How do you pick the best apps to help you grow your small business?
Entrepreneurs, like you, have all the makings of a builder. From nothing or very little, you need to start from the very beginning and build solid foundations to grow a company. You need to embrace and consider all facets of your business, so that it will continue to develop smoothly and harmoniously. To that end, you need to be surrounded by the right people and the right tools. Selecting those tools carefully is critical to the success and future of your business.
We will help you get ready to tackle any project with positive thinking, a problem-solving attitude, teamwork and follow-through, just like any good builder who’s equipped with the appropriate tool box!
Understanding and integrating apps will improve your business
Apps, Software: make sure you know what they are and how they work
Everyone has heard the word, “app”, but we shouldn’t assume that everybody knows what it signifies and how it can benefit small businesses. Additionally, the number of applications or apps has grown tremendously over the past two years. So, how does one begin to navigate this brave new world of technology?
Entrepreneurs buying new tools should know what they are and how they work. Your willingness to learn about and integrate new applications to your business will be your gain.
What’s an app?
App is an abbreviated term for software application. An app is designed to perform a specific function for the one using it. In some cases, it is used for another application program, on a computer or mobile phone operating system.
What sorts of apps are there?
1. Desktop apps: They run on a desktop and don’t need web access to function. You pay once only and it is your business’ responsibility to back up and run maintenance. They must be developed for and installed on a particular operating system and may require hardware upgrades.
2. Web apps: They often are easy-to-use versions. They are accessed via a web browser over the Internet. It loads in browsers, such as Chrome, Safari or Firefox. They run on multiple platforms and all users access the same version. They reduce your business costs, since they require less support and maintenance, including lower requirements by the end user’s computer.
3. Mobile apps: These are designed to run on a mobile device, such as a phone/tablet or watch. Users of mobile apps generally download them via app stores online, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Why is a web app different from a desktop application?
Web apps can be a faster, cheaper and more efficient way of integrating software to your business. Rather than having to install it on your servers or local computers, and then having to keep up with updates—which means time and money—you can simply go online and sign up for an account. In a click, you can use the software. Usually you pay a monthly fee, meaning that you don’t have to pay a license fee upfront.
6 best practices for selecting the right app for your small business
Choosing among so many apps can quickly become a nightmare for any small business owner. We can guide you to help you choose the right app, making the process smoother and faster.
Be aware that selecting the wrong app will cause you frustration and it will waste your time and money. We all have stories about an app that didn’t serve our business, and that’s what we want to help you avoid.
1. Define your specific needs: As previously explained, every app has a particular purpose, so your first step as an entrepreneur should be to review and define all your specific needs. Remember: your business, composed of activity, size, history, location and other features, is entirely UNIQUE.
2. Set up goals: Once you have established a list of your specific needs, you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking to simplify, save time, appear more professional, gain trust, collaborate with your team, solve a specific problem such as inventory management, develop the business, or other considerations?
3. Gather information: Thorough research can help you make an informed decision about the best app to purchase for your needs. We advise you to check websites, reviews, or question-and-answer platforms, such as Quora. And don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth! Do ask other companies for any recommendations or suggestions. A discussion with the app team can go a long way in giving you a better understanding of their “spirit”, motivation and client services.
4. Diagnose: Once you have selected a few apps, make a list of considerations, as part of your decision-making process:
- How reliable is the company?
- How much will it cost and are there any extra costs for your own needs? Picking the most expensive app will not necessarily mean that it is the best fit for your business, and selecting the free version is not always a good option in the long run.
- How secure is your data?
- How will you get your data back if you want to end your contract?
- Are there any redundancies with other apps you may already have?
- Does the software app integrate with other software or apps that you have? Keeping more of your data in one place reduces extra steps and saves you time. Check the apps to see if they connect with existing apps on your list. Web-based apps offer more choices for connecting to other apps. Look for the “partners” or “add-ons” section of software providers’ websites to learn what connections are possible.
5. Test with the remaining apps on your list: We strongly recommend you take time to try before you buy, by scheduling a demo. Most apps offer a no-cost trial period. You should use this trial to fully integrate the app into your workflow to determine if it is useful and compatible with your existing business.
6. Share and communicate with your team: Once you have purchased an app, you need to share it with and explain its benefits to your team. Make sure you communicate all instructions, so that your employees are all on the same page.
20 best apps by category to help you grow your business
Being an entrepreneur means wearing many hats. To be more efficient and gain productivity, you should always ensure that you have the best tools for each part of your business. A good app could just be what you need to make your life a little easier. With so many apps on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To help you find the app that fits your specific needs, we have listed a few of them.
1. Take financial & accounting specialists on board
Like most business owners, you’ll probably want to simplify the accounting function of your business. Many online options are available.
What for? Selecting the right app can help you manage your revenue and expenses, track and pay your employees, deal with taxes and your business assets, and even insure your business.
- QuickBooks Online - quickbooks.intuit.com/online
This is a cloud accounting solution to help small businesses. It gives you an overall financial status of your business. QuickBooks will make your organization easy by supervising your business sales and expenses, viewing financial statements, paying your employees and/or vendors, tracking unpaid invoices, etc.
- Waveapp - www.waveapps.com
This is an accounting software made specifically for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. It lets businesses easily track sales and expenses, manage invoices, pay employees, scan receipts and generate reports.
- Gusto - gusto.com
This app, formerly known as ZenPayroll, streamlines your company’s payroll, tax and benefits process. Gusto automatically reports new hires to the government; handles all local, state and federal tax filings; automates deductions for benefits and workers’ comp payments, etc.
- FundThrough - www.fundthrough.com
This will help you solve your cash flow struggles and get your invoices paid right away. FundThrough’s online invoice factoring services offer business owners a simple way to jump cash flow gaps by advancing payments for their outstanding invoices.
- Zensurance - www.zensurance.com
2. Communicate better
Communicating effectively is critical for the daily operations of small businesses, but communication has become more instant and more effective than ever before. Here is a list of communication tools that can help you keep up with the pace of technology.
What for? Everyone involved in business should communicate with one another in order to reach organizational goals effectively. Apps can boost your company’s internal communications, help streamline your efforts to improve efficiency, productivity and team cohesion.
- Slack - slack.com
This cloud-based team communication app has quickly become one of the most popular project management and collaboration tools on the market. Slack features chat rooms organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. Files, groups, and members are all completely searchable, making it easy to pull up previous conversations.
- Skype - www.skype.com
This app remains effective and popular. You can use Skype to video or voice call anyone in the world; get up to 25 people together on a call; transmit video, photos and files of any size; share your computer screen; and send text or voice messages.
3. Don’t waste your time!
The phrase, “Time is money” is an old saying that’s probably even more apt today with the crazy pace of modern business.
What for? Here are some of the best time management apps to help you organize your schedule and stay focused on the most important tasks.
- RescueTime - www.rescuetime.com
RescueTime automatically tracks time you’ve spent on applications and websites and sends you detailed reports and data based on your activity, giving you an accurate picture of how you spent your day. It works on Mac, PC, Android and Linux.
- Toggl - toggl.com
This is the simplest time-tracker, designed to help you get things done. With one click, the timer tracks where every second of your time is going. You can track projects, view graphs, export timesheets, and sync your output with several other project management apps.
- Tripit - www.tripit.com
Tripit consolidates your travel plans into a single, master itinerary that you can access any time and on any device, regardless of the website you used to buy your ticket. Users must forward all their travel emails to Tripit, and the app takes it from there. You can also check departure times and delays, find directions to the airport and view weather reports.
4. Make payments effortless
What for? Depending on your business, you may need sometimes to accept payments from customers on the go, such as at tradeshows, for example, or if you conduct door-to-door activities. Your customers will also be able to track their expenses.
- PayPal Here - www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/credit-card-reader
This app lets businesses attach PayPal’s card reader to a tablet or other device and use it as a portable register. The PayPal Here app is ideal for businesses that need to get paid on the go.
- Square - squareup.com
This payment app is a good fit for businesses, such as food trucks, beauty salons and retail shops. Its users get a small, portable card reader that attaches to a phone or another mobile device to take fast, convenient payments.
5. Get organized
Organization is key for any entrepreneur who wants to save time and focus on other important tasks or simply get more time for themselves!
What for? By organization, we mean user-friendly project management, better scheduling, tracking your team’s workflow, easy documents sharing and filing, etc. Here are some of the most popular apps on the market:
- Evernote - evernote.com
This app is ideal for keeping your thoughts and assignments organized. Evernote allows you to sync personal checklists and notes across devices, which means you can work on a task on one device and, later, switch to another without losing anything. You can take notes in a variety of formats, including text, photos, audio, web clippings and videos, and you can attach Microsoft Office documents and PDFs. It also lets you work collaboratively with others and share ideas, as well as plan events and set reminders.
- Asana - asana.com
If your business is looking to improve its communication and collaboration, look no further than Asana. The web-based and mobile app lets you view all tasks and projects and follow progress on the Asana board. You can share notes, upload files and communicate without having to rely on email. Asana integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox to attach files, and also with Slack for communication, enabling you to post updates to a Slack messaging channel.
- Trello - trello.com
This app allows you to organize any projects you’re working on through boards, which you can then customize either solo or with others (making it ideal for delegating tasks for a group assignment). You can also have separate lists for tasks on your to-do list, tasks you’re doing now, and tasks you’ve completed.
6. Build trust & look professional
As a new business on the block, so to speak, building trust with customers takes time, but we can suggest ways to optimize the process.
What for? When you get others to trust you, it's a lot easier to grow and nurture your business. Building trust and looking professional include providing and always seeking ways to improve the customer service experience, delivering on time, handling multiple aspects of the sales process effectively, invoicing promptly, managing inventory, establishing a presence on the web and social media.
- erplain - www.erplain.com
This is a user-friendly cloud-based inventory and order management solution for small distribution businesses. It can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. From inventory management, purchase orders creation, sales process (including documents) automation, reporting and analysis, erplain has an excellent customer service that’s always ready to answer your questions and help you grow your business efficiently.
- Mailchimp - www.mailchimp.com
This is the world’s largest marketing automation platform. Think of it as a second brain that helps millions of customers—from small e-commerce shops to big online retailers—find their audience, engage their customers, and build their brand.
- Shopify - www.shopify.com
Shopify is a complete ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods. It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders—all with a few clicks of the mouse.
7. Develop the business
Your business evolves in a busy environment, and developing your activity means interacting with the other “players of the game” in a smart and constructive way. Partners, suppliers, sales leads, customers, and more, will all serve as vital nerve centres in your development.
What for? The goal is to manage the many connections, data and information that happen in a growing business, to find new suppliers, and to get discovered with the aim of increasing your orders.
- ActiveCampaign - www.activecampaign.com
ActiveCampaign is a sales CRM (Customer Relationship Management). It is a hidden gem in the marketing automation world. They’re one of the most affordable providers for small businesses and their software is exceptionally well-designed. You can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities all in one central location in the cloud, so that the information is accessible to many in real time. As you learn about a contact, you can send personalized messages that align perfectly with their interests, whether they're on your website, browsing their inbox, or on a mobile device.
- Hubba - www.hubba.com
The goal of this app is to help brands and buyers meet and conduct business. Hubba helps brands grow their business by putting them in front of buyers. Wholesalers have the opportunity to find new retail stores to sell to; it is their virtual tradeshow tool. On the other hand, it is an easy way for buyers to find new products to purchase for their stores and offer their customers unique products.
NOW it’s over to you! We have highlighted different options for you to explore, in order to integrate apps successfully to your business. Be aware, however, that we have listed only a few of the applications available on the market. In the end, the only one who knows your activity better is YOU, and you need to take time to dig in and find the apps that fit your own business. Your best app is not everyone else’s best app!