks is now known as WorkingPoint.
But the new name is not the only change. Far from it, according to Tate Holt, the company’s new CEO. In its previous incarnation, NetBooks provided bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory management, sales, marketing and customer relationship management for what it called “true small businesses”…companies with up to 25 employees. And it charged $200 a month for up to five people.
The problem with the true small business model, said Tate, is that nearly 25 million small businesses don’t fit that criterion. “NetBooks wasn’t working the way we wanted, so we rebuilt it from scratch,” he said. “It’s meant for businesses with way less than five employees. Working Point focuses mainly on the business owner…not the bookkeeper.”
The company says it overhauled Working Point with the needs of a new business owner in mind. The company’s Web site claims that it provides “everything you need to start, manage and grow your small business.” WorkingPoint provides a range of business management features including:
Bookkeeping: “Anyone starting a new business needs to track their income and expenses, and invoices,” said Tate. “Most small business owners don’t need to learn double-entry bookkeeping. They’re too busy starting their business.” He added that the service performs double-entry calculations behind the scenes so it can grow with your business, and it generates income statements and balance sheets for an accountant.
CRM: You can import contacts from Outlook, Yahoo and Gmail and track sales history and customer information. “It’s never too early to start tracking the conversations you have with your customers,” said Tate.
Inventory Control: Even the smallest businesses sell products or services, said Tate, whether it’s a photographer selling picture frames or a landscaper selling fertilizer. “WorkingPoint’s inventory control lets you place product quotes, services and inventory on the same invoice. And that information flows through to the incomes statement and the balance sheet automatically,” he said.
Business Dashboard: Provides a single-screen point of reference into the state of your business. “Why not have one screen where you can see your checking and savings account balances, along with overdue invoices and bills you need to pay in the next several days?” said Tate.
Mobile Access: While not yet available, WorkingPoint will soon offer mobile access from the iPhone. “If you’re at a site preparing a quote on a house, for example,” said Tate, “you can access WorkingPoint on your iPhone and e-mail the quote to the customer.” He added that the mobile access will be Web-based at first, followed by a native app foro the iPhone.
But the biggest difference between the old NetBooks and WorkingPoint is the price. WorkingPoint is free.
“The core products, bookkeeping, CRM, inventory control, community pages and mobile access will be free to the owner forever,” said Tate. Free is one of our favorite words, especially in this economy, but it begs the question: how can WorkingPoint make any money?
In two ways, said Tate. First, they’ll charge $10 per month for additional users. So when your company grows and you add a bookkeeper or need to share information with employees, you’ll pay to add them to the account.
Second, they’ll offer premium features. The company plans to roll out premium features such as banking integration, Web-store integration and back-order control. The first premium feature, banking integration, is due in August and will cost $10 per month. Tate estimated that between 75 and 80 percent of WorkingPlace customers will never pay to use the service.
Startup is the most cash-sensitive time in the life of a business, said Tate. “If someone’s moving their hobby to a business, they don’t need to spend money on QuickBooks. WorkingPoint lets them wade in and try it for free.”
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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