Introducing My Faves
Small business owners face a ton of time and operational challenges. We have demands in all areas of our lives, and wear a million different titles on any given day. Any ounce of sanity left is spent figuring out how to make the next day just a little bit smoother. Over the last four years, those bits of sanity have combined into research on how to operationally keep my head above water. What follows is the sum total of that research and a few rabbit holes.
This is absolutely unequivocally number one of the top 10 apps – I use this on average every five minutes or so. As of writing, I have 1,413 passwords stored in my LastPass vault. The LastPass password truly is the last password I have to remember.
The free version is available on any desktop – mac or PC, the pro version will sync across all mobile devices. And yes- it’s completely totally absolutely thoroughly withoutadoubt – safe. And infinitely safer than my memory.
ActiveInbox for Google Apps
Email is the life blood of my business. My relationships are deepened on email, to-do’s come in and go out to staff via Email. Follow-ups, account information, reminders, appointments, seminars, prospects – all come in via email. So keeping this organized is essential. ActiveInbox lets me easily (with ONE click) save an email in a to-do list, in a ‘waiting’ list, or in a folder. The folder option can be used in any way you like. I use mine to categorize current/active projects.
The #2 app for small business is definitely ActiveInbox; it lets me keep my happy place: a zero-inbox.
Small businesses, small offices, and at-home offices all face a very similar challenge – we are in charge of everything. We are the engineers, marketers, customer service agents, bookkeepers, receptionists, and big kahuna. How do you divide up your time between all that has to be done? I’ve found that a timer fits very close to the top of my top 10 apps for my small business.
I’ve tried several but they’re not fast enough to keep up with me. I have 3 or 4 emails/tasks going at a time. And I dont want to have to connect, enter, re-sort and ‘describe’ every task. Enter stage left my knight of all Shining Timers: Toggl.
It doesn’t get any simpler than a big ol’ red button for start/stop. And an optional description spot. It also includes features sorting and reporting by project, client or staff member.
Definitely a top 10 must-have app for any small business!
I’ll let you in on a secret. My number is a California – LA number. Yes, I’m in Vancouver, Canada but since I prefer not to receive calls at 5AM I broadcast loud and clear that I am on the west coast. As much as I love my clients, I love them better at 9AM.
As far as telephone service apps for small business, you can’t beat unlimited continent-wide calling for $14/mo. And a ridiculously cheap separate phone number that works both online and on real phones.
As a plus, this is our staff’s Instant Messaging client of choice. Ana, Dianne and I are online chatting with each other all day. It’s our water cooler.
This is our invoicing, project management, support, CRM app. We use it for organizing projects, collaborating on support, and recording billable time. The big plus on this one is that it integrates seamlessly with Google Apps. So while a client and I are emailing back and forth, I can – without leaving my Google Apps account – make notes, open projects, add emails, and create invoices.
I’ve tested approx 1,457 CRM apps and all of them have one thing in common: they are not perfect for me. Regardless of which one you choose, you will have a significant learning curve and/or setup process.
We chose WorkEtc because they offer individual training, excellent support, and better-than-most value. Definitely a business app you should check out if you need a CRM/PM app.
Social Media Management – Tweetdeck
This app will allow you to manage the big three: Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. You begin by adding columns to the interface. These columns can be added by Twitter List, or by searching for a word or hashtag (#). This makes it infinitely easier to keep up with your conversations.
My process, which isn’t very organized yet, is to visit Tweetdeck and Facebook several times a day. I visit Linkedin once a month or so. And the lovely Pinterest whenever the fancy hits.
A lot of people use Tweetdeck because of the scheduling feature. Use with care, and be sure to give back to your community if you’re on any social media network.
As far as mass email apps, this one tops my list. It is fun and easy to use. If you can use facebook or twitter, you can use this program without reading the help or watching any tutorials. It is that easy. The only thing – I mean only thing – is the labels. You need to know that “Campaign” means “new email” and Template is the actual form through which you enter your content. (Its not a template in the Microsoft Word sense of the term.) Now you are ready to go use it.
Don’t underestimate the value of your email list. These are qualified prospects who have legitimately expressed an interest in your company by signing up. Don’t disappoint them!
If you have a website, MailChimp is a top 10 app for you.
I’ve been following Brian of StudioPress fame since before his company was acquired by Copyblogger Media. His company and WordPress themes are the best out there. They are easy to develop, come with reliable and fast support, and the highest standards. On a personal note, I look to Brian and StudioPress as an ethical standard and business role model.
Everyone needs a website for marketing their business, and whether or not you hire a developer to customize it, you should start with the Genesis framework. You’ll get the professional design that you need.
Since we all have websites for our businesses, this is an essential app. It is a security and scanning service. Sucuri is the most comprehensive and customer service oriented security and scanning service available. The cost – $80 per year per site includes removing all malware/viruses and threats. That’s an incredible deal! See our offer on how to get 50% off.
Lastly, the task we all love to hate – accounting. With most of Single Proprietor businesses, we have business bank accounts, personal bank accounts, work credit cards, personal credit cards, online merchant accounts and Paypal. Combine those all together, add a giant box of receipts, sprinkle with two months, and we have one colossal mess.
When you first set up your free account, Wave walks you through attaching your bank accounts – personal and business – your credit cards and paypal. Then, my favorite feature, it automatically downloads all of your transactions from all of those accounts (did I mention it works with Paypal?) and sorts them between personal and work accounts. Although not fun, it is quite painless.
It’s all automatic, and did I mention – FREE? Wave should be in your top 10 apps for your small business too!
There are of course, many, many more apps for small business. Do you have a list of your top 10? I would like to read it!