Posted - 29/03/12 | 0 Comments

Teams get the chance to think big and radical

How do you encourage and harness good ideas within your organisation?

Some businesses don’t see the point of involving all their employees. After all, don’t the best ideas come from the boardroom? And aren’t there consultants for that kind of thing anyway?

Sometimes. But mostly not.

Asking all employees to step outside their day-to-day roles – for a few hours a week at least – can reap major business benefits. And surprises.

That’s what Clear discovered with Labs, a unique opportunity for teams from across our company to create and showcase their own innovative ideas for new products.

Although we’re a software solutions company, each four-person team had sprinkling of talent from across the business. So that’s everyone reception to accounts, operations to sales, development to support. Senior managers provided mentoring.

The big challenge was to find a new or complementary product that Clear could launch within the invoicing marketplace. But the scope was wide open. And Friday afternoons were set aside for two months.

“At first, people felt quite daunted. But then the challenge become enormously enjoyable and the room was buzzing,” says Paul Massey, our Director of Engineering.

“The difficulty wasn’t trying to find a product, but choosing which of the brilliant ideas to pursue. However, each team settled on a single innovation after applying tough criteria for development time and cost, weighted against benefits and commercial returns.”

Interestingly, each team recognised that more exciting possibilities existed for the vast quantities of data that swims around within P2P systems. Some even created software prototypes for our final, which we called Big Thursday.

The winning team was EGstra, led by Richard Nduka, with Ping Lam, Elena Toma and Michael McLintock, who shared the £1,000 prize.

The evening ended with the whole company enjoying some well-deserved downtime at a local bar.

Pictured: The winning team (left to right): Elena, Michael, Ping and Richard

Their idea was an exciting, radical, dynamic dashboard that …. erm … well, forgive us if we don’t say any more just yet. Suffice to say that it exceeded our hopes for Big Thursday – and it’s now being nurtured very carefully in the Clear room marked ‘Top Secret’. Watch this space.

“The EGstra team did some amazing work. And their colleagues likewise devised some truly ingenious ideas. Our company would never have thought of these in the normal course of things – which shows the value of this approach,” says Peter Whent, Clear’s Chief Executive.

“Not only did this give us a wealth of R&D possibilities, but it revealed many hidden talents across the business – from project management to presentation skills. It also strengthened teamwork and enriched the culture of innovation that has made Clear successful. It’s something we all have – and we must all use.”


Posted - 21/03/12 | 0 Comments

Town fails to see the yoke … as Eggman’s clean-up bill soars

The Spanish town of Buñol has become famous for a festival held on the last Wednesday of August – La Tomatina.

This is the day you wear your old clothes into town – because you’ll return home looking like a walking bottle of ketchup.

Basically, thousands of people take part a mass tomato fight in the street, resembling a bloodbath (watch the video if you’re really curious).

Everyone has a great time. But a town in the USA is experiencing a food-throwing phenomenon of a different kind.

Eggs are in abundance … and not the chocolate type for Easter. An egg-flinger is on the loose. Residents are worrying about a massive clean up bill – and desperate to poach the culprit.

Police say it’s happened more than 50 times in four weeks – with the egg prankster always striking at night. Cars are a favourite target. But these attacks can cause “major damage” if you don’t clean them off immediately, says resident Jim Raeford.

Let an egg dry on your car – and you can count on a big bill. Depending on the type of paint, it could be as much as 1500 dollars, according to one estimate.

Police have asked residents to call them immediately if they notice anyone buying large numbers of eggs.

PS: Cleaning up tomatoes is a lot cheaper than eggs. After La Tomatina, water is pumped from a nearby Roman aqueduct – and the fire brigade and residents hose down the streets in moments. There’s a side benefit too: The acidity of the tomatoes disinfects and thoroughly cleaning the cobblestone streets – leaving them in pristine condition!


Posted - 14/03/12 | 0 Comments

See your way Clear – through the doom and gloom

This year – 2012 – could mean the end of the world, according to some people’s interpretations of the Mayan Long Count calendar.

But another date – 2014 – could spell doom for many small businesses.

A quarter of small companies expect to fold by then, suggests research by an associate professor at Warwick Business School.

An insightful piece has also been penned by Graham Baskeyfield on the web site of the Cambridge Network, which brings together business people and academics to share ideas.

He suggests three basic steps to help small and medium-sized businesses to fight for their survival. These focus on how to significantly improve a company’s cashflow and reduce or eliminate the need for external funding. The advice is excellent.

Note: Graham Baskeyfield isn’t endorsing our service in any way. But when we read his three steps, it chimed perfectly with what Clear does.

Here’s what we mean:

His advice step 1: “Restructure invoicing cycle and process: Send a bill out as soon as service is rendered.”

How Clear helps with this: You can turn timesheets into invoices in moments. Sending any kind of invoice is virtually instantaneous.

Advice step 2: “Be aggressive with outstanding debts and follow through to legal action where necessary.”

How Clear helps: Rather than being ‘aggressive’, Clear enables you to be polite but firm. Payment terms are clearly marked on your invoices and we’ll even chase them for you automatically if they become overdue.

Advice step 3: “Improve payment and billing experience. Make it easy for customers to pay by avoiding invoicing errors and disputes.”

Another great piece of advice from Mr Baskeyfield.

So how does Clear answer this one? For starters, our service sends professional-looking PDFs with all the correct payment details in the right place. Clear also adds up everything accurately and automatically (including VAT), avoiding mistakes. And thirdly, Clear has an easy-to-use query and dispute mechanism, so simple mistakes can be resolved quickly and painlessly.

The bottom line is this … you get paid faster. And when funding is hard to secure – and cashflow under pressure, then Clear can make a difference.

Click here to read the Graham Baskeyfield article on the Cambridge Network.


Posted - 07/03/12 | 0 Comments

When invoicing becomes a lottery – with a fortune at stake!

Question: How do you ensure that invoices are always requested – and issued?

Include a cash incentive!

OK, so it’s not something that’s usual within the UK. But back in 1951, the authorities in Taiwan had a brainwave over how to boost tax revenues.  Every invoice (receipt) issued by companies with a monthly turnover of NT$200,000 (USD $6,200) would also double up as a lottery ticket. The “Uniform Invoice Lottery” was born.

The people loved it. And the idea paid massive dividends. Apparently, the Ministry increased their tax yield by an astonishing 75 per cent. Everyone wanted an invoice!

And today it’s still going strong. The lottery takes place on the 25th of every odd-numbered month – with a live TV show. Vast audiences watch at home to see if the magic balls selected match the numbers on their invoices.

And now the lottery is entering the e-invoicing age – with rewards that are even bigger.

The government reckons that if eight billion paper receipts could be replaced with e-invoices, then 80,000 trees could be saved. But once total e-invoicing becomes the norm in 2013, then total processing savings could amount to over NT $120 billion (US $4 billion). A colossal jackpot indeed!

There’s been an amusing twist in the Uniform Invoice Lottery story in the past few weeks, according to reports. A supermarket customer won NT $10 million (approx US$339,000), thanks to the invoice they got from buying a loaf a bread.

However, another shopper missed out by one digit – by being in the wrong place in the queue. He shared his misery on Facebook, bemoaning his near-miss at the till, losing out to the fortunate person in front. Another online poster commented: “If I knew I would have cut in line, no matter what.”

Surely, invoices have never aroused such passions before!

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