The expansion of the Internet and the growth of online financial tools continue to change the way we do business. With the development of Web-based and online tools, it is easier than ever for small business owners to manage day-to-day operations, track financial transactions and measure performance. Unlike the more costly software packages many companies were using up until now, Web-based tools are available free of charge or for a very low cost.

If you are a still using old systems and thinking it’s time to update your business, here are a few key areas to consider that will curb costs and increase efficiencies:

Inventory management

When was the last time you examined your inventory? If you are unsure, it is safe to say apply the 80/20 rule ― 20 percent of that inventory is turning while 80 percent sits idle, taking up space and costing money to finance.

Effective inventory management can be the key to running a profitable business.

Before making a decision to update pricing or increase inventory, you must first know what you have in your current inventory. Online inventory management programs can do just that. An inventory management program can also be especially helpful for companies with multiple warehouses, or stores with multiple locations. Businesses can benefit from the up-to-the-minute software when multiple people are tracking merchandise orders, sales, returns and product availability. Inventory management programs also show which items are slow selling and should not be ordered or produced as frequently.

Finally, using an online inventory management system that interfaces with accounting software such as QuickBooks makes it easier to evaluate your financial situation.

Online payment options

Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies were previously more limited in the type of payments one could accept. Today, thanks to new technology, small business owners that typically accept only cash or checks can now easily add credit cards and online payments to the mix.

More amazing is that, traditionally cash-only small merchants are now able to accept credit card transactions by simply using a smartphone. Tools like the Square and Intuit GoPayment readers will scan a credit card payment from the phone. The cost is a flat percentage fee per transaction. If a customer is paying from another location, businesses of any size can accept credit card payments online with websites like PayPal and Google Checkout. Certain applications also allow customers to purchase products directly from Facebook brand pages now.

Payments by check can also be received online from remote locations with the development of eChecks. Customers can input their check information, including account number, routing number and check number, into an online form. The information is then evaluated by an online database that will tell businesses within seconds whether the check is valid or not. This tool can reduce the fear business owners may have about accepting checks by eliminating the potential for checks to bounce or for a purchase to be made from a closed account.

Managing deposits

Remote Deposit Capture (RDC) is the official name banking institutions use to describe the process of electronically depositing a digitally scanned check. With RDC, business owners and managers can make a deposit by using a computer, scanner and remote deposit capture software or employing a third party. When the bank receives the digital check, almost immediately they can send digital copies to another bank to verify the funds and make the appropriate withdrawals and deposits. This tool is not only convenient and a great time saver, but it also reduces cost and the risks connected to driving to the bank to make deposits. This is especially true for larger companies, which often hire a courier service or armored car to handle the task.

Banks have recently implemented applications that allow businesses and individuals to deposit checks from an iPhone or Android. Checks can be photographed and submitted through an app.

Adopting online tools to manage financial tasks and operations can be fairly simple and inexpensive, while the benefits to your business are abundant. These tools not only save time and money, but they also increase the ability to track day-to-day operations, enabling companies to make more informed financial decisions; and most importantly, they can help improve cash flow.

We’ve all heard the saying “cash is king.” That statement has never been truer than it is today.

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