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There really is a free lunch for SMEs

A new service from 22seven promises to help SMEs keep track of their monthly income – and to be completely free. SEAN BACHER tests its claims

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The saying goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. Mostly, this is true. Every now and then an app or service pops up on a marketplace advertising that it is free. However, after downloading the app, you find it is either littered with adverts, or is only partially free as many of the features are disabled until one updates to the premium version.

However, Old Mutual budgeting provider 22seven has recently released an online service designed for SMEs and one-person businesses, called 22seven Business – touted as free, with no fine print or hidden costs.

As a service that costs nothing I had to try it out to see what functionality it offers, how well it works, and what the support is like.

Firstly, one needs to create an account with 22seven Business. One is then presented with a neat and professional looking dashboard, with features like the ability to generate quotes and invoices, as well as monitor transactions and view any linked accounts.

I started off with creating an invoice template, which took no more than 10 minutes. I was asked for a logo, business name and details relating to the business, like physical addresses, telephone numbers, email address and URLs. 

Unlike many other customer relation management (CRM) apps, 22seven Business has the option to add VAT numbers, but not every SME is a VAT vendor, so this can be left blank.

Once the template is created and saved, it’s time to create an invoice. Also very easy. One starts off by inputting the customer’s name and contact details. These are saved, and then the services are added either per item or as an hourly rate. All this is easy with screen prompts guiding one.

Then insert an email subject line and any additional information to be included with the invoice. A test email can be sent beforehand and the invoice can be saved for sending at a later date. It can also be downloaded in PDF format.

If everything looks good, hit send and the invoice amount is added to your outstanding accounts. As more invoices are generated, they are added to the same list, showing how much is outstanding in total.

A great feature is that 22seven’s security is handled by Yodlee, which allows one to link up with most major banks in South Africa. Plugging in personal banking information through a third party site may sound a little risky but, with Yodlee sitting in the background, 22seven does not hold any personal information like profile numbers and passwords.

An advantage is that, once a company pays, 22seven automatically flags that invoice as paid and deducts it from the outstanding total.

A loan facility is available through Lulalend, as larger companies often don’t realise that SMEs are cash-strapped until the end of the month. A loan can be obtained within 48 hours.

Another benefit of using 22seven Business is that all customers and their details are saved for invoicing down the line. So, should you have a customer you invoice every month, it’s simply a matter of selecting the customer, choosing the service offered and typing the amount.

Conclusion

22seven Business is still in beta mode, so there are some bugs. However, once you contact the service with your problem, turnaround time with a fix is great. If no fix is available, a work-around is offered.

However, there are no apps available for it yet. It only works properly on a desktop browser. While it will work on a mobile browser, the small screen will cause a lot of frustration.

It is most certainly a step up from using something like Excel to generate one’s invoices each month. Companies can register with 22seven Business here

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