Hello SOTGC community,
In the spirit of entrepreneurship, I wanted to share with the readers the best tools for a start-up to manage business and support growth. These tools are primarily Cloud applications or software solutions that will give your business an edge over the competition and make life that much easier. It was hard to choose just 10! There are so many great solutions out there and I really wanted to include my favorite web hosting, business intelligence software and analytics tracking; but if you have too many things to consider and digest it is harder to implement anything at all. So here are the necessities:
- AccountingSuite – a web based accounting software for start-ups that offers order management and inventory control. To be fully transparent, I will say I actually use Xero as my accounting software and I love it! I chose Accounting Suite for this article because it was created for the Start-Up and solves the needs of small businesses well. It is a bit cheaper than Xero and has some beautiful dashboards that will make keeping your books less tedious. Really, any of the cloud based accounting software programs are a great choice: QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, FreshBooks or Accounting Suite – just make sure you look at integrations of your other apps before committing!
- SmartSheet – I love this product for collaboration and project management. It works great with clients and allows for a centralized location that is easy to use with people outside your organization.
- Receipt Bank – a new product to the US but concretely founded globally. This is an awesome solution for businesses that have a lot of transactions. It converts key information from your bills, receipts and invoices removing the need for manual data entry. It is an OCR that inputs the data directly into your accounting software, saving you time or the cost of paying someone to do it manually.
- Bill.com – I cannot say enough good things about this product. Rene Lacerte, a great guy and genius in financial management products, really created a product here that makes invoicing and collecting payments a breeze. The product pays for itself in cutting down the time of your aging A/R, as well as improving customer satisfaction. Secure, fast and easy to use.
- Office365 – unless you are a large organization of more than 50 staff, it really just doesn’t make sense anymore to have local or hosted exchange. Microsoft has made their Office365 product so appealing in both cost and functionality that the choice is simple. You get an extraordinary amount of cloud data storage (1TB plus 50GB mailbox), the online version of the full Office suite, as well as email hosting and SPAM protection. Additionally, you get Lync (now Skype) for instant messaging and video conferencing; all for $60 per year per user. That’s less than just the licensing would cost!
- GoToMeeting, Me or Uber Conference – I listed multiple options on this one because while I prefer GoToMeeting it can be a bit costly. Join.Me and Uber (not the car service!) have a free version as well as paid versions that will do the trick. The point of these solutions is that when you make a meeting with a partner or a client, you need to have a plan and clear instructions to ensure the meeting gets executed smoothly. These solutions provide a conference bridge, screen sharing, time zone setting and meeting invite.
- Buffer or Sprout Social – there are so many social media tools that allow you to sync your different accounts and schedule the release of posts. These two are great as are many others, the important thing here is that you are saving time (and time is money) by going to one place to push out your message out on multiple platforms. You are also engaging when you are on vacation or a business trip.
- Results CRM – Customer Relationship Management software. When your company has grown out of excel spreadsheets to manage leads and clients, you will need to invest in a CRM system. Results CRM starts with a 3 user minimum and not only allows for customer management but also syncs with accounting software solutions and constant contact. It provides a centralized location for all things client related and allows you to manage workflow. My favorite part about this app is the customization available for fields and the reporting properties. You can get a granular look at metrics such as why leads didn’t convert, where leads are coming from, sales projections and geographic information on both clients and prospects.
- iContact or Constant Contact – email marketing is one of the most efficient and successful ways to market. You can create drip campaigns, save money on mailings (and greenhouse gases!), send newsletters and keep in touch with current clients. It is important to use a subscription service so you don’t put your own email server or domain at risk, and they have great templates to make your email layout visually appealing.
- LivePlan – creating a business plan is not a one-time action. This is an evolving and living process that could be the difference between success and failure. LivePlan is a great product because it syncs with your accounting software, gives you benchmarks of the competition and it tracks your progress with your goals to provide visibility into what your numbers are telling you.
One important thing to remember when choosing tools to suit your start-up, is that you want to ensure applications integrate with each other. If you are already using an accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero and you find an app that you love the functionality of or a problem it will solve, before purchasing it make sure it will integrate with your existing software. If it doesn’t, ask the developer if they have a partnership or plan to integrate; otherwise weigh the pros and cons to decide if switching programs is in the cards.
If you are looking to move your business to the Cloud, contact Blue Ocean Principles for a free consultation. Blue Ocean Principles works with small to medium sized businesses to perform a needs assessment and make recommendations on best practices for cloud implementation.