Policy police. (software for entrepreneurs) (Buyers Guide)
by Daniel S. Janal
When entrepreneurs start businesses, they might be experts in their fields, but that isn't enough to run a successful business. They need to know how to keep the cash flowing, hire and manage employees, avoid theft, and deal with legal technicalities.
A new breed of software programs can give entrepreneurs the tools to start, run, and expand businesses effectively.
These programs include a comprehensive, instructive printed text that explains the entire situation as well as any textbook could. Written by experts in their fields, these volumes can save business owners and managers a great deal of time and money by providing advice from authorities who have first-hand experience.
The field is booming. Not matter what stage your business is in, there is a program to help you solve your problems. Here is a representative list of helpful software that has crossed my desk recently. (For more on software to get a business going, see "On Your Own" in the February 1993 COMPUTE.)
A product like Business Architect from Enterprising Solutions (800-831-6610, $149) can help you plan a business. Once you've gotten your business started, you need to get the word out. Publicity Builder from JIAN (800-346-5426, $129) teaches you how to deal with the press and then helps you write better press releases with the help of more than 15 model templates on disk.
As your business grows, you need to hire employees. JIAN's Employee Manual Maker ($139.00) provides a complete manual on disk from which you can cut, paste, and tailor your company's individual needs. Policies Write Now by KnowledgePoint (707-762-0333, $295.00) asks you questions and helps create a manual based on your answers. Employee Handbook Toolkit from Palo Alto Software (800-229-7526, $129.95) provides a customizable template and includes the Model Safety Program mandated by the State of California.
If you're about the hire employees, Descriptions Write Now from KnowledgePoint ($149) or Job Sketch from JIAN ($99) will help employees understand the scope and limitations of their jobs.
To make sure your employees aren't robbing you blind, use JIAN's Business Guard Dog ($159). The manual provides insight into so many scams that the author warns employers not to let employees see the book. It might give them ideas.
As decisions get tougher, Expert Choice from Expert Choice (412-682-3844, $495) provides MBA-level direction and tools for analysis. It also includes lengthy discussions of situations to show you how to approach and apply tools for making decisions.
When the money comes rolling in, you'll need to manage your finances. To make sure you get paid, use JIAN's CashCollector ($139.00), which tracks past-due accounts and provides collection letters ranging all the way from friendly to threatening. Other programs that provide professional correspondence and documents are BLOC Publishing's Personal Law Firm (305-445-0903, $29.95) and Parsons Technology's It's Legal 3.0 (800-223-6925, $69.00).
To keep track of the money, use Quicken, a check-writing, budgeting, and accounting program from Intuit (415-322-0573, $29.95). You don't have to study accounting to keep good books.
To handle the legal situations you encounter, It's Legal from Parsons Technology (see above) and AgreeMentor from JIAN ($99) provide agreements for consulting, confidentiality, equipment lease, employment offer and acceptance letters, and others. It's best to check with an attorney, but these tools can help prepare you and save time in drafting documents.
When it comes time to expand your business, you might consider taking on partners. Partnership Maker from Nolo Press (510-549-1976, $129) can help prepare a partnership agreement for doing business in any state. The form can be customized to fit your needs and avoid legal fees (but I'd still suggest letting your lawyer review the documents). If you'd like to launch or expand your business by selling stock to private investors, try JIAN's P.P. Memo ($195, P.P. stands for Private Placement).
For assistance in writing, check out Instant Answers, a specialized style reference (not a style checker) for business writing from Reference Software International (800-872-9933, $99).
To keep your business running, you could study at one of the 350 colleges that offer classes in entrepreneurial skills, or you could use the software developed by entrepreneurs themselves and learn those skills in an instant.