Office Managers: Four easy online tools for increasing efficiency

If you’re an Office Manager, you know that running an office like a well-oiled machine takes work. Keeping track of schedules, organizing contracts and managing invoices can often feel like herding cats–so it’s important to have online tools that make your job easy.

Whether you’re managing a large company, a small business or an office that feels like a zoo, these four office management tools will make your job a whole lot simpler. 

Calendly: In the age of remote work, trying to organize schedules and client meetings can be challenging (to say the least). If you’re tired of the constant back-and-forth of scheduling, Calendly is for you. Calendly scans schedules to see open slots and then sends out calendar invites to the team–all in one platform.  

Cost: The premium plan starts at just $8/month per user. Try it free for 14 days: https://calendly.com/pages/pricing

Hipmunk: Booking travel details for yourself is tricky. Booking for multiple people in the office? Even trickier. Like most travel sites, Hipmunk easily allows for flight and hotel deal comparisons. But with their packages, you can simply book all trip details in one transaction.

Cost: Not only is Hipmunk free to use, it’ll end up saving your company money. (Can you say Christmas bonus?)

Due.com: Anyone who has had to track down a vendor for payment knows it’s about as easy and fun as a root canal. With Due, they can quickly send payments through the secure, online portal. Plus, Due makes it easy to reimburse employees or freelancers for travel expenses and meal reimbursement.  

Cost: The service is free, but Due charges a 2.8% transaction fee for domestic payments.

InsureSign: Whether you’re handling lease agreements, business contracts or new employee paperwork, InsureSign allows you to sign and send documents in minutes. Save time and eliminate the unnecessary steps of signing, scanning and printing… and tracking people down.

Cost: Starting at $15.95/month per user. Try it free for 14 days: https://insuresign.com/sign-up-prices.

Have any tools that have helped your office run efficiently? Let us know on Twitter @InsureSign!

5 Southern B2B tech companies to watch

Most innovative technology used to be born in Silicon Valley… but that’s quickly becoming a thing of the past. While northern California remains home to some of the world’s most well-known tech companies, other regions across the U.S. are now home to elite movers and shakers in the tech world.

B2B tech companies to watchThe South is rapidly emerging as an important hub for tech, and it’s no wonder. With long summers, mild winters, low cost-of-living and high-caliber talent pools, the South is an increasingly attractive place to set up shop.

The best B2B technologies fill a gap in your business, helping you quickly and efficiently solve problems and save resources. Here a few Southern companies creating those solutions that you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on.

  1. MailChimp (Atlanta): This email marketing service is growing by leaps and bounds. The platform doesn’t just help you design, schedule and distribute e-newsletters—it provides helpful tips and performance metrics, so you can keep improving the quality of your content.
  2. Green Badger (Savannah): Going “green” is more and more important, and getting LEED-certified comes with many different rewards. Many businesses forgo the opportunity because the certification process is long and arduous. Enter Green Badger, a full-service platform to collect and streamline all LEED documentation—making it easier than ever before.
  3. SnapCap (Charleston): Need a loan to get your small business off the ground? SnapCap offers a completely new approach to business lending: honest, simple and quick. Get pre-qualified for up to $600K with their online system… in as little as 24 hours.
  4. Passport (Charlotte): This mobile-first platform has been adopted by more than 450 cities, universities, and private operators worldwide. You may not be excited about a tech-forward approach to parking, transit and tolling payments, parking enforcement, and permit management… but your home city will be.
  5. InsureSign (Charleston): If you ever need your documents signed, this software is a can’t-miss for you. With InsureSign’s easy-to-use web-based platform, getting started with an e-signature software is incredibly easy. Plus, you’ll save time with scheduled auto reminders, auto archiving and more—and you’ll never receive a document missing a signature again. (Start your free 14-day trial here.)

Are there any other southern tech companies that you admire? Who did we miss? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter: @InsureSign.

‘Head in the cloud’: How InsureSign’s development team is integrating the latest cloud-based technologies

Q&A: E-sign software developer Kris Gholson talks new technologies, the tech scene in the South, and life at InsureSign

We recently sat down with Kris Gholson, InsureSign’s lead developer, to learn about the creation of our e-signature software’s new, enhanced web-based version. Kris and his development team in Charleston have worked hard to make sure InsureSign continues to be the easiest e-signature tool to use.

We spoke with Kris about his unique background, the tech scene in the South, life at InsureSign and some of the newest cloud-based technologies keeping InsureSign a sleek & lean, e-signing machine.Kris Gholson, InsureSign’s lead developer

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your development background?

A: Before my career in development began, my early career was spent as an active duty Coast Guard officer for over 9 years. Once my time serving was complete, I left the Coast Guard to work for Perot Systems in its leadership and development program. After the events of September 11, 2001, I was called back into active duty.

After that, I worked developing Java software – and then joined InsureSign, where we leverage exciting new technologies like cloud computing, NoSQL databases, and serverless architecture.

Q: How long have you been working with InsureSign? How has your experience at InsureSign been different from previous jobs?  

A: I’ve been with InsureSign for about two years now. Prior to working with InsureSign, I always considered myself a “Jack-of-all-trades,” but InsureSign has definitely pushed that to the limit. It’s also been exciting working as the senior developer while managing the team and their multiple projects.

Q: What’s the best part of heading up InsureSign’s development team? What are your team’s particular strengths and areas of expertise?

A: Getting to do new things on a daily basis keeps things really interesting. As far as my team goes, they’re incredibly nimble and brave–no one is ever afraid to do something that is out of their area of expertise. That sort of can-do, mission-focused attitude really keeps a company like ours moving forward.

There’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst the team. They’re really talented and focused on building rock-solid backend services as well as creating the best user experience. Ultimately, it feels like we are taking on the giants of the industry and succeeding.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the technologies that were used to build the new InsureSign?

A: InsureSign has always used cloud computing to provide scalable and cost-effective solutions for our customers, but with our newest version, we have leveraged the latest serverless offerings from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver an infinitely scalable system while keeping our own technical architecture as simple as possible. A serverless architecture reduces the time that our dev team spends thinking about low-level infrastructure tasks like operating and scaling servers; we re-invest that time in focusing on building the logic that makes e-signing better and easier for our customers. The serverless cost-model works for us too since we only pay for the computing resources that we use. We do more with less, and that allows us to deliver awesome product features at a great value.

For our backend services, we use AWS services like Lambda, Simple Storage Service (S3), and DynamoDB. Lambda is a Function as a Service (FaaS) and allows us to write code (mostly JavaScript and Java) without getting bogged down in heavyweight frameworks and infrastructure. S3 and DynamoDB enable us to easily and securely store and retrieve our customer’s data.

We built our client-facing web application using AngularJS and Bootstrap – both open-source web frameworks. AngularJS is a JavaScript framework powered by Google that we use to build our modern, single page application that responds to user interaction without frustratingly slow round-trips to the server to submit and retrieve data. Bootstrap makes it easy for us to ensure that our application is “responsive.” Ultimately, both provides a more pleasant experience for the end customer.

Q: You’re based in Charleston. Do you think the South is a hotspot for technology right now, or heading in that direction?

A: Absolutely, it’s definitely become a tech hotspot and continues to move in that direction. There’s a lot of tech in the Southeast and a lot of opportunities for development careers in Charleston. For a medium-sized southern city, it’s doing really well and will only continue to do that.

Kris led the development of the new web-based version of InsureSign, available for new customers today. Ready to give it a try? Start now with a 14-day free trial.

Debunking the myths: Are electronic signatures legal?

We know everyone isn’t tech-inclined, and making a move to electronic signatures can be intimidating. InsureSign, however, is simple, safe and secure! To address any lingering hesitations you might have about making the switch, we’ve addressed three of the most common myths and misconceptions about e signatures.

electronic signatures legalMYTH: You need to be tech-savvy to use an eSignature software (and so do your customers).

TRUTH: We can’t speak for other e signature software companies, but that couldn’t be less true about InsureSign! Our customers consistently tell us our software is simply easy to use, but if you need a little extra help, that’s okay. Our customer service team is always just a call or a click away, so you can talk to a real person to help talk you through any questions you might have.

MYTH: Electronic signatures aren’t a legal substitute for a pen-and-paper signature.

TRUTH: Absolutely false. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) gives the same legal weight to our e signatures as those signed with pen and paper. They function just like pen and paper… without all the fuss. Plus, documents signed through InsureSign come with a complete audit trail, giving you extra peace of mind and adding an additional layer of security for any legal disputes.

MYTH: eSignatures aren’t secure.

TRUTH: Wrong again! With InsureSign, you don’t need to worry about private documents being seen by the wrong individuals or being destroyed. All InsureSign communications and documents are encrypted with full AES 256-bit SSL security (the same technology used in banking transactions), and all data is password-protected. Our e signed documents are completely tamper-proof.

Switching to InsureSign comes with a lot of advantages (Think: no more blank fields in returned forms, instant signing anywhere in the world, tons of time and money saved). Ready to start your free trial? Give us a try risk-free for 14 days.  You won’t regret it.

Unexpected tips to save money when starting your own business

InsureSign is six years old now, and there’s something we know for certain: starting a business is an exciting journey and can reap incredible rewards. But the process can also come with a big price tag, including a slew of unexpected costs.

However, it’s become easier and easier to use technology to save cash while you’re trying to get your new business off the ground. Below are a few ways you can cut costs by leaning on modern tech.tips to save money when starting your own business

  1. Cut down on costly overhead by getting your documents signed electronically.
    Postage, paper, mailing supplies, printer ink–all of these costs dwindle when you switch to an esignature service. Plus, InsureSign’s easy-to-use software makes signing an agreement a simple and quick process for your customers, including options to sign from mobile devices… and even via text message.  Try it free for 14 days.
  2. Work remotely 1-2 days per week to save utilities. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses where employees work from home just half the time can save an average of $11,000 per employee per year. Relying on standard 21st century tools like email and cell phones a few days a week can help you save on lots of small expenses (not to mention the cost and trouble of commuting.)   
  3. Barter for start-up services. You don’t need to rely on your liquid assets to get things done. Can you trade your new company’s services for those of a travel agent, graphic designer or interior decorator? You might be surprised how often you hear “yes.”
  4. Buy used furniture and supplies. Who cares if your conference table is second-hand? Unless it absolutely has to be new, look for gently used options to get your business up and running. You can always upgrade later.

 

Do you have more tips for entrepreneurs to cut down on expenses? Let us know!

Top Nine Digital Tools for Realtors

This guest post is contributed by Square 1 Group, a company specializing in real estate web design.

The digital revolution has transformed real estate. From streaming video tours to remote offices to mobile-friendly map searches, enterprising agents have a whole new universe of possibilities when it comes to conducting business and connecting with clients.

In this post, we’ll show you the top nine digital tools for realtors, so you can take full advantage of the tech innovation driving the real estate market.Digital Tools for realtors

  1. Matterport

Professional-quality photo galleries are already standard on real estate websites, but they’re rapidly being overtaken by the next new thing: virtual tours! 3D digital imaging is a major asset to any real estate agency trying to generate leads online, allowing you to showcase properties to buyers and showcase your tech and marketing savvy to sellers looking for expert representation. We like Matterport because it combines an intuitive interface with stellar design.

  1. InsureSign

Signatures are a non-negotiable part of real estate transactions, but Insuresign helps you take the grunt work out of paperwork. Insuresign boasts unlimited documents, signatures, and templates per month. Developed for convenience, it’s easy to use across multiple devices including tablets and smartphones. An invaluable tool for any agent managing time-sensitive real estate transactions remotely

     3. Evernote

Real estate agents have to keep track of innumerable small scraps of information, many collected on the fly over the course of a busy day. Evernote helps you file and manage your notes, giving you a single organized virtual desktop where you can archive notes on any subject. Sketches for your website? Notes for a blog post? Contact info for a client you met standing in line to order lunch? Evernote keeps it safe for you.

    4. Skitch

Skitch is a new tool created by Evernote, and we love it so much we wanted to give it its own spot on this list. Evernote was built to hold the miscellaneous scraps of paper that are so difficult to file. Skitch was designed to make it super easy to make marks on images. Making your client a map? Just grab a screenshot from Google Earth and draw the route before you shoot it over to them. Or say your client has asked you to check in with the seller about part of the interior – snap a photo, jot down some quick notes, and archive it for your file.

    5. Curb Call

You know how it important it is to capture client interest with a rapid response. Curb Call is like Lyft for real estate agents. It will send you a notification if there’s a client wanting to tour a nearby listing ASAP. If you’re not available, you can hit a red “panic” button that notifies your team members so that someone else can step in.

   6. Open Home Pro

Open houses give you the opportunity to collect information from a crowd of leads. Open Home Pro helps you manage every piece of info you collect. No more data entry at day’s end, no more illegible signatures on your sign-in sheets, and no more tedious guest lists. Open Home Pro manages your open house address book from start to finish.

   7. Contactually

Customer relationship management software is a must-have for entrepreneurs whose business depends on cultivating leads. Contactually goes further than managing your leads and contacts – it manages your relationships, scheduling reminders and notifications so that you never miss a step.

   8. Placester

Successful real estate websites incorporate IDX search function, which pulls listing data from your MLS so that clients can easily search for properties on your site. IDX web builders are an enormous asset, but they can come with a steep price tag. We like Placester because it offers you the same slick, user-friendly functionality at a fraction of the price. It also uses WordPress, the current standard for website platforms.

    9. BombBomb

Email marketing allows you to reach hundreds of clients at a time, but part of that efficiency comes at the cost of personal connection. Bring personality back into digital communication with video email communiques! BombBomb lets you record, send, and track video email – and if you can use a smartphone and an email account, you’ll have no trouble operating this user-friendly app like a pro.

About the Author: Square 1 Group is a boutique web development team based in Los Angeles, California. Our design and digital marketing expertise makes us an ideal fit for real estate agencies looking to expand their business online. We provide all our clients with individualized support and maintenance, online marketing services, and content creation, and we are passionate about delivering premium quality at an affordable price.

Instant gratification: Get a digital signature from your client in minutes

We live in an on-demand world. You can have a gourmet meal delivered in minutes or a face-to-face conversation with your friend in Japan at the touch of a button. As everything else in our lives becomes more and more instantaneous, why are you still handling your contracting like it’s 1950? It’s time for you to explore the digital signature.

In the age of instant gratification, you shouldn’t have to wait for days, weeks, or even months to receive signed documents from your clients. With InsureSign, you can obtain a digital signature from your client in a matter of minutes. Here’s how it works.

Alarm clock- Get a digital signature from your client in minutesStep 1: Turn any document into one that can be eSigned by sending it to InsureSign’s digital printer or uploading a PDF. (15 seconds)

Step 2: Drag and drop any necessary fields for signatures, initials, or checkboxes to the document. (30 seconds)

Step 3: Enter your customer’s name and email address and hit send. Then your customer can sign your documents for any device, and also via text message. (5 seconds)

Once your customer has signed, you’ll instantly receive a notification in your inbox. The signed document is automatically archived and comes complete with an audit trail attached.

Because customers can quickly sign from any mobile device and tablet, you’ll receive your document in seconds, ensuring your instant gratification.

Our eSignature software is the easiest to use, with automated features designed to save you time and hassle. Give InsureSign a try risk-free for 14 days. You’ll have your digital signature signed in minutes.

When to consider adopting an electronic signature software

Think it might be time to move to an electronic signature software, but not quite sure if it’s for you? We’ve outlined a few warning signs that it might be time to kiss paper signatures goodbye forever.

adopting electronic signature software

  • You just heard your scanner give a death rattle. You print. You sign. You scan. You print, sign, and scan again. If your office appliances are starting to show major signs of wear, it might be time to consider moving to a web-based system.
  • You simply don’t have space for another filing cabinet. Your office floor space is at a premium. With InsureSign, all your signed documents are stored digitally—freeing up critical office real estate and making filing a breeze.
  • Your local postal workers know you by name. Postage adds up, especially when you need to overnight documents or send them as certified mail. Aren’t you ready for a little instant gratification in your life? With InsureSign, you can send and receive signed documents in minutes.
  • You’ve just received a signed document back with a missing signature field… for the seventh time. You’ve tried it all: highlighters, x’s, Post-It flags. It seems some clients and customers are just determined to make the contracting process take as long as possible. Ready to save some time? With InsureSign, your recipient will be blocked from sending the document back until every required field is completed.

Does this sound like you? If so, it’s time to go digital.  Our electronic signature software is the easiest to use, with automated features designed to save you time and hassle. Give InsureSign a try risk-free for 14 days.

Beyond E Signatures: Advice from Efficiency Expert Jason Womack

author, speaker and executive coach, Jason Womack on Efficiency for esignatures

Jason Womack

InsureSign knows about efficiency. Our simple-to-use e signature software has already cut down paperwork processing time, paper consumption and stress for thousands of users.

We recently sat down with celebrated author, speaker and executive coach, Jason Womack (recognized by USA Today, Forbes and The Today Show), to learn his time-saving tips… beyond using e signatures.

InsureSign: What are some questions that readers should ask themselves to make the most of their time and resources?

Jason Womack: Many small business owners try to do a little bit of everything, every day of the week. Today, take just 15 minutes and write a long answer in your notebook to this question: “What do I want to be known for?”

Now, you don’t have to define your life legacy or the “WHY?” of your business; instead, pick a single initiative and a specific time frame. Maybe it’s “Hiring the best staff over the next 6 months,” or “Connecting more deeply with our community over the next year.” When you give yourself a specific prompt and organize the project into 3 milestones over the next 6-12 months you have everything you need to prioritize your to-do list.

Once you’ve decided what you want to be known for (hashtag #KnownFor), then you must filter EVERY task, EVERY email, EVERY meeting through that filter. Ask yourself, “What is ONE thing I can do today to hire a stronger more talented staff person?” Or, “What ONE thing can I do as community outreach, introducing my small business to other leaders in a positive way?” The best way to make the most of your time is to ask yourself better questions; questions that force you to make hard decisions about what to do next…and what to ignore for now.

InsureSign: How can technology help companies “work smarter?”

Jason: If tools were the only requirement to people working smarter and get more done, we’d be there by now. The truth is, there are three legs to the stool and they are: Mindset, Skills and Tools. (In this case, tools are the technologies you have access to such as word processors, spreadsheets, email and group chat/text messaging.) For people in companies to work smarter, think bigger and achieve more, they need to maximize their attention on all three legs.

Mindset: Why do you do what you do? Identifying your #KnownFor statements (see our book Get Momentum) will help you figure out what’s important to you, and where to focus your efforts. For example, if you want to be known for being a clear communicator, then you’ll want to improve your skills at writing, and perhaps using some kind of presentation software. Or, if you want to be known as an innovator, you may need to learn how to use publishing programs and platforms to share your thought leadership. Start with what you want to be known for, so you identify the skills you need to improve.

Skills: Recently, we identified 12 “Management and Leadership Skills” that all small business owners need to improve, year over year. (You can see the list of 12 here.) If you need to become a better Meeting Manager, or more effective Relationship Manager, for example, you’ll want to improve the way that you use email to organize and share information. If you want become a better speaker (at community business networking events) you’ll want to create slide decks or even handouts that you can present for small and large groups of people.

Tools: Email. Text messaging. Presentation software. Spreadsheets. The list goes on and on. And, you’ll probably want to include NON-technological tools as well…your favorite pen, a trusted notebook or journal, the manila folders you use to organize paper in your office. The BEST suggestion I have for you to use your tools better is to have someone watch you while you’re working. Let someone watch you giving a presentation, or building a spreadsheet. Have someone observe how you review, process, respond to and organize email, and they will undoubtedly have an idea (or two!) on what you can do differently.

InsureSign: What are some of the more affordable technologies that people can start using right away to increase efficiency at work and home?

Jason: The MOST affordable tools (you see, I keep using THAT “t” word!) are the ones you have access to right now. You don’t need to upgrade or replace everything at once to get 10-20% more productivity out of your tools. In fact, here are two FREE resources you can use right away: For those of you who use Microsoft® Outlook®, we’ve made a course you can take at: www.OutlookDashboard.com and for anyone on an iPhone, www.UseMyiPhoneBetter.com is just for you!

Also, check your local library to see if you get access to LinkedIn Learning via www.Lynda.com. Only last year did I find out that I get this membership for free, and I can learn SO MUCH about the tools I have, and get introduced to the tools I could use.

(For Five Productive Ideas from Jason Womack, visit this link.)

InsureSign: Do you have four easy-to-implement efficiency tips that take just minutes to do, but lead to big time savings?

Jason: Good news/Bad news… “easy-to-implement” tips are also “easy-not-to-do” tips. First of all, you need to know that saving time is not the goal. It can’t be. If you focus on SAVED TIME, you’ll find yourself in the same situation you’re in right now, you STILL won’t have enough time.

You need to focus on REPLACING the saved time, with something of equal or greater value. If you read chapter three of my book Your Best Just Got Better, I can teach you to save 15-60 minutes a day.

For example, if you want to regain 15-30 minutes a day there are several things you can do:

  • Set your alarm in the morning for 15 minutes early. Get up when it rings.
  • Schedule at least ONE meeting for 45 minutes instead of 60. Stick to the agenda.
  • Learn how to use Microsoft® Outlook® (or whatever email system you use) to create a few alternate signatures to reply to your most frequently asked questions.
  • Make a “NOT going to do this week” list. Review your current to-do list, and move 50-75% of the items there to “Next Week.”

Please remember, saving or regaining time ISN’T the issue here. As Aristotle said: ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Make it your habit to define WHY you want a little more time, specifically WHAT you would do with it, and then learn to the tools you can use to get more of the right things done.

Whatever your business might be, InsureSign is here to make your day-to-day easier. Our e-signature software is the easiest to use, and the first 14 days are always free. Start your free trial today by visiting this link.

About Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA: Jason Womack is an author, small business coach and age-group triathlete. He strives to be at his best, in everything he does. Sure, sometimes he goes “out of balance,” but that’s really the only way he’s found to get the most from this life. He shares from his heart, thinks with his head and leads with his gut. Want to know more? Read his books available on Amazon and check out his TED talks at www.TEDxByJason.com.

 

Three Things to Consider Before Starting a Small Business

Three Things to Consider Before Starting a Small Business

Do you have an idea for a small business? Becoming an entrepreneur can be exciting, but it can also be intimidating. Here are a few things to consider when exploring your options for bringinStarting a Small Businessg your vision to life.

What problem will your small business idea solve, and what makes it unique?

As discussed in this article from Entrepreneur, this is one of the most important questions an aspiring business owner needs to answer.  How does your business concept resolve a problem? What makes it different from existing solutions from other companies? Without an understanding of the “why” of your small business idea, you’ll likely struggle to build out the “how” of your business plan.

Are you ready to devote the time necessary to make it happen?

Small business owners—especially when they’re just starting out—spend significantly more time than American workers on average working each week.  According to The Alternative Board’s annual small business trends analysis, 37 percent of small business owners work 50-59 hours per week. To make a small business truly thrive, most entrepreneurs will devote a lot of time to getting off the ground… at least at first. After your business is established, you can hire additional staff to lighten the load.

Where will your funding come from, and how much will you need?

There are multiple sources of funding available for prospective small business owners. Some lucky entrepreneurs get a start-up loan from a family member or friend; others connect with venture capitalists, or explore loans and/or grants. Check out this article from The Muse to learn more about different ways to fund your business, so you can determine which is right for you.

No matter what your business idea may be, InsureSign is in your corner. Our esignature software is simple to use, allowing you to easily send documents to customers or vendors to be signed and get them back right away. Let InsureSign simplify your paperwork, so you can focus on making your big idea a reality. Start your 14-day free trial today.