Owning and operating a small business is no walk in the park. It takes time, dedication, and a whole lot of ingenuity. While people and ideas primarily dictate whether a business will succeed, the right software can make the job just a little easier. After all, if we make it easier for people, they’ll have more time and energy to generate ideas. That’s what moves businesses forward.
Here are five tools that small business owners can use to get on the right path.
For Budgets: Quicken
One thing a small business cannot afford to waste is money. It’s a scarce resource that often comes from outside sources. That is, through venture capital and various bank loans. Companies have to pay that back at some point, and so they must be extra careful in appropriating available funds. Using a budget tool is then essential.
Quicken is one of the oldest budget applications. It uses a simple interface to make budgeting a snap. It provides both numerical and graphical outputs, making it easy to understand for any type of user. Best of all, it has different tiers of service, so you get the right version for your business.
For Controlling Travel Expenses: Cheap Tickets
One area in particular where small businesses can run up big expenses is travel. With so many conferences and conventions that can benefit small businesses, the temptation is high to blow budgets and go to as many as possible. But, if your small business is using Quicken you’ll know that this isn’t realistic. But that doesn’t mean you can stretch your dollar as far as possible.
There plenty of travel sites out there, but Cheap Tickets provides an easy interface to find cheap flights, hotels, and car rental services. Adding on more services can actually cut the entire bill — so if you book everything together you can save even more. This means going to more conferences while staying in budget. Any small business can use that.
For Workflow: Basecamp
Some services are simply worth the cost. Basecamp, a project from 37signals, is a wonderful project management system that can keep all of your employees on the same page. It contains almost anything employees need to get the job done, including calendars, to-do lists, writeboards, a messaging system, and a place to upload files.
For businesses that employ remote workers, Basecamp is an absolute essential. Even for companies that keep all of their work in-office, it provides a wonderful organizational system that can keep any business on track. Again, it’s all about efficiency. The more efficient the workflow, the more time can be spent on actual work.
For Communication: Skype
There is not a soul on the internet that does not know about Skype. So why list it here? Because it’s the perfect tool for business communications. That’s because it’s a versatile platform. While people normally associate it with VoIP calls, it is so much more than that. The VoIP calls do help, but that’s just the start.
Skype provides an easy instant messaging platform that stores conversations. That means you can not only communicate with employees and clients, but you retain a record of those conversations. You can also have free Skype-to-Skype calls, including video calls. Any company that has remote workers will benefit greatly from using video calls. Skype out, which allows users to buy credits for cheap domestic and international calls, is great, too. It’s much easier to have someone on speakerphone from a computer than it is a regular cell phone.
For Invoices: Microsoft Office Templates
Chances are, your business generates plenty of invoices. Whether you’re using them in-house or you’re billing others, having a quality invoice template is a pretty big component. There are many online services that charge for templates. While these are good, high-quality templates, there is a quicker and easier version. Microsoft offers a number of Office templates that can work for any business. They even work for those that use Open Office to save money. (Or Google Docs.)
Running a small business might be difficult, but there are tools that can make it easier. Using these five tools takes pressure off people to do routine tasks. That means more time focused on the meat of the business. Isn’t that how we always want our businesses to work?
Nice short list of tools. In fairness there are so many useful ones out there now. If I had to put a list together I would go with Dropbox.com this has got to make any list for sure. Couldn’t live without it. It’s pretty much my file backup tool now. I would also have to throw our app teamworkpm.net into the mix as well for workflow and project management. A real must have.
Viber is another app I’m moving towards over skype. Conversations seem a lot clearer over it when using it on the phone. Another very useful one that may not suit every business is helpscout.net I use this now to route a lot of emails through as a kind of helpdesk. It has really helped me to stop missing important emails and very easy to use and setup.