Managing the Small or Home Office

Because resources are so limited for the small-business owner, application suites and a new breed of financial software are making it easy to run a small office/home office (SOHO). Instead of relying on outside accountants, marketers, designers, and other consultants, many SOHO workers can do many nontraditional chores-as well as their normal work-by using sophisticated software packages. These applications help small business owners solve various problems without making a large educational or monetary investment.

Application suites such as Microsoft Office, Corel's WordPerfect Office, and Lotus's SmartSuite include the following types of programs:

Word Processor. Most word processors include professional templates to give documents a clean look and help the user with spelling, grammar, and word choices. Word processors greatly simplify mass mailings and can print envelopes, brochures, and other complex documents. For SOHO workers who want to design their own Web pages, a word processor may be the only tool they need.

Spreadsheet. Spreadsheets help managers tackle crucial financial tasks. The resulting files can be imported into many financial or accounting programs and can be useful to an accountant or consultant.

Database. These packages enable the small-business owner to track products, orders, shipments, customers, and much more. When used as part of an application suite, the database program can provide much of the data required for invoices, receipts, form letters, and other mission-critical documents.

Presentation. These programs help the user quickly create impressive presentations for use in slide shows in overheads and on the computer screen. Color graphics, animation, and concise text can help persuade clients and close sales.

E-Mail, Contact, and Schedule Management. Even in a small office, time is valuable and people cannot afford to confuse schedules. Programs like Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Organizer help people (individually and in groups) manage and coordinate their schedules, set appointments, and manage contacts. These programs offer e-mail software, making it even easier to send a message to someone from the contact list.

The specialty software market for small businesses is growing rapidly. Here are three examples of the types of special business-oriented programs targeted at small businesses:

Financial. These inexpensive yet powerful packages can track inventories, billings, expenses, and much more. They can also help the user categorize income and expenses and do tax planning.

Business Planning. New business-planning programs provide templates to help the user create business plans and customize documents by industry, product type, or market type. These programs can help the aspiring business owner find investors.

Tax Planning and Preparation. Tax software enables business owners to prepare their own taxes without using an accountant or consultant. The user plugs in the numbers; the software does the rest.


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