Posts Tagged ‘software’

Smart Tools to Improve Cash Flow and Collections

No business can operate over the long term without generating sufficient cash inflows. Even a profitable firm will struggle if it can’t collect enough cash to fund operations. If cash collections are too slow, there are some great tools that can help you improve the process. When your business faces this challenge, an outside expert can help you address this critical issue.

Understanding Working Capital

Working capital, broadly defined as current assets less current liabilities, is needed to address cash flow and liquidity. In this case, “current” refers to 12 months or fewer. Current assets include cash and anything you expect to convert to cash within 12 months. Inventory and accounts receivable are two current assets that can be sources of cash. You collect on accounts receivable to generate cash and sell inventory to collect cash.

How Much Cash Do You Need?

If you need a system to collect receivables faster, how much cash is enough? How much cash do you need each week or month to operate your business? The answer to that question will be your collection goal for a given time period.

Technology can help you find out your cash needs quickly. As this article explains, Expensify is a mobile app that helps a business process and pay expenses remotely. The app will store your expense payment history. If you need a quick estimate of your firm’s expenses, you can check your Expensify activity.

If you find estimating your cash requirements difficult, an outsourced controller service can help by forecasting your required cash flow. The firm can also help you determine your cash needs and create a plan to collect cash faster.

Implementing Your Collection Plan

Assume that Bob’s commercial plumbing business requires $30,000 a week to operate. Bob’s outsourced controller helps him with this calculation. He realizes that the next step is to implement a cash collection program.

Quickbooks online accounting software offers a variety of reports to track your progress on cash collections. An aged accounts receivable report, for example, will group your receivables together, based on the date of each invoice. This report provides a quick snapshot of how fast you’re collecting receivables.

A lack of manpower can prevent a business from generating more cash flow and profit, as explained in this article. In this case, an outsourced controller sets up a system to generate and review accounts receivable aging reports each week. The controller sits down with company management and documents a formal collection policy. The plumbing firm follows up with delinquent customers using the new policy. Outsourcing this work helps the business collect cash faster.

 

13 Reasons All Our New Clients Use (and Love!) Bill.com

We pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of accounting technology and innovations both on behalf of our customers as well as in our role as an industry expert. After extensive review, we made the company-wide decision in 2014 to bring all new clients on the Bill.com platform as they were on boarded as a client. To date we can say client experiences have been nothing less than stellar—and after a year and a half we seen enough to compile the following list of features that our clients love about Bill.com.

  1. Instant access and connections from invoice lists and bills to vendor information, historical documents and statements, and all related data.
  2. Smart support via drop down suggestions and keyword search, keeping you from having to remember vendor names or specifics to find the information you need.
  3. Current vendor status snapshots and notes in one place.
  4. The ability to choose which bills to pay, edit payment amounts and ask questions about invoices from one interface, without navigating between screens or programs.
  5. Comprehensive dashboards with segmented areas to consolidate invoices with partial payments.
  6. Major vendors are already enrolled in the system and easy to link to new accounts.
  7. Payments are made electronically with vendors getting an invite and taking over the responsibility of updating their bank information to receive payment.
  8. No more printing, stuffing or signing checks.
  9. QuickBooks balances and bank balances are synchronized without check cashing delays.
  10. Mobile applications and cloud-based systems allow users the ability to approve via any device with the internet.
  11. Multiple approval levels managed within single workflows without any burden on users.
  12. Old information is readily accessible so questionable transactions can be reviewed, cleared check information can be printed to send to vendors and all historical data can be retrieved easily.
  13. Everything is readily available online, allowing users the ability to run reports, export and view offline, and access information without waiting on others or putting in requests.

Did we mention no more manual data management—ever? Yes, our clients love Bill.com. And so do we.

 

Accounting and Bookkeeping Software for Independent Contractors

As an independent contractor, it is important to make sure your books are in order. One of the main reasons for this is to make your tax reporting a lot easier and get you back to work as quickly as possible. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying quarterly income taxes–which can be an arduous process if you don’t know what you’re doing. Knowing how much you are paying out and bringing in will assist in getting your taxes paid in a timely and accurate manner and reduce the amount of time spent with your bookkeeper or accountant. Having an accounting system in place will increase productivity and help your business run efficiently. By keeping track of bills, receipts, your net profit and gross profit, and by maintaining a clean balance sheet, you can keep an eye on your money without taking too much time from your day job.

To help get your accounting system up and running, check out a few accounting industry software providers we like to use with our clients:

Quickbooks Online

QuickBooks is now available in the cloud for on-the-go accounting and allows you to import your monthly bank statements directly into the program for ease of use. There are a variety of functions you can use based on your niche for well-documented recording and its easy-to-use interface can help you get up and going whether you manage your books entirely on your own or use an outsourced bookkeeping service. Plus, if you take payments through different online shopping sites, it includes the ability to keep track of your expenses and income from PayPal, Amazon, Etsy and eBay.

Tallie

Keeping all your receipts together can be a hassle. This program lets you take a picture with your smartphone, catalog it directly with the phone app, and organize based on project, client or another categorization method as you determine. If your business is especially expense-heavy, including lots of on-the-go receipts, you likely run the risk of losing receipts or failing to keep adequate track of your expenses. And the last thing you want to do is find yourself sifting through a box of unorganized receipts every quarter. Tallie can help you manage your receipts as you create them–and syncs directly with QuickBooks Online for seamless data management.

ScanWriter

ScanWriter assists with automated data entry directly into QuickBooks, including 100s of transactions from bank and credit card statements, bills, sales orders and invoices. A lot of independent contractors find themselves spending countless hours hand-keying data–which takes up way more time than it is worth. Instead of catching up on data entry on your day off, using an automated system will help you get data entered quickly and correctly (less user error!).

Bill.com

Start encouraging your accounts payable to take electronic payments–and then move your accounts payables and accounts receivables into the 21st century with Bill.com. You’d be surprised how many of your payments can be switched to ACH payments–we help our clients switch to electronic payments for as many vendors as possible to help streamline the bill review, payment and approval process. Whether you’re the only person reviewing bills or you’re working with a partner or small team, Bill.com can help automate the entire review process for you.

Staying on top of your accounting will save you a lot of time, effort and money in the long run. Finding and utilizing the programs that meet your needs will help make you a successful indepedent contractor. And if you need any help, an online bookkeeping service can help you get up and running, from managing your entire accounting department to assisting with accounting software integrations or specific bookkeeping services.

Wondering what accounting services are available for independent contractors? See whether accounting services are for you.

 

7 Surprising Time-Saving Accounting Automations

The never-ending debate about whether accountants and bookkeepers can be replaced is ongoing still. Of course, you’ll likely always need actual human professionals to weigh in and oversee many functions—but there is a growing list of tasks and processes that can be automated to save everyone time and money. We have compiled 7 of the top automations we encounter regularly in the hopes that we unveil at least a handful of things you may never have considered but now will not be able to live without. And if you’re automating something special that we didn’t cover, tell us in the comments!

  1. Import Bank Transactions

    Please, please, please tell us you are not manually entering any bank transactions in QuickBooks. A long time ago, we paid an Excel guru to create a really impressive workflow to automate this process for us—and it set us ahead of the game. But now, everyone can (and should) automatically import bank transactions into QuickBooks.

  2. Credit Card Statement Imports

    Bank transaction imports? Wait, that’s not all! Your credit card transactions can also automatically import to QuickBooks as well. (And other accounting platforms too of course). You may need to contact your credit card company for logon information to activate online service—but a simple phone call should get you the information you need in no time.

  3. Expense Report Submissions

    Whether you have one employee with expenses or 100, tracking down employees’ expense reports, verifying information, and managing receipts is a headache. All that paper pushing is a waste of everyone’s time—time that can be better spent on the company. Using an expense management application (like our friends at Tallie) can help you automate all of this—from taking photos of receipts in real-time to compiling and submitting expense reports from a mobile device, your employees will never have to rely on pen, paper and time again.

  4. Expense Report Sync To Accounting Software

    Did we mention that the expense management software doesn’t live in a bubble? It should integrate with your accounting software to pull your expense directly into your financial statements. And whether your reimbursements are done via ACH, live check or payroll, they can manage that too. Automation at its finest!

  5. Field Employee Time Tracking

    Nothing worse than having to collect and compile messy, difficult to read time cards from field employees. They’re busy, you’re busy, and yes, it is still way too much paper. Instead, time tracking applications with mobile interfaces (such as TSheets) allow field employees the ability to clock in from the field by either text message or mobile application. This supports real-time time tracking and funnels data directly into your general ledger system. No more delayed payroll because of missing time sheets.

  6. Generate Automatic Invoices

    If your business doesn’t get paid, nothing else matters. Therefore, any improvement you can make to generating and distributing invoices is a huge step towards improving your accounts receivable process. You can use any number of programs, from Bill.com to QuickBooks to PayPal to automatically generate new invoices, including on a recurring basis, and send directly to your clients.

  7. Invoice Approval Workflows

    There is nothing we dislike more than a pile of invoices waiting to be reviewed. It just seems so—unnecessary. Instead, you could automate the whole thing, review invoices, read back up documentation and approve payments in one interface. You can setup multiple approval workflows for different types of invoices or payments—for example, if a certain department needs to verify the expenses before the CEO will issue final approval—and you can do it all from any device with internet access. So much nicer than paper piles!

Want more information on how to improve your bookkeeping and accounting? We have you covered!

 

10 best free project management software programs

1. Best free project management software: Trello

Trello utilises a project-management system developed by a former Toyota vice president, Taiichi Ohno. Every task is represented as a card, which allows you to create a visual representation of what is happening with a project. It is surprisingly effective And free if you can live with only 10MB of storage. https://trello.com/

 

2. Best free project management software: Freedcamp

A more traditional type of project-management tool, Freedcamp is great for scaling up a business. It works perfectly well as a free tool for when you are starting a business, and costs very little to build on, with multiple paid-for bolt ons enabling new features as you go. It offers good admin tools, fleet management, and customer relationship management. Great for collaborating with colleagues and clients. https://freedcamp.com/

 

3. Best free project management software: Producteev

Producteev is rare in that it offers unlimited users and projects even on the free version. We can see no good reason to pay to upgrade, so if you want a long-term free project-management tool that is easy to use and flexible, look no further. https://www.producteev.com/

 

4. Best free project management software: GanttProject

Our first open-source project management tool, GanttProject offers all the features you could ever need, but has a reputation for being somewhat complex. You will never need to pay for it, however. And if you want project management software that can flex to your needs it comes recommended. http://www.ganttproject.biz/

 

5. Best free project management software: Asana

Designed by Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana benefits from a social-network-like level of untuition and ease. It is both simple, and effective, and offers a visual style that will help you get things done. Some users complain that it lacks the full feature set of some of the others mentioned here. https://asana.com/

 

7. Best free project management software: 2-Plan Team

2-Plan offers great features for no cost, but navigating the way the software works can be tricky. In essence, get everyone working using 2-Plan Desktop, and then merge up the projects with 2-Plan Team. You won’t regret it. http://2-plan.com/

 

8. Best free project management software: Bitrix24

Ideal for small businesses, Bitrix24 remains free forever, so long as you don’t exceed 12 users. Other great small- or home office features include the ability to communicate across multiple locations, and free cloud storage for your projects. https://www.bitrix24.com/

 

9. Best free project management software: BamBam!

Another tip for which we thank blog.capterra.com, BamBam! is free for up to 10 users, and allows unlimited projects and storage for those 10 users. https://www.dobambam.com/

10. Best free project management software: Zoho Projects

Unlimited in terms of users and projects, the free version of Zoho Projects is limited to only 10MB of storage. http://www.zoho.com/projects/

iMindMap 8: An awesome new tool for creating and presenting your ideas

ThinkBuzan has placed brainstorming front and center in iMindMap 8, the latest version of its popular mind mapping software program. It features an excellent new free-form ideation mode, improved Windows ribbon toolbar and branch target tool, as well as a redesigned presentation view that contains some great new capabilities.

In this review of iMindMap 8 Ultimate, we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant business-focused functionality of this new version, and I’ll give you my opinion on the program’s pros and cons.

A significant improvement in usability

When I reviewed iMindMap 7 a little over a year ago, I praised its many new features, but expressed some reservations about its overly-complex toolbars and contextual tools, which I thought could overwhelm first-time users. For version 8, ThinkBuzan has succeeded in fixing these issues and helping users get oriented and get down to the task of creating mind maps.

One case in point: When you first open iMindMap 8 Ultimate, you’re given three choices: Create a new session in brainstorming view, create a “professional” mind map or a Buzan mind map (see the screen shot below). What’s interesting to me is the distinction between the latter two map types. The thumbnail image of the professional mind map shows skinny, angular connector lines and rounded rectangle topic shapes, while the Buzan mind map has colorful tapered branches with words upon them – what we’ve come to expect from iMindMap. Apparently, it’s developers have recognized that business people tend to be very pragmatic, and want map designs that look more professional and less “creative.”

Brief on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand, and should help new users understand the basic concepts of creating mind maps and brainstorming with iMindMap 8. Nicely done!

To give me a better sense of what changed from version 7 to 8, I opened up a map I created last year in iMindMap 7, and compared the two. The differences are striking! iMindMap 7 looks cluttered, with tabs and buttons everywhere – in the toolbar above the workspace (which has two sets of text menus above it) and in the properties panel on the left side of the workspace, which displays 6 tabs, with several more hidden from view.

By comparison, iMindMap 8’s user interface is simpler, more businesslike and efficiently designed. Its menus and options are all still available, but they are better presented in ways that don’t overwhelm the user. Kudos to ThinkBuzan on an excellent user interface!

Brainstorming view rocks

iMindMap 8’s new brainstorming view (only available in the program’s Ultimate version) resembles a cork board; ideas and images can be placed on it and are styled to resemble Post-It notes. It’s a perfect representation of a brainstorming wall in your cubicle, office or in a meeting room.

Using the program’s contextual brainstorming toolbar, you can easily add ideas, small ideas (think of half-sized sticky notes) and images to its canvas, and move them around at will. A playful-looking font gives you the impression of hand-written notes, adding to the authenticity of this creative thinking environment. Images appear as if they have been affixed to a sticky note at the top edge with a piece of transparent tape – a nice touch, in my opinion.

One key to capturing ideas in a program like this is the ability to do so quickly. That means keyboard-only input. I experimented a bit and determined that the INSERT key doesn’t work, but the spacebar creates a new idea in your brainstorming workspace. You can also create a new, regular-sized idea by double-clicking in a blank area of the workspace.

Adding a group to your brainstorm causes iMindMap 8 to add a white box to the corkboard surface. Like images, groups appear as if they were taped to the surface. Adding items to a group is as simple as dragging and dropping them into it. The box automatically resizes as you add more ideas to it.

This is an ideal setup, because it enables you to engage in free-form brainstorming, without regard to the structure of your ideas. You can then switch from ideation to evaluation, grouping your ideas in ways that make sense to you. In doing so, you’re creating a hierarchy that will drive how they are arranged when you switch to mind map view.

Another way to visually classify your ideas is by color; iMindMap 8 enables you to select from 8 colors for ideas. The virtual Post-It notes can also be toggled between full and half-size, if you need to squeeze more ideas into the space of your screen. In addition, you can drag with your mouse on a blank area of the workspace to access additional screen real estate, giving you almost unlimited room to capture your inspirations.

I played around with brainstorming mode while evaluating iMindMap 8, and was delighted with its functionality. I’m an avid student of brainstorming tools, technologies and techniques, and I’m not easily impressed. ThinkBuzan definitely got brainstorming mode right in iMindMap 8!

Simplified branch target aids new users

In iMindMap parlance, the branch target is a set of buttons that pop up as you hover over the end of a map branch. They enable you to complete common tasks without needing to move your cursor back to the ribbon toolbar each time. In version 7, the branch target was like a Swiss Army Knife, with a myriad of commands clustered into a two-tiered set of icons. In iMindMap 8, it has been considerably simplified to do four things:

  • Adjust the branch’s shape
  • Add a new subtopic
  • Add a new box topic
  • Add a relationship line

ThinkBuzan has wisely limited its functionality to one essential über-task: Adding content to your mind map. This should make iMindMap 8 much more intuitive to use, especially for first-time and occasional users.

Another simplification: In previous versions, when you selected a branch, control points were visible, which enabled you to reshape the branch. These are now turned off by default, but can be toggled on via a command in the layout menu. I think this is a wise decision; the average user will probably never used this feature. Advanced users, who want precise control over branch shapes, will appreciate that it’s still there and can be turned on as needed.

Presentation view gets a facelift

The presentation view of iMindMap has been significantly improved in version 8, and contains some very cool touches. You can auto-create a presentation with a single mouse click, or “roll your own.” You can then make adjustments in the slide viewer panel on the left side of the program’s workspace by dragging and dropping them into the order that makes the most sense to you. You can even rotate the view, to add more visual interest (don’t overdo it, though!).

You can also group slides in presentation view. How does this work? Let’s say you have a pair of topics at the lowest level of one of your map’s branches that the auto-create function has interpreted as two separate slides. Simply multi-select the two slides and group them. The result is a single slide with both topics displayed. Two slides have become one using a simple, intuitive process. If you change your mind, iMindMap 8’s presentation toolbar contains an ungroup button, which returns the topic to its previous state.

As you view a slide in the sorter, a blue box appears over the mind map that corresponds to the amount of it that will be shown in that slide. If you want to adjust that to zoom in, zoom out or reposition that slide’s view, you can do so by manipulating the blue box. Nice! The updated presentation view in version 8 now enables you to add notes to each slide. During a presentation, these notes appear to you but not to your audience.

When you give a presentation using iMindMap 8, your presenter view displays the current slide with a timer below it; to the right are smaller views of the next slide and any notes you have added to the current one. Your audience only sees the current slide.

You can also open a vertical sorter panel during a presentation, which enables you to immediately move to any slide in your presentation – ideal if a member of your audience wants you to go back to a specific slide for additional discussion about it. Best of all, this all happens “behind the scenes” – only on your screen. I love the intuitive way this works!

Best of all, iMindMap 8 “flys” you from one topic to another during presentations, rather than just displaying a series of map “snapshots” as some competing programs do. This latter approach is inferior, in my opinion, because it causes your audience to lose sense of where the currently-displayed topic resides within the overall structure of your mind map.

One of the keys when presenting information to an audience is to include your company or brand logo on each slide. iMindMap 8 makes this easy. All you do is click on the “branding” icon in the presentation toolbar, and the program lets you select an image from your hard drive. You then have the option of placing it in any one of the four corners of your slides. It may take some experimentation to get the logo to display at the size you want it – you can’t scale it up or down within iMindMap. Perhaps ThinkBuzan will add this capability in a future version.

Presentation view also includes an intelligent group of settings that give you more finite control over how it handles animations, transitions and how the program traverses from one slide to another. Kiosk mode enables you to set up your presentation to auto-run and loop continuously, unattended. This is ideal for trade show booths, lobby displays and other applications where you want your presentation to run continuously.

Contextual menus reduce visual clutter

In iMindMap 8, ThinkBuzan has adopted a user interface technique that Microsoft Office has used for years to help manage complexity: Contextual menus. These are additional tabs that only appear in the ribbon toolbar when you’re performing certain functions – such as branch tools, brainstorming and presentation mode. This helps to decrease toolbar clutter and once again, makes iMindMap 8 easier to use.

New icon library and properties panel

iMindMap 8 features a new icon library and properties panel, nestled in a set of buttons that expand into tabbed panels on the right side of the workspace. Seven buttons/tabs provide fast access to topic notes, the image library, icon library, attachments, flowcharts, snippets (segments of mind maps that can be added to your map at any time) and task data. The design of these tools is clean, uncluttered and intuitive.

Conclusion

It’s common for mind mapping programs to fall victim to “featuritis.” Under pressure from customers and salespeople to “just add this one more feature,” software often becomes bloated and harder to use as more features and functionality are added.

That’s why iMindMap 8 is a breath of fresh air. Its clean, intuitive design makes it a pleasure to work with. As I’ve said in previous reviews on this blog, there’s a real art to keeping what’s visible in a user interface simple enough so new users don’t get overwhelmed, while also keeping advanced functionality close at hand to meet the needs of power users. ThinkBuzan got this balance right in version 8.

I’m an especially big fan of the new brainstorming mode, which helps you get into a creative mode with its corkboard background and colorful sticky notes to capture your ideas. I’m glad to see it supports keyboard-only input, so when the ideas are coming hot and heavy, you can keep up, whether you’re facilitating a group brainstorming session or ideating solo.

The presentation mode also includes some thoughtful touches that elevate it above many competing programs. I especially love the group/ungroup slide and branding capabilities. In addition, the “flip screen” command is very useful – since most times you’re going to be preparing presentations at your desk or at a laptop, without the benefit of a second screen. Being able to toggle back and forth between your view and what your audience will see is a real plus. Compare that to what you would otherwise need to do – run your presentation, exit from it, tweak and repeat. This is much faster!

Greater Revenue Through Systems of Engagement

Geoffrey Moore coined the term “systems of engagement” to describe IT systems that support multiway communication and collaboration between businesses and customers. These are distinct from “systems of record,” or those IT systems (e.g., databases and management information systems) designed primarily for one-way, read access of structured data. In today’s highly competitive global markets, digital systems of engagement are an absolute necessity for enhanced employee productivity, partnership success, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty ̶ all of which result in revenue growth. In fact, a Deloitte Digital survey found that by the end of the year, digital interactions would influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores.

In its global survey for IBM, “Systems Of Engagement Demand New Integration Solutions — And A New IT,” Forrester Research reports how customer expectations of their business interactions are changing dramatically. What customers want most are easier interactions, the ability to deal with them via their smartphones and consistent treatment across all channels. And as any successful business knows, the customer is always right.

Companies that embrace SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) will be best positioned to deliver systems of engagement that meet these users’ expectations. For example, users want to engage with retailers, banks, and any other personal or business services via any device and any channel, from mobile apps on their smartphones, to tablets, social media and cloud-based e-commerce websites. Wearables are also increasing in popularity, with the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. reporting that 73% of online adults see “safety and wellness” as one potential wearable-workplace benefit.

Perhaps most important, users expect customized interactions, in which big data and analytics deliver the intelligence required to enhance user experiences and drive new revenue. For example, by targeting customers with personalized offers and suggesting relevant purchases, retailers leverage valuable customer data to encourage new sales. And the multiway interaction continues after the purchase. Customers are engaged in providing retailers with product feedback and chatter on social media about product quality, which the retailer then analyzes to gain insights for encouraging return business. Add the Internet of Things (IoT), and soon organizations will be engaging with cars, appliances and other purchased items, spurring new sources of service revenue that have the potential to last for years.

From the Center to the Edge

Moving to systems of engagement requires an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ that can deliver a satisfying, real-time experience for any user, anywhere, on any device, via any engagement channel.

In an age of digital images, voice and video, more than fat pipes are required ̶ low latency is vital. Low latency comes from proximity, not only to the user, but also among the applications, data repositories, cloud services and other elements that drive the engagement experience.

That’s why successful enterprises are moving from a centralized interconnection architecture, with multiple long-distance MPLS, Internet virtual private networks (VPNs), and other connections emanating from one or two corporate data centers, to a more distributed interconnection architecture that harnesses existing, globally dispersed interconnection/colocation data centers (such as Equinix) that house multiple cloud services, network providers and partner ecosystems.

An interconnected enterprise leverages proximate, direct, high-speed interconnections among clouds, partners and other IT delivery systems for fast, low-latency interactions, bringing all of these services closer to dispersed global users. Rather than building multiple connections one by one, organizations can simply extend their network to the nearest interconnection access point.

With systems of engagement and data pushed to the edge, close to mobile users, the entire user experience on any device is transformed. Countless organizations have benefited from this transformative architecture, including these Equinix customers:

  • A major multinational banking and financial services firm reduced latency by 45% by strategically deploying its banking applications in multiple global interconnection centers.
  • A health care Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider achieved real-time customer service interactions by leveraging a globally dispersed interconnection architecture to securely deliver on-demand software updates.

The future is engagement, which means you need to get up close and interconnect.

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