Archive for the ‘Client Corner’ Category

ABC Manufacturer and Distributor of Truck and Trailer Parts Turns to 3wCommunications for SharePoint Customization

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

3wCommunications, a leader in delivering award-winning technology solutions including SharePoint customization, especially in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area, was approached by a leading global aftermarket master distributor and manufacturer of truck and trailer products – let’s call this company ABC. So ABC was faced with a business challenge: It was being buried under a pile of paper documents. The situation was so bad that management, quality control personnel and salespeople were having a hard time keeping updated on prices and specifications of parts.

ABC’s inventory included over 10,000 parts.  The manufacturer would provide detailed spec sheets and then have their quality control inspectors validate the actual parts received against the spec sheet provided.  Spec sheets would be updated from time to time, but keeping track of all the various versions and making sure customers and salespeople were also working with the correct prices and specifications was challenging. A great deal of manual effort on the part of administrative personnel was required, and the results were not always up to speed.

ABC reached out to 3wCommunications for assistance.  Clearly, SharePoint was the only solution that would solve ABC’s pain, but their internal IT staff did not have experience with SharePoint, especially customizing SharePoint, yet all agreed the company needed SharePoint customization.

3wC, having completed numerous SharePoint customization projects over the years, was able to develop a customized SharePoint solution for ABC, which solved their problem.

The first step was meeting with stakeholders and gaining a clear understanding of the current processes and challenges.  After that, a detailed project plan was created outlining how the SharePoint installation and customization would be implemented.  3wC’s SharePoint development team worked on the installation while the design team focused on the look and feel desired by the ABC.

The end result was a perfect solution for ABC, which experienced a huge improvement in productivity for their personnel.  The great looking, easy-to-use installation ensured that all personnel had access to the latest documents they required.

How to Raise Your Business Credit Score

Friday, June 15th, 2012

In today’s credit market, a credit score of less than 650 is considered subprime and can impact the way you do business.

A bad rating has consequences and can damage your business in several ways, including reducing the attractiveness of the business in the eyes of other businesses and suppliers, higher rates and insurance premiums, and limiting your company’s ability to acquire funding. Limited funding can affect your plans for expansion, capital expenditures, research and development and staffing. It’s a key factor in your future growth and preserving the cash necessary for survival.

Business owners should be diligent in doing everything possible to repair their bad credit and improve their chances of getting more funding and raising their credit scores. Fortunately, there are many ways to bring your rating up a notch and make yourself more desirable to small business lenders.

Review your credit – The very first step you can take to fix your credit is to conduct a thorough review of your credit profile by requesting and analyzing your credit reports. Reviewing your profile might reveal inaccurate and fraudulent claims, signs of identity theft and wrong information. Make sure that your payments are recorded and detailed. This is why it’s so important to monitor your files because the only one who is policing them and ensuring that accurate data exists is you. The more positive reports that are filed, the better your credit rating will be.

Keeping existing credit card lines in place – Occasionally, larger banks cancel or cap credit lines for business owners, which can be perceived as a negative event. You can offer to temporarily pre-pay company credit cards or even put up a small certificate of deposit as security. This is to buy time until you can put another credit card line in place through a less skittish credit card provider

Monitor customer payments – Business owners can affect their own credit by what credit they offer to their customers. Traditional bank lenders look closely at the receivable collection track record. Collecting customer payments in less than 45 days is more desirable to lenders than waiting over 120 days to receive customer payments.

Making timely payments – Nothing impacts your rating more than your ability to make your credit payments on time. Consistent, timely payments will improve your company’s credit over the short and long term, and is the most direct way to improve your credit rating.

Communicate with unpaid vendors – If you are having trouble paying your vendors, call them to re-negotiate payment terms. It’s vital to reach out before the vendor sends the account to a collection agency to protect your credit score.

Revise your business plan – Keep in mind that borrowing opportunities will open up to businesses that can persuade lenders that they have thought through how they will apply loan proceeds to repaying a loan and increasing their revenue.

Keep debt down – The capital structure of your business – that is, the extent to which you use equity or debt to finance your operations – is an important determinant of your creditworthiness. If other companies see a lot of debt on your balance sheet, they are less likely to extend credit as you pose a greater risk of default.

Credit Rating Factors – Make sure you know which factors affect your business credit score. Many factors can and will affect this score. Late payments and bills aren’t the only things that can affect this number. In fact, fraudulent charges can also severely cripple your credit score.

Cover all Damages – It’s almost goes without saying, but the quickest and most effective way to improve your business credit score is to clear all debts and make sure you can get a fresh start. By decreasing your debts, you will have an instant lift in your credit score. Also, by decreasing your business credit card’s limits, you will notice a significant impact on your report as well. Subsequently, if you have good enough credit, you can ask for a credit line increase, which can improve your credit even more because such an action will lower the percentage of your available credit in use.

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There are currently no laws that protect business owners from unfair business credit reporting, like the Fair Credit Reporting Act does for consumers. Consequently, business owners should do everything possible to repair their bad credit. The information on your credit report directly impacts your credit score. Your credit score in turn determines your ability to obtain credit and potentially be approved for loans.

Improving your credit score will not be an overnight process, but with a plan, patience and hard work, you can improve your business credit score in as little time as possible.

Creating a Disaster Plan for your Business

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

No matter how good you are as the caretaker of your small business, you will sometimes face circumstances beyond your control.  Occasionally, those circumstances can be disruptive, whether long-term or a brief period.

From devastating natural disasters to manmade catastrophes, you should be prepared for the unexpected and its aftermath.  According to the Insurance Institute for Home and Business Safety, 25 to 40 percent of small businesses forced to close because of a disaster never reopen.  However, businesses that have a disaster plan in place – and use it during and after disaster strikes – typically experience less damage, loss and downtime than businesses without a plan.

A written disaster plan is a must.  Consider the following to help keep your business operating and meeting your customers’ needs:

Creating a Team

First, you need to select the people who will form your contingency planning committee for how long it takes to put your plan together.

Employee Safety

Develop escape plans and external gathering areas, making sure each of your employees understands what the plan is before the emergency strikes.

Create a Company Roster

Create a list of all employees, including alternate ways that people can communicate with each other. Include all phone numbers and non-work email addresses.  Obviously, the more ways you have to keep in touch, the better.  Set up a formal phone tree that can be activated to get in touch with your employees quickly.

Mission Critical

This is your core plan and the critical portion of all contingencies.  Here you will identify the flow of each operational, financial and administrative system and process that is needed to run your business, and who will be responsible for bringing those systems “on-line.”

Inventory and Equipment

Document your inventory and equipment that is required to keep your business operable.  Maintain insurance policies, warranty information and manufacturer and service contact information with your disaster documentation.  Document the processes that help your business run, such as answering phones, tracking financing and distribution.  Also, consider your supplier information and how it will contact and deliver to you during a disaster.

Determine a Chain of Command.

You need to consider a clear chain of command and authority in case key members of your business simply couldn’t be contacted for a period of time.  If key personnel are missing, who’s in charge and who makes critical decisions?

Designate Disaster Authorities

Certain pre-chosen individuals should know the steps to take during the crisis, and how to reach all employees and other essential contacts (clients, customers, etc.).  Also, your employees should know who to take direction from in the chaos that frequently follows a disaster.

Work Space Alternatives

Think about what location alternatives you have if you couldn’t operate from your main space, such as a temporary location and employees working out of their homes.

Data Backup

It almost goes without saying, but you need your vital data – both print and electronic – backed up offsite.  Ideally, you should already be backing up all of your important data at a location that isn’t in the same vicinity.  Backup things like:  tax, payroll and accounting records as well as the customer and vendor data you’ve stored on your hard drive.  Use safe deposit boxes for important hard copies.

It’s easy to put off business disaster contingency planning, but taking the time to prepare a business contingency plan will deliver a huge payoff if business disaster strikes.
Thinking positive in itself is always a good thing, but it isn’t enough here.  You need solid disaster planning to avert or lessen a catastrophe and protect your business and employees… not to mention giving you a sense of security and peace of mind.

Dealing with Difficult Customers – 9 Tips

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

You know that difficult customers are part of the business landscape.  Dealing with them can be fraught with mistakes, faux pas and frustration.  However, there are ways to turn that headache client into a satisfied, lifetime customer.

Here are some things to review when dealing with the difficult:

Defuse It – Acting just like the customer will get you nowhere.  Acting professional throughout is the commendable way to go.

Clarify It – Listen and get clear on why your customer is upset.  Take notes then use those notes to review with them what they said.  It shows you understand and that you’re giving them a voice.

Acknowledge It – Sometimes commenting to your customer saying they have a right to be upset makes them less defensive and close-minded.

Help It – If customer feedback degenerates to pointless blather, step in and simply ask what you can do to help improve everything for them.  More often than not, being upfront and reasonable is enough to make most people settle down a bit and think about how you can help.  That’s all you need.

Control It – Sometimes it’s easier said then done but don’t argue back, as you’ll lose the customer if you show them your temper.  Not doing so is what they’ll remember.

Time It – Within reason, give your customer the time they need to express themselves.  You care about them, so show it by not rushing them.  They’ll notice.

Tone It – The worse thing you can do is take on a condescending tone.  Now you’ll have that issue to deal with as well.

Earn It – If you do lose your customer, staying in touch is worth trying.  Following up over time with a phone call or email, might earn them back.  Especially if they can’t find a better product or service elsewhere.

Follow It – You need to follow up with thecustomer to ensure they’re still satisfied with the agreed-upon solution.  What was the point if you don’t?

Remember – becoming difficult yourself only adds to the bad situation.  You can control your behavior.  Ensure that the mishap will not happen again and perhaps offer a discount, coupons, lunch or dinner, or something else for free.  It’s a small price to pay for a happy ending.

Employee Directory and Budgeting Application for NNG

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Client: No Name Given  (NNG): Client requests anonymity.

Goal: To create an Employee Directory in order to facilitate information exchange and improve organization and to create a Budgeting Application to minimize information loss and maximize productivity.

NNG, a national health services organization specializing in providing laundry, housekeeping, and food service to healthcare facilities, approached World Wide Web Communications (3wC) with the need to improve information exchange between employees and administration and create a more efficient system for monthly budget reports.

In order to better manage staff, NNG had created a hierarchy system to organize groups of employees and managers into divisional and regional districts.  Although each division had a list of employees, NNG needed a more efficient method to view data for each group, search for individuals within the hierarchal system, or access simple information like addresses and emails.  They needed an Employee Directory that provided quick access to basic information and secure access to departments that required more sensitive personal data.

First 3wC created a system that collected all emails, contacts, and login activity of every employee into a centralized location.  Once all information was collected and stored, the NNG administrators were then able to view the online activity of each employee.

3wC then set up an employee directory within SharePoint that gave certain groups access to select information.  With this directory in place, NNG groups such payroll could view sensitive information for each employee while others were restricted to only names or contacts.  This meant that the IT department could configure the Employee Directory to give different groups access to different information and could change the configurations depending on the requirements and security level of individual departments.

To make the Employee Directory even user-friendlier, 3wC created an interactive organizational chart that presented employee hierarchy in a visual format.  By combining the visual element with the Directory, users could click on a name on the chart and view select information about the selected employee.

Furthermore, by utilizing the SharePoint system, NNG can sync information between programs in order to streamline data processing.  Promotions, title changes, or address changes (for example) need only be entered into one system instead of manually entered into multiple programs.  The information is then updated across all programs, minimizing confusion and human error.

NNG wanted to carry this efficiency over to its budgeting platform as well.  In the past, NNG used a VB6 (Visual Basics) application in which district managers personally collected budgets from each facility to submit them to corporate every month where two individuals would then process the budgets into the existing system.  In order to create a more efficient system, 3wC determined which individuals were actively involved in the budgeting process and created a financial budgeting system that streamlined information exchange.  With the help of NNG, 3wC created an application that allows each site manager to enter budget information directly into a system where district managers can then view information as it is updated.  Once all the information is logged, it is then transferred and translated into the proper reporting standards for the corporate office.  Not only does this system minimize human error, but it also saves time and makes it easier for staff to search and identify the budgets of each facility and update fees and other components within the same system.

By creating an Employee Directory and Budgeting Application, 3wC helped NNG not only improve communication and organization within their company, but also created efficiency tools that will help save time and money far into the future.