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Starting a business is a challenging, if worthwhile, process. When setting out, businesses need help wherever they can find it. While there are a vast range of choices when it comes to tools to support the startup process, limited budget and resources means that every new business needs to be strategic in their choices.
Luckily, with a little research and reflection on what their real needs are, new businesses can make informed choices. What follows is a short guide to the types of tools that small businesses may want to choose when setting out. While not every type of tool will be right for every business, hopefully you will find some good options to get you started below.
Before you choose…
In order to make the right choice there are a few preparatory steps that you should take. It’s easy to get excited by promises made by some tools and rush a decision to begin using them. That’s why it’s important to take the time to reflect on what your real needs and resources are.
While some quality tools are free or offer free trial periods, inevitably you will want to invest in some paid versions with fuller features. In the end, you should be making a cost benefit analysis for any choice you make. In order to get the most benefit from your certainly limited budget you should start out by reflecting with your team on these questions:
- What are the specific needs we want to address and how do we know that they’re a priority?
- Which tools can address these needs?
- How will we know that these tools are working?
- What is the realistic size of the budget we can dedicate to purchasing?
With the answers to these questions you’ll be better positioned to make the right choices for your circumstances.
Hiring the right talent for your team will certainly be one of your top priorities, but you will likely not have the luxury of hiring full time staff for all of your workstreams from the outset. This makes easy access to talented freelancers of the utmost importance. Whether its for short term programming projects, content writing, or marketing projects, freelancers can play a key role in the early phases (and not only) of your business.
Example Tool: Upwork
Upwork provides a platform to connect freelancers in dozens of work categories with the businesses looking to hire them. The platform can help you find, hire and work with freelancers through several features including an in-house chat system and timesheet. With millions of registered clients and freelancers you’ll have a wide range of professionals to choose from.
Helping your team organize its numerous workflows is crucial to making sure that deadlines are met and projects are realized. Startups are by nature fluid work environments, and you’ll likely have multiple employees involved in a wide range of projects at any given time. Providing your team a tool to keep track of these processes can help to streamline their work making them more productive and efficient.
Example Tool: Trello
Trello is a project management tool with a wide range of organizational uses. The basic feature of Trello lies in the visualization of different workflows on something akin to a virtual whiteboard. This visualization can help keep your team on track for shared projects as well as personal goals. The tool itself allows for a high degree of flexibility, meaning you can tailor it to your business’ specific needs.
The success of your business will largely depend on the efficiency, creativity and productivity of your employees. In order to help your team operate like a smoothly running collaboration machine, you should consider your internal communication tool. With the right choice here your employees will be able to easily share ideas, work on joint projects, reach out for quick consultations, and more.
Example Tool: Brosix IM
Brosix IM is a team communication solution that specializes in providing businesses with private, secure and fully administrable IM networks. These networks come with a range of collaboration features including chat and video messaging, file sharing, and remote desktop. Such a network can help you to increase team collaboration and make communication more efficient in your business, while also keeping employees on task and focused.
When it comes to your online presence, understanding the numbers is essential for effective marketing. That’s why web analytics tools are crucial in the startup phase. With these tools you can keep track of online campaigns, better understand who is accessing your website and from where, and track sales data. All of these features can help you with strategic decision making, a crucial skill in the startup phase.
Example Tool: Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the most widely used analytics tool. Some of the most popular features include Google Adword integration and Real Time statistics, which can give you insights into who visits your website. It’s set up in the ‘freemium’ model (free basic features and paid advanced features), meaning you can see if it’s the right tool for you before fully committing.
The right choice of tools to support you in the startup phase can set you on the right course and accelerate your business’ growth. Regardless of which tools you choose, make sure that they’re the right ones for you and your team’s specific needs. There’s certainly no ‘magic bullet’ out there, but with the right strategic choices you’ll be well on your way to success.