There are a myriad of tools out there for use in your startup business, but if you delve too deep into the bottomless pit of searching the net for tools and trying them out, you are soon going to analyse yourself to a stand still.
In an effort to bring some sanity to this madness, we have come up with a few tools that are either free, or easily affordable, that will bring value to your business and hopefully guide you in the right direction to find the right software for your budding enterprise!
But before we jump into the useful tools, we recommend thinking about the following few questions when contemplating what software is right for you and your business.
1. Does the tool meet your business needs? It is not always necessary to go big from the outset. Choose tools that meet your needs and budget now. You can always migrate to a bigger, better, commercial product as your business grows.
2. Will the tool save you time and money? Sometimes “free” is not cheap. We get caught up looking for “free –stuff” that actually doesn’t do the job completely and we spend time making workarounds or using an additional tool to compensate. Is the time spent doing that really worth the “free” price tag on this software. Sometimes it would make sense to spend a little more money and get a product that actually WORKS!
3. Does it make your job easier? Business tools are useful if they streamline your business processes, and if they are actually used. If the software is cumbersome or does not have an engaging ergonomic user interface, you and your employees will be reluctant to use it. Will the software enhance both productivity and morale?
We have tried a number of tools when our company was a start-up and some of them we still use to this day. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but the products we recommend work well and we have found them to be an asset to a business starting out with limited resources …. And we can hopefully save you some time in your search for good business tools.
When starting out, usually the first thing every new business owner wants is a website for their online presence, and yes, this is a good place to start, but some thought has to go into this component, as it could become quite pricey. We have found that the best platform to use is WordPress, as it is easily customisable with ready made themes, and plugins available to perform most functions that you would need your website to perform. Most of these will also work “out of the box” and very little programming knowledge is required. You could easily learn the skills, or outsource the work and it won’t break your budget. If you need assistance in this regard, Applinga.com is a company that specialises in WordPress and mobile app development and they will give you a good deal.
Project and task management
Collaboration and keeping track on various projects and tasks becomes essential when your business starts to grow.
The best tool that we found out there for this task is a product called Trello, a project-management platform with a free option. You can upgrade to a “business” option, but we found that the free option works great and met our needs very well. Trello can be used to track projects and create tasks within those projects and allocate them to your team – both in-house staff and any outsourced contractors you may be using, and the team can only see the projects where they have been allocated tasks. Another great feature about this software is that it has a very good mobile version which you can use on your smartphone or tablet to stay on top of things while on the go.
Monthly Billing and Customer-relationship Management
We use Easibill, which has various packages ranging from a free to try package to an SME package at $39 per month. This software allows you to easily quote, invoice and manage your expenses and clients in one convenient location. The system also has good reports to give you a graphical representation of your income quotes and expenses, so you can see the current financial state of your business at a glance. There are some very nice features in the EasiBill Online Billing System, such as the ability to set recurring invoices, email invoices and quotes to your clients directly from the system and the mobile responsiveness allowing it to be used on your mobile device, as long as you have an internet connection. They also have SSL encryption on the site to protect your data.
Cloud Storage and Backups
Usually with start-ups, you run your business from your laptop or desktop computer. You need to bear in mind the possibility of the device you are using either crashing or getting stolen – then where does that leave you – or more to the point where does that leave you with your data gone? We all know the importance of backups, but lets be honest here, it is usually something we don’t get around to until we have a disaster! Fortunately there are a number of cloud data storage facilities available to come to our rescue! Dropbox and Google Drive are the two that we use to fill this space in our business toolbox. Once again you can give access to the files stored on your cloud account to people you work with, and they only see those files or folders that you allow. So the cloud storage solutions are not only for the purpose of backups, but also perform well as a data sharing tool. They also allow you to access your data anywhere you have an internet connection, even from your mobile device.
These are a few of the tools that we have found to make business easier and more productive, especially for startups. Most of the tools mentioned have options to grow and provide more features and additional pricing, as your business grows.
We hope that this article saves you some pain in finding the right business tools for your start-up, and remember, as Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company said; “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.” So get out there and give that new venture a solid go!