15 Of The Best Tools Your Business Should Be Using


You work hard every day to make the most of your small business. Some days, though, it seems like despite your best efforts, things are just going straight to h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

Here’s a few tips we’ve come up with that will help you manage the details so you can focus on the big picture: making sure your customers are satisfied and business is growing.

–Bookkeeping

How many times have you had to re-make your invoices? Even worse, if you don’t have a custom setup, you can be stuck using the format required by your clients, so that every invoice has to be done differently.

And then how about figuring out who’s paid up already and what invoices are outstanding? Try one of the online platforms, such as Freshbooks or Quickbooks. You can use these to create professional-looking invoices, RFPs, proposals and other documents.  They’ll also help you track who’s paid and send reminder invoices to those who have yet to.

Some of these platforms have free versions or free trials, so you can try them out to figure what works for you. Once you choose your platform, you can upload a logo and input your clients – then add your online payment app and you’re good to go.

–Expenses

Almost as frustrating as tracking what’s owed you can be sorting out employee expenses. The first time you’re given a pile of unintelligible receipts, you may want to rip your hair out.

There are web and mobile apps, like Expensify, which enable employees to upload all their receipts (the mobile app includes the ability to take a photo of and upload receipts) and document what each is for. They’re added together by the app, sorted by type of expense and voila! Simple expenses for your accounting department (which may well be you).

–Scheduling

You need to have time to do work, but balancing external and internal meetings can sometimes be a challenge. If your days are continually booked end-to-end with meetings, your business can start to suffer.

ScheduleOnce, GenBook and other online scheduling applications allow you to put the onus on the other person in fitting a time into their schedule. Your assistant can block out times for you to work every day and set up times free for meetings.

These applications look like part of your company, if you set up your logo and sync your calendar. And once your calendar is synced, approved meetings are automatically placed on there, along with details of where and who.

–Customer Service

The worst thing that can happen, from a customer service perspective, is if people start complaining about something you did or a product they received, and they can’t find the right person to talk to.

They’ll head to Twitter or Facebook and start really making a fuss, then.

Your business might not be big enough to necessitate a full-fledged customer service department, however. Platforms such as Zendesk and Get Satisfaction integrate with your website and act as that customer service department.

They enable you to capture complaints and other issues, right at the start, and even connect the customer with the right person, once they determine who that person is. This way, you can deal with the bigger problems and prevent the small ones from escalating out of control.

–Legal Help

Lawyers are expensive. But to maintain a business with no legal advise is, well, inadvisable.

Online services like LegalZoom help answer basic legal issues. They also provide quality contracts you can use with clients and vendors that cover all the basic legal bases.

While these platforms are no replacement for in-person legal advice when you are facing tough legal issues, they will make it so you’re more likely to be able to afford that high-priced lawyer if you need it.

–Mobile Access

It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re on the road and you need to be able to quickly access a contract or other important document.

Searching through emails for the right attachment is inefficient and if you’re on your smartphone, incredibly frustrating.

Getting a Dropbox or Box account where you keep the documents you need while you’re on the road will make it easy to quickly reference them or send them to others if needed.

When you’re visiting a new client, you can simply pull the boilerplate and fill in the correct information, giving them a contract to sign on the spot. You can store brochures, photos and other documents, too, so if you find you didn’t bring something, you have easy – and instant – access. And if something isn’t in there, all you need is to have someone at the home office add it to the correct folder and in moments you’ll have it.

–Outsource

There, we said it. We don’t mean laying off employees and outsourcing their jobs, however. We mean finding those tasks that you don’t have someone to handle in-house and going on oDesk or Elance and finding the right person to do the job, at least temporarily.

You may be a small business with not enough work to need a graphic designer full-time, for example. Having one on staff would be great, but could break the bank. Communities such as oDesk, Elance or Fiverr can help you find the right people for the right jobs at the right time.

Customers can leave reviews of these workers, so you can make sure the person is the right person for the right job. Eventually, you might want to hire someone full-time for the job, but right now you only need help now and again.

Copywriters, designers, accountants, clerical workers – all are available on these sites and you can get a lot of quality work done at prices that won’t bust your budget.

–Website

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to have a simple, yet deep website.

You want to have a site that is easy to navigate. Customers won’t click on menu item after menu item to find what they need. They’ll give up and go somewhere else. But you still want to make sure that all the information they need – or that they expect, at least – is there.

There are a lot of places you can go for basic, attractive websites to help get you started, before you can afford an expensive, custom-built site. Wix, SquareSpace and many web hosts offer basic website building tools so you only have to have very basic skills to build what you need.

Don’t have a site that looks like you built it on Blogspot in 2003. Make something that looks like the company you want to be.

About the author:  Tom Chu is the head of blog outreach at www.PsPrint.com, which is an online printing company specializing in brochure and poster printing As well as other similar services. Follow PsPrint on Twitter and Facebook to learn more.

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