The best way to describe running a startup is “managed chaos.” You want to feel you’re in control, but there will be times when this simply isn’t the case. And while some of this is just a part of the hectic nature of entrepreneurship, it doesn’t always need to be this way. There are many tools out there that can help you manage your business more effectively, and this will make it easier for you to focus on growth.
However, because the startup world is so big, it seems there are tools for pretty much everything. And surprise! Most of these tools cost money. For some, this is worth it. But to keep your startup lean, you need to make sure you’re only using exactly what you need.
Here’s a list of five tools you must use. They will help make your business more organized and optimized. Then, once you’ve implemented these into your operation, you can begin to look for other areas where you could get some help. But start with these five and see how they can transform your business.
In many ways, the success of your business will depend on how well you and your team members can communicate. If things get lost in the shuffle because you’re spread out across many different channels, then you’re going to have problems down the road.
A general rule of thumb is to try and keep all communications centralized. Whether this be through email threads or instant messaging platforms, it doesn’t really matter.
Slack is a tremendous option for this. It allows you to create unlimited channels, giving everyone a central location they can use to communicate to the various individuals and teams they work with on a regular basis. If you don’t already use Slack, consider downloading it now. They have free and premium options, both of which will help dramatically improve your company’s communication flow.
2. CRM Software
Two words important to success in today’s business world are “targeted” and “personalized.” Markets have become so segmented that to get the most bang for your buck, you need to speak directly to people, which often means going so far as to address them by their name.
Doing this on your own is simply impossible. Back in the day, you might be able to keep information about your many different clients in a folder or filing cabinet, but this is so inefficient it’s not even funny. Nowadays, automated customer relationship management (CRM) software can do all of this for you and more.
Most CRM programs these days will collect information about each customer, ranging from their purchase and browsing history to their interests, hobbies, and demographic information. It will then compile this data to help you organize trends. And the best CRM tools will let you set up automated email campaigns so that you can send out drip emails and nurture your leads, helping you grow the relationships you have with your customers. Of course, using a CRM doesn’t guarantee increased sales (you still need to have great copy and content) but it makes the process a whole lot easier and more likely to produce results. Some great CRM options to consider are:
3. Project Management
Coordinating who’s doing what and when has been part of the challenge facing business owners since the beginning of time. But luckily, there are now many tools out there to help you with this that will make your life much easier than you could have ever dreamed.
The best project management suites will allow you to easily divide up the tasks needed for each project. You can assign tasks with due dates, which will populate onto a shared calendar, and you can also set things up to email people whenever something changes about their task. And if properly integrated with your email or other communication tools, such as Slack, then it’s really easy for you to touch base with people about project updates.
Some of the best project management tools out there are Trello, Asana and Teamwork, although there are countless others that will help you do the same thing.
4. Lightning Fast Internet
Obviously, you need internet. But it’s not okay to just have any old connection. Your employees, especially those you have working remotely, will rely on being able to quickly and reliably access all of the different company services and systems.
Spend some time looking up broadband internet providers in your area to see if you could be getting a better deal. But when you’re doing this, pay special attention to upload speeds. Most ISPs sell connection plans that have much faster download speeds than upload, largely because this is what the market demands.
Yet if your company uses many cloud-based systems and apps, then you’re going to need much faster upload speeds. This may require you changing providers, something that can also save you a good deal of money and headache.
5. Automated Payroll and Accounting
Improper cash flow management is still the number one reason small businesses will fail. As a result, it’s important you take steps early on to institute sound accounting practices in your business. And while part of this means bringing in qualified accountants and professional experts, you’ll also want to get some help from the many different automated tools out there.
For example, payroll is a great thing to automate. All you need to do is enter all the relevant information about your employees into the system and it will do the rest, including calculating deductions and cutting checks. Other accounting tools will go even further and help you completely manage your books.
This is an area where you can’t afford to make mistakes, and humans are notorious for making errors. As a result, enlist some help from one of the many different accounting tools out there and you’ll be able to move forward with much more peace of mind. Some of the top payroll and accounting tools out there are:
These are some of the tools that nearly every startup will need. But there will be more. However, instead of worrying about getting all the tools in the beginning, start with these and then see what happens. A need will soon arise, and this will tell you what else you need to pursue to make your business as efficient and profitable as possible.