Own a Small Business? Try These 16 Tools to Help It Run More Smoothly
Running your own business is a full-time job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recruit some help to simplify it, right?
There is a seemingly countless supply of tools, programs, platforms and resources out there that claim to streamline management processes and boost business.
From marketing to communications to analytics to business development to design, online tools can alleviate the headache of daily tasks so you can focus on the truly important stuff.
That being said, don’t buy into every single tool and platform you stumble upon — the point of these resources is to help you, not bog you down with a million apps and programs.
In an effort to narrow down your options, we rounded up 16 of our favorite tools that can help entrepreneurs or small business owners operate more efficiently.
16 Tools and Resources to Help Manage Your Small Business
Google My Business
Google My Business allows you to better connect with customers and manage how your business appears on Google searches and Google Maps. And the best part? It’s completely free!
Use it to post and update location, hours, contact information and prices, as well as to share photos and respond to customer reviews.
Everybody loves reading and writing reviews nowadays, so Yelp is just another way to manage your customer interaction.
Setting up a basic business profile is completely free, so why not take advantage of it? Use it to update business information, upload photos and interact with customers. You can even set up special Yelp deals or check-in offers.
Google Analytics helps business owners gain insight about website traffic, and it’s totally free.
Use it to track how people are interacting with your site — where they came from, what pages they checked and how long they stuck around. And if you’re putting any money into marketing efforts, this can give you an idea if they are paying off.
Small Business Administration
As a small business owner, it only makes sense that you should consider the U.S. Small Business Administration, your one-stop shop for questions you might have.
The SBA can answer questions for every stage of the process, whether you just have an idea you want to get off the ground or you own an established business that you want to grow. Use the site to create a business plan, calculate startup costs, find loans, register a business, check licensing requirements and better understand market research — and that’s just naming a few. Overall, the SBA is an awesome resource for budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike.
Like the SBA, SCORE provides a wealth of information for small business owners and entrepreneurs. With over 10,000 volunteers and 50 years of operation to its name, the organization offers free online education and mentorship opportunities to help foster small businesses.
Along with online workshops and courses, there are over 300 SCORE chapters across the country that give business owners face-to-face mentoring and networking opportunities.
If you need to create a business plan but don’t love the SBA template, consider Enloop instead. The service not only helps you create a business plan but also provides financial forecasting. Your first plan is free, but there are paid subscriptions if you’re interested in bonus features.
All you have to do is input your business information and boom! Enloop will automatically generate the business plan text for you. You can make any edits as needed. It also gives you an overall plan score and a three-year financial analysis.
If you’re already using Gmail, then you’re probably familiar with Google’s free apps like Drive, Docs, Calendar and Hangouts. If you pay for G Suite, you get all of that good stuff as well as several other business-grade services.
You can try it for free for 14 days, but after that prices range from $5 to $25 per user, per month. So what extra goodies do you get? Examples include custom business email ([email protected]), shared team calendars, more Cloud storage, two-step authentication and audit reports.
While we’re on the subject of Gmail, let’s talk about Boomerang. And no, it’s not the boomerang you see all over Instagram. This is a third-party Gmail add-on that can help you better manage your email practices.
Maybe you thought of something at 2 a.m. but don’t want to send it out then — you can use Boomerang to schedule a time for the email to go out later, like a respectable 8 a.m. Another cool feature: You can set follow-up reminders so you don’t absentmindedly read an email only to remember it three weeks later. (And no, I’m definitely not writing from experience on that last one…)
Let’s talk about email marketing, baby. If you’re a small business and want to break into the newsletter game, MailChimp is a pretty solid place to start. If you have less than 2,000 subscribers and plan to send under 12,000 emails a month, you can use the service for zero dollars. You read that right, totally free.
MailChimp provides email templates and a drag-and-drop design tool, so you can customize your content. You’ll also get access to A/B testing and basic reports, but you can always upgrade to one of the paid plans if you try it out and decide you want more.
Is there anything more frustrating than trying to remember all of your passwords? Well, with a program like LastPass, you can skip the sticky notes and let someone — or something — remember for you.
As far as encrypted password managers go, LastPass is one of the relatively cheaper options that still offers a good amount of features. Pricing will depend on whether you want a personal or business account: Personal prices run from $24 to $28 annually, and business prices are an annual fee of $29 to $48 per user.
If your business operates as a team and communication is lacking, consider giving Slack a try. The communication platform allows instant messaging and file sharing across multiple devices.
You can create searchable channels, whether it’s for certain topics, projects or teams. Prices for Slack depend on the amount of people you want to include, but teams that small teams can access the platform for free!
If you aren’t keeping track of spending, things can get out of hand real quick. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or you manage a team of employees, software like Expensify can simplify expense tracking and reimbursements.
Expensify users can snap a photo of a receipt and upload it to the app, which will automatically create an expense report. The individual plan is free, and team plans run $5 to $9 a month per user.
If you’re a small business owner managing a team of employees, HR software can help you become more efficient by removing drawn-out administrative tasks. GoCo is an all-in-one HR, benefits and payroll platform that is geared toward small- to medium-sized businesses.
GoCo features include automated hiring and onboarding, online benefits enrollment, digital storage of important employee documents, PTO management and payroll sync. Pricing starts at $29 per month and increases depending on which services you want to add.
Since it’s 2018 and pretty much no one carries cash anymore, accepting credit or debit cards is almost a necessity for any business. If you’re in need of a point-of-sale system, Square is a solid choice because it doesn’t charge monthly fees and there are no minimum monthly charges. The payment processing system accepts all major credit cards and charges 2.75% per swipe.
Another plus about Square is the simplicity — all you have to do it plug the device into your smartphone or tablet and you’re ready to start getting paid! So if your business has you on the go, you can still accept credit payments.
If you need a way to send or receive money that isn’t face-to-face like Square, PayPal is the way to go. It’s so popular that chances are high you’ve already used it before, but it’s worth mentioning here anyway.
Creating an account is free, and you can use PayPal to accept payments via website, app, email or phone. Merchant fees vary depending on the transaction type, but range from 2.7% to 2.9% plus 15 to 30 cents per charge.
As a small business owner, using social media to promote your business and engage with your customers is extremely important. But keeping up with all of the social media on top of everything else on your plate can be too much. That’s where a tool like Hootsuite can help you.
Use Hootsuite to schedule posts, create content calendars, track engagement and measure the impact your content has on followers. You can do a 30-day trial at no cost; then plans start at $29 per month.
Kaitlyn Blount is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.