Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

For information on partnering with, please contact us.

Helping Small Business Compete

Like David fighting Goliath, small business owners go up against major retailers every day of the week. And when those days are during the holiday season, they can use all the help they can get with the least cost.

Margaret Lyons, customer success manager for InfoStreet, makers of SkyDesktop, and a free Cloud-based desktop believes one major help is her product.

The cloud has been touted as the great democratizer, enabling small businesses to compete with their larger brethren. This is especially true during the holiday rush. Empowered by innovative apps, the cloud is here to help businesses embrace the seasonal boon with open arms, as opposed to years past, where they may have been holding back.

Following are common small business seasonal needs, and a few cloud solutions for each:

 You Need to Increase the Size of Your Team: For some small businesses, especially retail businesses, the increase in customer activity during the holidays inevitably requires an increase in the team size. The cloud makes the hunt for your next employee(s) straightforward and successful, and helps you manage your new team with ease. An example is Cangrade, a cloud app that automatically organizes and evaluates job
candidates. Cangrade allows you to evaluate applicant resumes, and provides you with an unlimited number of psychologist-produced tests that can be used to assess the candidate's fit with an existing team as well as the likelihood of employee success. Once your team has been selected and hired, several cloud apps exist that will help you manage your employees. WhenIWork is a collaborative employee scheduling cloud app that sends employee schedules directly to their phones. ShiftPlanning is an employee scheduling software that additionally offers time-clocking and payroll functions. CakeHR allows employees to request time off via the cloud and keeps a running record of used and available employee PTO. All of these apps can be used to help you find the right people, put the right people to work, and ensure their time is spent on expanding your business and not mundane HR paperwork.  And, the best thing about the cloud is that your apps are scalable, growing with you when you need additional help, and scaling back when you do. With the cloud, you never pay for more than what you need.
You Need Innovative Marketing Ideas: The holidays are a great time for small businesses to adopt unique marketing strategies to increase sales, but how do you get started? Social media has created a strong reputation for growing your brand recognition, which may lead to a surge in sales. Interactwive lets you run Twitter contests by encouraging your followers to tweet messages relevant to your business. With Interactwive, you collect tweets, check for links or followers, summarize statistics, and choose winners, all in one web-based tool. Set the parameters of the contest by determining which links, phrases, or hashtags to require, and watch your social media funnel - and your sales - light up!
You Need A Better POS System: The days of expensive point-of-sale systems are over, now that POS is in the cloud. Many of us have become familiar with Square, a cloud POS system that allows companies to collect payment from anywhere, at any time, no matter where they may be. The Square card reader attached to a cell phone has become a familiar sight, and Square can be used inside of a business as well as in the field. Square is a wonderful POS for small businesses that do not spend all day in an office, or have agents working from different locations. Conversely, Posterita is designed for small businesses with one or more on-site locations. Posterita's cloud POS system boasts an easy-to-use interface that connects all of your data, from anywhere, across any computer or device that you use for purchase transactions, solving the age-old problem of synchronizing data from multiple locations. Moving your POS to the cloud will streamline your holiday sales process without breaking the bank.
You Need A Comprehensive Inventory Management System: Keeping track of your inventory is even more important during the holidays, when you need to make sure that you've got enough inventory on hand to accommodate the holiday rush. Rheo Inventory was designed to let businesses track purchase and sales orders, create custom invoices, calculate salesperson commissions, and more. Rheo Inventory's unified dashboard gives you an overview of your inventory and shows you which of your products are performing best. With Rheo, you can manage your customers as well as your inventory, and the app includes easy ways to perform intimidating tasks such as large-scale inventory price adjustments and reordering. Similarly, Imonggo offers an affordable, easy-to-use inventory management system that allows you to keep tabs on all aspects of your inventory, including existing quantity, stock history, cost history, price history, and more. Entering Inventory is as easy as importing a .csv file, and powerful search and sort mechanisms make finding items quick and intuitive. Rounding off this powerful system is the ability to create customized receipts and email them to customers. Imonggo even offers a layaway feature, to help you work with your customers' holiday budgets. With the right inventory management system, keeping track of your inventory has never been easier.
You Need: a Stronger Accounting System: The holidays are not the time to battle with your current accounting system. During this busy season, you need to spend as much time catering to your customers as possible. Kashoo's intuitive online accounting system lets you track expenses, send invoices, and prepare financial reports from any computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Kashoo makes it easy for you to collaborate with your team members, and even offers multi-currency options to make it easy to invoice international clients. Toast Invoicing is another strong accounting option that includes employee time tracking on top of expense tracking and invoice generation. Accounting shouldn't take up all of your time. The cloud helps you simplify your accounting practices and get back to work with your customers. ###


Keep Employees' Attention During Holidays

DR.JOB's Tip of the Week