Heard It in the Forums: Small Business Computing Discussion

By Vangie Beal
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Today we're turning the spotlight on our readers and some of the current issues and trends that they've been talking about in our discussion forum. We highlight several recent threads that provide valuable insight from your fellow small business professionals and present them to you for easy digestion.

Our choice of informative discussions and debates this week includes reader opinions on two all-in-one business management solutions -- Evolution and Interprise Suite, a discussion on how to engage in social bookmarking for your small business sites, plus readers weigh in with tips and advice for QuickBooks.

Of course you can feel free to add your own comments as we've added a handy quick link to each discussion, letting you easily join in on the discussion in our Small Business Computing forums.

Evolution vs. Interprise Suite
Forum member SidePocket is currently researching all-in-one business management software packages. He needs something suitable for a micro service business (commercial real estate appraisal) with fewer than 10 employees, no manufacturing, no inventory and no ecommerce Web site needs.

SidePocket said, "I have narrowed my search down to Evolution and Interprise Suite. I am interested in anyone who is actually using either of these currently in their businesses, or who has at least demo'd trial versions of one or the other recently (last six months) in their current versions. Any real-world knowledge or recommendations about these two products specifically would be much appreciated."

Gary Harrison replied, "Probably the best qualified to answer is Jay over at J Goodin as he purchased Evolution and then Interprise. I mention Jay as he is listed as a happy customer on the Evolution site. Best bet is to demo both products and see which one fits your business best. A perfect fit for one business may not be a good choice for yours."

InfoSourcing said, "I spotted Evolution and Interprise Suite almost two years back and had been in touch with vendors to evaluate their product. Evolution was horrible in 2005/06. Its user Interface was bad and it made Interprise Suite look like the better choice for small business. But in 2007 there has been tremendous change in both the companies. Evolution has evolved into all-in-one software, their Web site is much more informative and their product itself has evolved with good user interface and all functionality being plugged in.

As for Interprise Suite, they took no real action till mid-2007, but they are getting into full gear now and have integrated all the modules; lots of features being added, it looks promising in 2007-08."

Social Bookmarking and Advertising
Social bookmarking, that is, submitting URLs of your Web site pages to social bookmarking sites (like Digg or Reddit) for discussion and review, is a popular way for site owners to boost traffic.
Forum member Shyampc said that he previously posted some of his company's Web pages to 100 social bookmarking sites and noticed a huge difference in traffic for several days. Question is, Shyampc paid someone to submit the postings for him, and now he wants to know the ins-and-outs of social bookmarking in order to do it on his own.

Shyampc asked, "I hired an experienced person to do the job of submission, and the amount spent on this was really worth it. Now I want to do this again. But, are there any ways to submit the same Web pages to those social bookmarking Web sites and get the traffic and conversions again and again? Are there any suggestions on how to do this? I am planning to create blogs and display products there. Then I will be able to submit those blogs to these Web sites. Will this help?"

Louisiana said, "Are you looking to submit the same material? If so, there are usually some safeguards to prevent this. For example, you probably can't use the same URL that you used before. Even if you change the URL, the content is scanned."

Volusion added, "It could help, but bear in mind that social networking sites already have page rank, and your new blog will not. It would not have quite the impact. Also, if people in your industry have already seen this material, the possibility of these links getting passed around is less."

QuikShop chimed in with, "I'm quite new to the whole Web 2.0 social networking thing as well (probably due to my age). We've got an articles page on our Web site, but I'd like to add the option of submitting articles to Facebook, Digg etc. Do the articles have to be presented in a certain format, i.e. XML?"

Opensourceforce replied, "Each social bookmark site has its own format for uploading the content. Also, there are modules that you can install on your site with quick links so any one who has accounts with these social bookmark sites would go to your site and see the quick link module that you installed. When they click it, it will allow them to instantly link to that page through their account like Digg, etc."

Quickbooks Issues
Member Walter Mitty runs XP Pro with Quickbooks Pro 2005 multi-user (five workers). He spends far too much time with a work-around in QuickBooks and wonders if anyone knows a direct, less time-consuming solution.

Walter Mitty said, "I run a small business that sells construction materials internationally. Because our typical day involves having our customers request pricing on any one of thousands of construction products out there, our item list is growing so rapidly and quickly becoming out of control. Many of these items are also commodity items so the prices are changing daily.

Basically I have no reporting capability whatsoever. For example, I sell Widgets. Today the Widget pricing has changed, so I manually enter the new price in the Estimate and get an order, manually change it in the Vendor Purchase Order, and then manually change it on my Customer Invoice. Imagine doing this to hundreds of items all the time. I can't do a report and see the history of the Widget pricing or item profitability.

At the very least I'd like to get this under control. I couldn't even tell you what my most profitable item is margin-wise. I saw there was an add-on called Item Manager or something but haven't looked too deeply in to that. I'd love to see the item history and what I sold that Widget for and to whom on a quick report. Many times I haven't sold a particular item in quite a while and need to price it and have no idea what I sold it for previously!

If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears and very appreciative."

SeattleCPA replied, "Here's the first thought that jumps into my head: Maybe the problem isn't so much the functionality of the accounting software. QuickBooks will let you keep a large item list (up to 25,000 items, I recall, at least with the Enterprise version and maybe with other versions running on top of a SQL database?)

But having thousands of items to update prices for on a daily basis? That either needs automating (by some sort of link to the suppliers you use), or you need a small army of clerks regularly updating the prices.

I guess my point is that the thing may not be solvable with QB. You may need help from your suppliers or more people power."

Accounting.NET said, " Have you looked into an automated pricing import? SeattleCPA had a good point; you may want to consider an automated import. I'm not sure if this is available in Quickbooks, but I know that with many other database solutions this is fairly easy. We've done several for companies like electrical parts distributors, computer parts distributors, etc., that are dealing with a high volume of pricing updates on a daily basis. It can really reduce errors and save a lot of time, even if it costs a little to have the program written initially."

MachineDude asked, "Are your items setup as inventory items? If all the items you sell are set-up as inventory items you can go to the reports section and get a report on the items. Go to reports on the left-hand side of the main menu and select: Reports > Sales By Item > Summary. This report will show Average Price, Avg COGS (Average Cost of Goods Sold), Gross Margin and Gross Margin percent. You can select a date range All or This Year, Last Month etc. Also you can click on an item listed in the first report to drill down to show all sales of that item in the date range you selected, you can then even click on the individual sales to see the actual invoice."

The Small Business Discussion Forums is the place for advice on data backup, recovery, servers, marketing issues and general discussion related to current trends and practices. Fellow small-business owners can network and share tips, experience and advice. You can use the forums for knowledge gathering or create a free member account to take part in the discussions and ask your own questions.

(Ed. Note: The forum postings in this story have been edited for grammar and clarity.)

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been writing about computers, games and technology since the early 90s. She's also the managing editor of Webopedia.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

This article was originally published on October 25, 2007
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