How @Square Can Save Your Small Business from Dinosauring

How @Square Can Save Your Small Business from DinosauringI received this rather distressing message:

My name is Anthony and I am living in Staten Island, New York. My father has been running a small landscaping business since I was born 18 years ago and lately things haven’t been going too well for him. Over the last five years or so, his customers have not been paying their bills in a timely manner. This has resulted in my father almost losing our house because he has been unable to pay his own bills as his customers do not pay theirs. Last week we had our electricity shut off.

My father blames it on the economy being so bad. I blame it on the fact that he only accepts checks. Yes Chris, checks and only checks. I tried to explain to him there is a better way to do things; checks are, in a way, a dying breed — especially with a business like his, where there is a recurring payment each month. I tried to tell him that people no longer remember, “Oh, I have to write this check and mail it out today” and that we live in an automated world. He just doesn’t get it. Now, of course, the economy is going to play a role, but honestly Chris, it’s got to be the checks, right?

Do you think accepting credit cards would help him and our family? What ways should he go about setting up a payment system using cards and, most of all, how can I explain to him that checks are killing his business?

Thank you, Chris. Any tips would be appreciated by me, my father, and the rest of our family.

Anthony, I’m glad you reached out. While there may be no easy fix, there are certainly ways to address the problem. On a daily basis, I have to deal with dinosaurs — and that’s definitely not a slight against your father.

There are certainly several online tools that you can start using right away, including both PayPal and Square and, in either instance, the user need not have an account to be able to use any credit card to pay for your father’s business.

If your customers have a problem paying, my sincerest recommendation is to go with Square (and if you can’t afford a new iOS device with a network connection, you can pick up a used / refurbished / previous-generation model for cheap). Then, before your father starts to work on the lawn, he should swipe the credit card with the Square reader on-premises or refuse to perform the service.

It may be a minor inconvenience for the customer, but the alternative is to let them continue to flake and not have any other way of easily handling payments without someone taking the time to chase delinquent accounts.

I have begun to recommend Square to every other “local” vendor I deal with, if only because I recognize they’re still stuck in the 20th century with the way they handle transactions (even at the register, where my favorite credit card is quite often not accepted due to the exorbitant merchant fees).

Square does not pay me. I’m just impressed with how its product is beginning to transform oCommerce (that would be offline commerce, the opposite of eCommerce).

Image via Square

Be the Life of the Party with an iPhone and djay

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djay is an iPhone and iPod touch app that acts as a portable DJ system in combination with your iPod library. You get access to your favorite tracks and playlists via a realistic touchscreen interface. Perform live as a street corner DJ or be the life of the party from your iPhone.

Record mixes on-the-go or enable Automix mode and let djay mix your favorite playlist from your iPod library automatically. With a simple rotation of your iPhone or iPod touch, djay’s intuitive dual turntable setup beautifully morphs to each turntable individually, allowing you to beat-match, adjust EQs, loop, and cue with even greater precision and control.

Features of this awesome app include:

  • Direct access to iPod library
  • Hyper-realistic low-latency turntable interface
  • Exclusive portrait and landscape modes
  • Automix mode with automatic transition control (Fade, Backspin, Reverse, Brake, and Random)
  • Automatic beat and tempo matching (BPM sync)
  • Looping (Auto, Manual, and Bounce)
  • Cue Point Trigger
  • Live Recording (with built-in organizer for recorded performances)
  • Seamless AirPlay integration (wirelessly transmit your mix to Apple TV or AirPort Express base station)
  • Pre-Cueing (with optional headphone adapter)
  • Full visual waveform
  • High-quality scratching
  • Mixer, tempo, and EQ controls
  • Pitch-Bend
  • Beat-synchronized scrubbing
  • Fully optimized for iOS multitasking and background operation

Yes, you’ll find apps which are free, unlike djay. However, you will NOT find a free app that is better than this one. You get what you pay for in most cases, and that is definitely true when it comes to most apps available for your devices.

djay can turn you into the life of the party – every single time. Isn’t that “feature” alone worth its weight in gold?

Which apps are you using to become a dee-jay for a day?

Grouped(In) Keeps You Better Connected

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There are an awful lot of apps out there in the wild which allow you to “group text.” When they arrived at SXSW last week, Jake and Kelly simply weren’t sure what the heck they should be using to keep in contact with everyone. After watching the official launch on Friday, they were convinced that hot new offering Grouped(In) was the way to go.

Grouped(In) provides a common interface to interact with people in your social circle. Personalizing social communication seems to be the theme of a number of emerging startups, and this app is no exception. It doesn’t matter what method of communication your contacts use. You can combine these missives with Grouped(In) to stay in touch more completely than ever before.

Talking with Brian from Grouped(In), you quickly get a taste of the enthusiasm and passion that went into this app. The team truly believes they have brought something unique to the table and they’re prepared to work even harder to keep it that way.

Why are you still flipping between several different applications in order to get all of the information you need? Grouped(In) delivers it all right to the proverbial door. Keep up with Twitter, Facebook, phone calls, in-app group messaging and regular old SMS messages all within this app. Organize your work and personal connections into groups that make sense for you.

Other features include:

  • Access to completely private, instantaneous group messaging.
  • Real-time alerts on new messages and comments via push notifications.
  • Quick communication with any group member, or members through multiple channels, including phone, SMS and e-mail.
  • Follow activities of your group members who are friends on Facebook or those you are following on Twitter within each group stream.
  • Easily toggle on and off channel streams, such as Facebook or Twitter, within each group.

  • Customize settings, including notifications, communication preferences, and channels for each group.
  • Invite anyone in your contacts list to join a group.
  • Follow public content, news, and brands, and receive offers from your favorite merchants and brands.

After test-driving Grouped(In) during SXSW, Jake and Kelly agree that it is simply the best means of staying connected with a group of people. This is true in many different settings, including special interest groups, sports teams, work groups, family and friends, conferences and tradeshows and even vacations. The possibilities are pretty endless: if you can bring a group of people together, this app can handle the flow of information amongst them.

Skype for iPhone – Full of Win

I think everyone uses Skype these days – and half of everyone has an iPhone. My numbers could be slightly exaggerated, but I know I’m not that far off. Skype is exceedingly popular, as is the Apple phone. Having a full-featured, well-working app for iOS simply makes sense, and that’s what Skype has delivered.

The new video chat function works both over WiFi and 3G networks and two-way video calling is supported by the iPhone 4, iPod touch 4, and iPhone 3GS. The iPad and third generation iPod touch support one-way video calling. Just like on Appleā€™s FaceTime application Skype for iPhone will video conference in both portrait and landscape orientations.

“The new Skype app expands the number of those who have access to video-calling on their Apple devices, as Apple’s new Facetime only works on iPhone 4 and Mac computers.” Skype says there are approximately 25 million concurrent users logged into Skype at any given time.

Video chats make up a large percentage of all Skype calls. approximately 40% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes for the first six months of 2010, according to Neil Stevens, Skype’s general manager of consumer business. “By bringing video to mainstream users at their home or work via their desktops, on the go with their mobiles, or into their living room via their TV, Skype has made it possible for millions of people to share their video moments wherever they are.”

BaldBooth – Are You Sorry for the Loss?

Whether it’s due to heredity or from your kids making you tear it out strand by strand, you will lose a small amount of hair in your lifetime. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not. Why not take control of your head and turn yourself bald with just a couple of clicks? BaldBooth lets you instantly remove all of your hair – without having to head to a beauty shop.

You can have a lot of fun with this app. There are a ton of different ways you can use the app. Turn yourself bald and send a photo to a friend going through chemotherapy to show your support and cheer them up. Play a practical joke on your best buddy by making him the bald one. Heck, why not use a photo of your boss and then hang it above your desk at home for inspiration? The possibilities are endless. Or go to an event and get a social media photo booth shot taken.

What app are you having the most fun with these days?