Stan’s MBA Software Blog
I have been playing around with old style dial-up phone modems lately. It first started when I wanted to add Faxing to MBA. Windows 2000 and XP (both Home and Pro) come with Faxing software. I thought it would be nice to allow Reps to Fax reports. Not everyone has access to email at work but many still have Faxes. It all started when a local Rep mentioned to me that she has customers that are employees of a restaurant and that they don’t have email but they do have a Fax. She wanted to Fax copies of the Invoices prior to delivery so they could be verified and customers could have exact change or checks ready.
About a week after adding Faxing to upcoming version of MBA I got a call from a friend that made me think of something else to add as well. My friend always calls from work and uses a auto-dialer program in his Contacts List software. He has a speaker phone and picks up when I answer (he’s been doing this for years) and I can always detect when he is doing this. Then I thought “Hey, why not add this feature to MBA”. If people have a modem for Faxing why not allow then to use it to dial the phone too.
I have a 56K modem built right into my notebook so I used this for development and testing. But for both of these features all you need is a very old 14.4 modem. I looked through the local Craig’s List ads and even in a few thrift shops to see if any were around and how much they cost. I was amazed to see lots are still out there and they are very very cheap. I have seen 28.8 and 33.6 modems for as little as $5 each (with cables!). Most were in the $10 - $15 range. Of course you can buy new internal modems for as little as $25 (these are software driven Win modems, but work great on anything from a PII up, if your computer in less than seven years old it will probably work fine).
In addition to sending Faxes you can use the Windows software and your modem to receive Faxes as well. The great thing is you can preview them before printing (save a tree). And when you do print them its on plain paper not that old shiny Fax paper (that fades after a few months).
I know Faxing and auto-dialing are not for going to be a gigantic boon to anyones business but all these little tools can help make your work day a little easier.
I just purchased a new inexpensive HP Laser printer (under $100). About two years ago my old Laser printer died and I had a Canon Color InkJet so never replaced the Laser printer. I have been spending a lot of money on InkJet cartridges lately so thought I would look into getting a Laser printer again (for my black & white printing). I remember reading that Laser toner was about half the price of Ink so I Googled the phrase “compare inkjet laser costs”. After reading a few stories/reviews I realized that purchasing a Laser was a very good idea.
InkJet’s cost two to three times as much as Laser printers on a per page cost comparison. One story even said on rare cases InkJets can cost up to 8 times more. I know you can buy non-brand name Inkjet cartridges and save that way but you can do the same for Lasers as well.
So far I have been very happy with my Laser. It is much faster than my InkJet and the pages don’t smudge like they did with my InkJet (much much better for mailing labels). If you do a lot of Black and White printing in your Direct Sales business I would recommend you look into getting an inexpensive Laser.
One last thing, I just wrote a little program for printing addresses directly on #10 mailing envelopes. Now I can pick a name out of Customer/Contacts list and print it directly on a envelope (along with my return address). No labels needed. Think I will look into adding this code into MBA.
I have been using Skype since last year and have found it to be great for small business. Skype is a free phone service over the internet. It can be used for local or long distance calling between two or more computers. Skype also has versions for MAC and Linux so the person you are calling does not have to be just using a Windows PC.
In addition there is a paid feature I really like called Skype-Out that allows you to call regular land lines (friends/family/business) without a PC/Internet. Skype-Out is an annual fee of $30 and allows you to call any land line (and some Cells) in Canada and USA. Note, thats unlimited calling, very cool. You can also setup an account (via PayPal) and prepay long distance to most of the world (starting at around 2 cents a minute). I have called Europe many times and the quality is pretty good (of course if the person you are calling has a PC you can call them for free using regular Skype).
Skype has a even better feature of those building teams (downline). It supports conference calling with up to 10 people per call. You can have a Sales Meeting on the phone, very cool. Even a long distance Sales Meeting, even cooler.
There is several more features you may like, Sype-In allows you to receive calls from land lines/cells (called does not need a PC or Skype, or even know that they are calling you over Skype). Also there is Text Messaging service which is very competitive with cell phone prices per message. Now you can Text Message your kids from your PC without even owning a cell phone or having to type on those tiny cell phone buttons. Again, very cool.
I am planning on adding an auto-dial feature to MBA’s regular phone numbers (for those who have a modem in or connected to their PC) and I am now planning on adding Skype support to MBA as well.
One last thing, Skype is owned by eBay (which also owns PayPal and VeriSign). So this is not some little startup company. The risk in using it is very minimal and the feature list and coverage is sure to grow.
To get more info on Skype go to their website at www.skype.com
As I learn more and more about the business of Direct Sales I can see there are many reasons for getting into the business. More reasons than the obvious one of earning money. Some of the most popular reasons have to do with flexibility of time. Some like the products and just want to earn enough to pay for their own personal product purchases with a little profit on the side. Others like it because they can start small without a large commitment (of money and/or time).
In a previous Blog post I talked about that most people have always had a dream of owning a small business. I was thinking that maybe some people could use Direct Sales to fulfill that dream. Like I mentioned above it’s easy and affordable to get started in Direct Sales. They could get three important things from Direct Sales.
1 - Experience in running a small business. In Direct Sales your the boss, you call the shots. You must organize your time. You must learn how to motivate yourself (Hey, some days its fun, others its work. When its going to be work you need to be able to motivate yourself). Learn about accounting, expenses, taxes and all the other stuff you have to know to run a small business.
2 - Earn money!!! If you are going to start the dream business some day you are going to need money to get it started. You can leverage the low cost of a Direct Sales business into making money. Money that you can save to start your real dream business (Cafe, Flower Shop, Fashion Store, etc.)
3 - Saved the most important for last. Sales and Marketing. One of the most important skills a small business owner can have is marketing. Without Marketing and Sales your dream business will quickly turn into a nightmare.
Bonus reason, one more just for good measure. In addition to the previous three your Direct Sales business will provide you with additional income. Most small businesses take time to start making money so it is hard for the owner to take money out in the beginning. Keep your Direct Sales business going to provide that extra income. It’s flexible hours will be an added bonus then just like they are now.
I had a bad eCheck come back today. It got me thinking of all the problems I have had with Sales/Payments over the last few years. I counted 5, thats it, just 5. It works out to less than one quarter of one per cent (< 0.25%). Makes me realize that Avon Reps are very decent people. Hey and I have the numbers to prove it.
We sometimes guard about bad things happening. It’s what you have to do in business. But this make me realize how we tend to over estimate how much bad is out there. Even if these numbers were double or triple they would still be less than one percent.
We see bad things on the news everyday. We know that bad people are doing bad things right in our own own town or neighborhood. We must be diligent to protect ourselves and our families. These numbers also help point out something else to me. Over 99% of the time bad things are NOT happening to us, our families or our friends. Sometimes it is easy to loose sight of this very important fact. Statistically speaking, most days are great days. The numbers tell it all, be little bit diligent an a whole lot happy.
Sorry, have been getting a ton of Porn links posted to comments section of this Blog. Kind of like Spam is to email. There were only a few at first but grew to over 30 per day. None showed up on Blog site as it is moderated (I view before they show up here) but it was getting to be a real pain hunting through them to make sure none were real comments before deleting the batch.
So you have to be Logged In (use Login on Forum) in order to post comments for now. I have a large enough “To Do” list already without adding “Porn Filter Person” to my job list.
I have been working on a new FAX feature for MBA reports. It will work similar to PDF file creation with a button on the Report Previewer window. So any report will now be Faxable in addition to printing and saving as PDF.
Windows 2000 and Windows XP (both Home and Pro) have a built in Fax program so MBA will use that to Fax with. The new Windows Vista has faxing as well but only in the top three versions. Home “Basic” and Home “Premium” do not come with the Faxing software that was available in the prior versions.
I have been out “window” shopping for a new Notebook and have noticed many come with Home “Basic” or Home “Premium” so it looks like I am going to have to inquire about upgrading Windows Vista (to Business version) at the same time. If your thinking of upgrading to Vista you should look into the various configurations of the 5 Vista versions to be sure your getting what you need.
Vista, Fax, Direct Sales
I had an idea that has turned into a theory. Over the past 5 weeks I have been asking friends and acquaintances one question. I was fairly sure of the response that I would get but you just don’t know for sure until you ask.
I think all Sales Reps should try this but it will be of particular interest to those building Teams/Downlines. The question I asked was this. “Have you ever dreamt of owning and running your own small business?” Before letting them reply I went on to qualify the question. I was not asking if they have ever dreamt of becoming a millionaire. Just a small business that they could make a regular living at like a small Cafe, Store or maybe something related to a hobby. The second qualifier was “Have you had this thought multiple times (it wasn’t a one time idea)? You won’t be surprised to hear every one said yes they had even with both qualifiers.
Seems almost everyone has this dream. Not to be rich, but just have a little business they could call their own and make a living at. Something they could built and call their own, something more than just a job, something more than just a pay check.
Direct Sales, Dreams