You can’t run a business without certain tools. You have to pay taxes, so you need some way to track income and expenses. You have to have a social media presence, so you need some way to schedule it all.
While I LOVE experimenting with new programs and tools, in general, it’s best to have as few things to deal with as possible. Below are the 10 tools you need to run a business. When you can, find programs that combine more than one of them to save yourself time and money!
#1. Task Management Program
I will be talking in more detail about task management soon. It’s one of my favorite tools because it allows me to keep all my to do’s in one place, assign them to my team members, and communicate easily with everyone working on a project. Even if you don’t have a team, task management is valuable for keeping track of all the projects you’re working on (and when you’re an entrepreneur, there are usually many!).
#2. CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
This is my obsession right now. A CRM program can be a lot of things. It might include contacts, task management, email marketing, a sales pipeline, analytics, integration with bookkeeping, and more. Shop around. Like I said, the more tools you can cram into one program, the better.
At its most basic, a CRM program allows you to track the lifecycle of your customer or client: from that first call or email to closing the deal. It also helps you nurture that relationship and keep in touch so that you can retain them as a client.
#3. A Cloud
I don’t care if you use Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive…whatever. This is 2017. Back your files up in a cloud. Do you have any idea how many files I’ve lost over the years due to computer crashes and frying my motherboards with spilled coffee? To put it plainly: shit happens. Ask me sometime about how I lost THREE MONTHS worth of bookkeeping last year because I didn’t back it up and my computer fried.
We are blessed with incredible technology that can prevent these kinds of disasters. Use it.
#4. A Way to Get Paid
Money is kind of the point of having a business. Doing what you love, following your heart, and creating an amazing life of freedom and flexibility is awesome, but without the money, it’s not sustainable.
So it’s really important to have a way to get paid.
I’m a Paypal fan, but I’ve also used Stripe and Square. If you’re in a retail business, you’ll want some kind of POS system, but my businesses are both service-based, so I can’t say much about that. Consult an expert. Do your research. Good ol’ fashioned cash and checks are nice too. Whatever works for your business model.
#5. An Online Calendar and/or Scheduling Program
OK, so this isn’t for EVERY business, but again, we live in a world where you can set up a calendar on the internet, create a schedule showing your availability, and anyone in the world can schedule an appointment, call, or meeting with you with a few clicks. Then it puts it on your calendar. You never have to take a call, write anything down, or answer an email.
It’s a huge asset and time saver.
Google Calendar has made it possible for me to have a personal calendar AND track appointments for two businesses with two totally different Calendly accounts. They automatically check each other for conflicts. It’s my favorite because it integrates with almost every online scheduling program.
As for how people can schedule appointments, I use Calendly, which is $10 a month and allows me to schedule as many appointments as I want. For an additional fee, it can also be set up for teams. While I have never used them, some of my biz friends also use Acuity and Time Trade.
If you don’t have one, get your online schedule set up ASAP.
#6. A Website and/or Media Kit
You need some way for people to find out about you online, and you need something to direct people to when they ask for more information. Websites are inexpensive and easy enough to set up. You should, bare minimum, include a homepage that introduces your business, an about page, services, and a page that tells them how to contact you.
Then there’s my other most favorite new thing: MEDIA KITS. These are a staple for bloggers who want to work with brands and sponsors, BUT they are great for small businesses too. They’re a sexy way to tell people about your company’s values, services, what you can do for them, and to share testimonials.
Your media kit should, of course, represent your brand and have your contact and social media info in a place that’s easy to find.
For more on what media kits are and what to include, check out this article.
My favorite thing about media kits? You can save them as a PDF and email them to prospects, blogs, brands, and the press. Easy peasy.
#7. Some Kind of Office Suite (Word Processing, Design, Presentations, Spreadsheets)
You need something that will allow you to create those basic types of documents. Microsoft Office, Open Office, and G Suite are all good options. I use G Suite, especially Google Docs and Google Sheets, because it allows me to save them in Microsoft or other formats…easy to share with clients and team members, no matter what software they use.
#8. Bookkeeping Software
Again, taxes. This is my least favorite part of owning a business. Not so much paying taxes as keeping track of all the financial stuff. But that’s another really important thing: knowing how much money is coming in and going out. Otherwise, how do you know how healthy your business is?
I use Quickbooks because my mom did bookkeeping for a decade and is a Quickbooks guru. I did not inherit that talent and still struggle with it from time to time. Spreadsheets work for some kinds of businesses that have simpler financial data. I’ve also heard good things about Freshbooks and Wave.
#9. A Social Media Scheduler
Please use a scheduler for social media. Unless you have a burst of inspiration and need to post it like NOW, no one should be posting individual posts anymore. That is a HUGE time suck and time sucks are bad for business. I’m a Buffer girl, but Hootsuite is a good option, and while I haven’t tried it, people tell me CoSchedule is a godsend. Pick your favorite and schedule posts in bulk. Better yet, hire someone to do it for you and avoid it all together. It will free up so much of your time.
#10. An Email List
This is another of those highly debated business tools. Mailchimp people swear it’s the best. ConvertKit people are zealous about it. And some people are telling them all to go to hell and that Active Campaign is THE email marketing platform.
It doesn’t matter. Seriously. Especially if you’re just starting out. Use what works for you or do what I do – use what’s most cost-efficient. The important thing is that you HAVE an email list. You can change what you’re using later, if you don’t like it or feel that another program would improve your open rates. Whatever.
Just HAVE a list. Social media’s nice. It’s fun. It gets people’s attention and allows you to interact, and yeah, you’ll get some clients from it. But an email list is your DIRECT LINE to the people you want to share content with. That’s gold.An email list is your direct line to your clients. That's gold. #girlboss #womeninbusiness Click To Tweet
Those are the must-have tools you need to run a business. They are your supporting structure that allow you to get things done and do them efficiently.
Did I miss one? Tell me in the comments!