When it comes to the best tools, software and technology available to entrepreneurs, there’s certainly no shortage of blog posts advising where to find them.
But for emerging entrepreneurs who are just starting out, this myriad of information can feel a bit overwhelming. So, here you’ll find our take on some of the most essential tools for when you are just starting out, that have great features, are easy to use and will make your new work-life eminently more efficient.
Good base tools, in our view, enable you and everyone in your team to integrate, communicate and collaborate. That way everyone is kept up to speed and you can avoid any nasty surprises along your journey to entrepreneurial stardom.
First of all, you’ll want to stay organized. A good way to do this is via Trello, a free project management site that utilizes the Kanban (Japanese for signboard, dontchaknow) method. This involves clean, colorful digital boards that tell you what’s being worked on, when and by whom. Generally, you’ll want to create a board for a task that’s ongoing, be that the development of a specific product or a particular marketing campaign. This will allow you to manage the status of numerous jobs at once, which you can check on at any time, as Trello syncs across all your devices.
One of the only downsides of Trello is that the Kanban method can start getting cluttered if not administered properly. So we’d advise creating a detailed dashboard that simulates the production chain of tasks. Something like this, for example:
Then take it a step further by breaking down the Design, Development and Testing columns into three sub-columns:
This kind of structure is perfect for teams of two and more, right up to 30 people, because while the columns are set, the overall status of the project will remain visible.
Want to up your game even more? Try adding a Documents column as the first column. This is where you’d put all your core procedures that are used again and again in your company, so that everyone can easily refer back to them, regardless of when and where they’re working. This is a good way to project manage when you’re just starting out, but as you become more established, and the company more complex, you’ll want to look into upgrading your software.
It seems a silly thing to point out, but communication is crucial when you’re just starting out. It’s so important that all team members are kept informed of progress.
There are a few tools out there to help keep you connected to your team, but we think Slack is the best. The basic version is free and offers you everything you could need in the early stages. Its interface is super easy to use and it has a number of standard integrations with other systems, such as Trello. So, say the status of one of your projects has been updated – you can set it so that everyone is automatically informed. Or if you have an e-commerce website, you can integrate it with Slack and get a notification every time a sale is made. It also works with Dropbox, Google Analytics, your calendar and much more.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of the tools available to help manage your startup, but those are our faves that cover a lot of ground. If you want to start getting into the specifics that’ll satisfy the Lean methodology (also Japanese it turns out), like design, surveys and content management systems (CMS), then here are some good starting points.
To create your first hypothesis or validate your model, you’ll have to carry out several online surveys. The most popular (and simple) ways to do this are via Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or Typeform. Anyone of those should suit your needs in these initial stages.
Unless you are going to do your own software distribution model (SaaS), we’d advise using one of the many CMS available. Something like Squarespace, WordPress, Prestashop, Weebly or Shopify will enable you to create an attractive, functional website within a matter of weeks or even days if you really get into it. These sites are also especially good if you have an online store.
For the ultimate overview of your company, combine the forces of Google Analytics and Hotjar. To do this you should utilize Google Tag Manager, but once you’ve done that you’ll be able to what pages visitors are using (Analytics) as well as how they’re using them (Hotjar).
Editing and collaborating
A lot of small businesses use Google Docs and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This tool is cloud-based and allows several people to work on content simultaneously, you can look back at previous versions of the work, and access the files from anywhere. In addition, you can download files in numerous formats.
Here you have two main choices: Google Slides or Canva. Slides has great collaborative capability, while Canva has better design and visualization capabilities. Check them both out and see which suits you more.
This is a field that’s overflowing with options, but we’d opt for one of the big three: Dropbox, Google Drive or Onedrive.
Customer relationship management
HubSpot is a great jump-off point, because their free version allows you a lot of control. Holded also seems to be a popular choice.
GitLab not only offers the best free private software repositories, but it has a complete suite of tools, such as CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery), and even integration with Trello boards.
This area has had some of the best developments in recent years. Developers have been busy creating small pieces of software that make two apps work together faultlessly. A couple of the best tools that do this, and usually within just a few clicks, are IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier. They also integrate with Slack. Bonus. That should be enough to get you started, but if you want to delve deeper into all the tools at your disposal, check out startupresources.io and startupstash.com.