6 tools every small business needs (and might not know it)

Small Business Tools

Now is one of the best times in history to start a new small business, especially in the area of technology.  We are on the cusp of many new and exciting businesses that will rise and prosper over the coming years in the areas of Financial Technology (FinTech), Insurance Technology (InsurTech) and the Internet of Things (IoT).  There will also be many existing business models that will be disrupted by this new technology that is becoming increasingly better and cheaper.

As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats, and at times it can be easy to get distracted with so many new business tools and options to choose from that can help you efficiently run your fast-growing business venture.  With so many apps and websites claiming to have the best business tools, it can be difficult for an entrepreneur to evaluate and choose good solutions quickly.

Below is a list of excellent apps and tools that are cheap and/or free that you should consider using in your business:

Gusto – Payroll and HR that just works.

Gusto - Small Business Payroll and HR

Many large businesses often use large, expensive payroll processing companies with antiquated technology that doesn’t integrate well with other human resources (HR) functions and vendors.  This all changed with Gusto (formally ZenPayroll).  Gusto quickly realized that startups and small businesses don’t have time to work with separate vendors that offer payroll, health and insurance benefits.  Gusto took all of these functions and wrapped them into a simple to use online platform that is fully integrated with all HR functions. On top of all that, Gusto has partnered with and integrated Guideline, a low-cost employee 401(k) retirement plan in its platform.  Best of all the Gusto platform is priced to work within any small business budget.

Xero – An online accounting platform that is not QuickBooks.

Xero - Small Business Accounting

In a startup or small business cash flow is everything.  You need current financial and cash flow projections that are accurate.  Xero has taken the dull out of accounting with its full-featured accounting platform that has over 500 integrations with external apps and products to help keep your business accounting humming along.  With all of Xero features, you would expect to pay a lot for this functionality, but it is priced on a monthly pay as you go basis like you would expect from a typical app pricing structure.  Also, Xero effortlessly integrates with Gusto mentioned above.

UpWork – Need specific skills for one-time projects – hire freelancers.

UpWork - Freelancers for Small Business

UpWork is an easy to use platform for hiring freelancers with areas of expertise such as web and mobile development, virtual assistants, designers and creatives, and sales and marketing.  You simply need to set-up a free account and upload the specifics of your project for qualified freelancers to review.  You can also search for freelancers you wish to use or have used in the past.  Once you decide on a freelancer, you will work directly with them through the UpWork platform to get your project completed quickly and at the lowest possible cost.  Many large technology companies such as Dropbox and Airbnb choose UpWork for outsourced technology needs. UpWork is leveling the playing field by giving you immediate access to the same freelancers as large companies use for their technology needs.

LastPass – Don’t get hacked – stop using the same password for all your websites and apps.

LastPass - Password Manager for Small Business

If you are not using a password manager, you don’t know what you are missing.  Password managers are more than just a place to store your passwords.  They are robust platforms for helping you store, create and share complex passwords is a secure manner.  With news every day of the next data breach or hack you should not to be using the same simple password for all your websites and apps.  Now each app and website can have a distinct complex password.  Also, with LastPass Enterprise, gone are the days of employees keeping a list of passwords taped under their keyboards.  Force employee permissions, password resets, SAML single sign-on, and reporting among other features.  A password manager might be one of the best investments your business ever makes.

Buffer – Schedule, post and analyze all of your social media accounts in one place.

Buffer - Small Business Social Media Management

With more of your customers and potential customers using social media, it is essential for you to be engaging and sharing content with them through popular social media platforms.  If your first thought is that social media is time-consuming, then you are thinking like all entrepreneurs.  Fortunately, great tools have been created to efficiently manage your personal and business social media accounts with the least amount of time commitment.  Let me introduce Buffer to help. It’s not the cheapest application, but it will save you hundreds of hours of time per year, which is precious for all of us time deprived entrepreneurs.

HARO – Free publicly for your business!

HARO - Free Publicity for Small Business

In addition to the five great time and money saving tools discussed above don’t forget that there are plenty of other free tools and resources available that entrepreneurs can use to help grow your business. One such tool is Help A Reporter Out (HARO).  HARO is a free tool for connecting more than 35,000 journalists with expert sources for articles and newsworthy topics.  Those expert sources are you! All you need to do is sign-up for a free HARO account and three times a day HARO will email you a list of topics and contact information for journalists who are looking for expert sources. HARO is a fabulous resource to promote and get free publicity for your business.

Conclusion

Starting and running a business is hard work, and there are never enough hours in a 24-hour day.  We are always looking more time.  Help free-up more time and minimize potential business failure by using some or all of these great tools that are relatively cheap and can help to push your business towards success!

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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