Owning a small business means working with a smaller budget than larger organizations. This means cutting corners in some departments, and doing without the bottomless supply closet you'd find in a major corporation.
Even though you can't buy every new business gadget on the market, a few tools you simply can't do without:
- A Calendar. Any Calendar.
Given how little time small business owners have, and how many demands get placed on that time, it's amazing how many still try to make it through life without a calendar and schedule. It doesn't matter whether it's a paper wall calendar, an advanced paper planner or one of the hundreds of electronic versions. Your life will be better once you're using one.
- ELance and oDesk
Small businesses lack the budget to hire full-time staff for every task. ELance and oDesk are hubs for freelance professionals looking for gigs. You'll be able to choose from outsourcing tasks to cheap labor to finding local professionals to do the job. Prices stay low because of the competitive environment.
- Hootsuite and/or Mailchimp
Hootsuite lets you plan and time posts to various social media platforms. Mailchimp helps you organize and run email lists and broadcasts. In both cases, these tools cut much of the scut work out of your marketing communications, freeing your time to make sure all of your communications are brilliant.
- A Smart Phone
Yes, you can get by with a regular cell phone. No, that regular phone won't coordinate your communications between your phone, text, email, calendar and social media. It won't let you read reports while waiting in line at the bank. It doesn't let you use the countless apps designed to make running a business easier. If you can afford smart phones for your whole team, it's usually worth the investment.
- Google Analytics
Google's analytics service analyzes keyword and website performance to help you figure out how good a job your web team is doing. Without its metrics, your web marketing is pretty much a shot in the dark. If your business model relies heavily on web promotion, you should invest in Market Samurai, the upgrade for-pay version of this concept.
If you remember the bad old days of leasing credit card machines and paying exorbitant processing fees, you love Square even if you've never heard of it. This is a small attachment you plug into your iPhone that lets you process credit cards anywhere you go. Combined with an order tracking app that connects to your bookkeeping, it replaces between three and five 20th-century tools.
Readers, what tools save your bacon every day? Tell us about them in the comments below...