May 12, 2011, 4:56 PM — Need help putting together a business plan? Vetting a prospective customer or supplier? Accepting online payments?
These were among the small business problems that Web services addressed at the Finovate Web finance conference this week in San Francisco.
Free Business Plans
It's difficult to get funding for a business without a business plan, but many entrepreneurs don't know how to put one together. A startup called Enloop will not only generate a complete business plan based on your input, it will rate it based on common criteria, and help you figure out how to improve that rating. A basic version for creating one plan is free; for small fees you can create more plans and get other features.
Credit rating bureaus offer services for checking the ratings of prospective customers and/or suppliers, but knowing what to make of the information can be tricky. Experian, one of the big three credit rating bureaus, is introducing a tool called DecisionIQ Premier, that not only gives you the information but comes up with a recommendation based on your risk tolerance and Experian's data. In other words, instead of looking at a credit score number, you could look at a recommendation on how much credit to extend to a prospective customer.
DecisionIQ is a new module within Experian's BusinessIQ Web-based credit management service for small businesses. Experian offers an array of pricing plans based on how often you use its services.
Online Billing and Bill Pay
Bill.com (not to be confused with Bills.com, a service to help consumers get out of debt), helps small businesses both pay their suppliers and collect from their customers online. It integrates with popular accounting programs and also enables mobile bill payment and invoicing. Basically, it can eliminate a lot of paperwork by letting you put your accounts payable and accounts receivable processes online.