Tricking out your in-cab office to suit your individual needs
In our April issue, we looked at the basics of an in-cab office – a computer and network. Now for the fun part – personalizing it for your needs and making it your own. An in-cab office is a gadget lover’s dream come true. Cool mounts, external hard drives, integrated cameras, slick little scanners – there’s no end to the accessorizing you can do. Those little accessories can add up, though, so it’s best not to buy them unless and until you know you’re going to need them.
Since it’s impossible to rest a computer on your lap if you’re sitting behind the wheel of your truck, you know you’re going to need a good desk/dock to hold it.
There’s a huge range of every type of mount imaginable, so look for something sturdy that offers flexibility, such as Jotto Desk’s Computer Desk, which fits a notebook style computer and doesn’t require any holes to be drilled. An articulated swing arm ensures comfortable operation and you can use it from the driver or passenger side of the vehicle. (Jottodesk.com; 877-455-6886)
It’s also easily removable from the base, which is important if your pickup serves both weekday work truck and weekend family needs.
One item you know you’re going to need at the outset: a mobile printer. (Ford’s Work Solutions comes with a wireless printer as part of the option.) The printer should be large enough to print your invoices, receipts and contracts, but still compact and lightweight enough for use in your truck.
Richard Lawson, president of Group Mobile, suggests purchasing a printer bundled with peripheral items, such as their In-Vehicle Printing Solution, which includes an HP OfficeJet H470, battery, Bluetooth, and power adapter, as well as a spring-loaded mechanism that holds the printer to your laptop’s mount. (GroupMobile.com; 866-784-4338)
Although this printer is small and weighs just 5 pounds, it prints quality text and photos, and the Bluetooth allows you to also print from your PDA, digital camera, camera phone or memory card.
“The In-Vehicle Printing Solution is an easy and affordable way to get all of the mobile printing products you need without any guesswork,” Lawson says.
Mobile Money Collection
The whole idea of doing business on the go is to save time and money, and you can press your smartphone into service with a variety of banking applications.
However, if you’re suffering through 30-, 60- or 90-day bill cycles, you may want to consider accepting credit cards via a mobile payment service such as Intuit’s GoPayment, VeriFone’s PAYware Mobile or Square. Your customer can pay with a major credit (or even debit) card right on the site.
“The main benefit of GoPayment is that the small business owner gets their money in two to three business days,” says Sharna Brockett, Intuit. “This relieves a huge strain on them and improves their cash flow.”
To use a mobile payment service, all you have to do is sign up. In Intuit’s case, they’ll open a merchant account for you based on how much business you’ll process monthly, and then send you a free reader.
The reader, which attaches to your smartphone, swipes the customer’s credit card. You don’t even need to have a smartphone and reader – you can enter the information manually into any web-enabled cell phone, and you can authorize your employees to take payments, as well. You can text, e-mail or even print the customer a receipt for the transaction.
Brockett says the service is especially helpful for Intuit’s four million QuickBooks users. “The transactions sync automatically so you don’t have to enter anything manually,” she says. For low volume users, there is no monthly fee and a 2.7-percent transaction rate. Higher volume users pay a $12.95 monthly fee, but have a lower swipe rate of 1.7 percent.