According to some studies a third of small businesses won’t survive two years from inception, and roughly half won’t make it to five years. The fact is, managing and trying to grow a small business is hard work, and the competition is fierce. The good news is that software is making it easier to organize your business and compete with more established players with larger operating budgets. We’ve put together a list of some of the best small business apps that offer a range of services, from organizing financial information to making business travel a breeze.
Tracking of financial statements can prove frustrating but is essential to keeping your small business above water. QuickBooks accounting software is one of the best business apps that makes it easy to stay on top of your finances, whether it’s managing bills for business loans, creating professional invoices or providing comprehensive metrics to analyze your quarterly performance. The app also simplifies the filing of payroll and other taxes, and access can be shared with accountants or other outside service providers.
You’ve probably already heard of Square, the payment processing startup. The company has replaced clunky card readers at many small businesses with elegant hardware that accepts both credit cards and mobile phone payments. Perhaps more importantly for small businesses, Square has made it possible to accept credit card payments virtually anywhere. After downloading the Square app and inserting the free Magstripe Reader, it’s possible for sales staff to accept credit card payments on their smartphones, whether they are at a trade show or at a client’s office. That means fewer invoices and more receivables for your business.
Office communications really haven’t changed for the past two decades. Send emails, book meetings, rinse and repeat. Slack promises (and has already started) to change all of that. The startup encourages users to “be less busy” by combining traditional email, instant messaging and file sharing into one comprehensive office communication tool. You can create specific Slack channels for teams or working groups, edit files simultaneously and seamlessly toggle between communication streams depending on what project has priority. The app syncs across desktop or mobile devices and easily integrates with other popular apps such as Twitter and Dropbox.
It doesn’t matter how tech-savvy you are; the cloud and cloud-based apps are rapidly becoming a core facet of life for businesses. Efficiency demands that files be available online for employees to access and edit securely. Dropbox offers cloud accounts to store files and has a clean, uncluttered interface that makes it easy to quickly find what you need. Here’s a tip: Try “networking” your devices. If you put the app on all your work devices (phone, computer, tablet) you ensure that you can access, edit and transfer all your files wherever you happen to be. Depending on your storage demands, you might not even need a physical hard drive to store your work.
Running a small business can mean spending a lot of time on the road hustling for new clients or conducting market research. If your business is small enough that you don’t have an assistant to help organize your travel, TripCase can be a lifesaver. The app organizes every leg of your trip into one easy-to-use interface. Simply forward a travel confirmation for your flight or hotel reservation to the app, and it automatically populates with confirmation numbers, arrival/departure times and contact information. It’s your entire itinerary in an app, and it can make all the difference for a weary road warrior.
There’s a lot of clutter on your desk: notes from meetings, to-do lists and reminders that all form a big, unwieldy pile of paper. Organize your thoughts, and take back your desk, with Evernote, which helps collate projects and documents on a single platform. The platform has an algorithm that highlights previous files as you type if they contain keywords relevant to your note. Aside from notes, the app allows you to scan and store paper documents and business cards. Evernote is designed to easily integrate with common office tools such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Drive.
Regardless of what your business sells, you’re going to need to do some marketing, and in most cases that will include email marketing. Take the stress and guesswork out of the equation with MailChimp, which streamlines and automates messaging to large groups. The platform includes templates for different types of customer messages, so you never need to start from scratch, and it makes it easy to create custom mailing lists. On the back end, MailChimp offers an analytical suite to assess the performance of your email marketing campaign using a variety of metrics. If you absolutely can’t wait for an update on the status of your campaign, there’s even an iWatch version of the app that provides metrics in close to real time.
These are just some of the top business apps, but they can be a “force multiplier” for a cash-strapped startup. Many of these platforms automate processes that used to require employees or outside vendors, and many offer basic versions at no cost. These apps can’t guarantee business success, but they can definitely help you punch above your weight.
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