I’m no “serial entrepreneur” but I have been involved in starting multiple companies and now multiple divisions of larger companies. And along the way, I’ve found that there are a few distinct types of apps that are must haves. Here, we’ll look at 10 apps. Now, these don’t necessarily need to be “the” app that you decide to use, but the category of app is likely going to help a lot for many small business owners.
Before you do anything, brainstorm! And mind mapping tools are a great start to that process. MindMeister, from MeisterLabs is a great simple mind mapping tool. And when you’re brainstorming, the last thing you want to spend pretty much any time doing, is figuring out the technology. It’s important to use a simple app for this. I usually start with the Notes app and then move into something a tad bit more complex. And MindMeister is usually that slightly more complex tool!
Yes, prepare for spreadsheets. I like Numbers for the iPad and iPhone. Excel for Office is also now available, which is useful I guess… But from financials to inventory to tracking just about anything, Numbers is a must for many!
Spreadsheets aren’t the only types of files you’ll need. And many files are going to need a different app or type of app. Box, and similar services such as Dropbox, will let you sync any file (well, almost any) to your devices. For example, that marked up pdf of the business plan that some angel investor is sending you back. It’s the swiss army knife of file apps, and the data lives on the cloud. And, it’s a great way to share those larger files to customers, that you might otherwise send to their email addresses, angering them by filling up their email.
You’re going to need a much more complicated way to manage money. But, in the beginning, before you’re concerned about where to accrue things, the simplicity of just seeing your cash flow is super-helpful. Especially if you’re getting started by paying a bunch of money for Apple devices and apps to run the business! Even with more complicated budgets, until you have dedicated staff looking at numbers, I’d rather look more often using simpler apps and getting right to the information I care about. In the first few months, that might be whether you can buy a new MacBook for the new hire after you cover rent. Later, your accountant will take your phone from you and delete the app and possibly set it on fire. Well, they can’t set an app on fire, but they would… Sometimes I miss those simpler times… But not the stress.
Money is awesome. Accepting any money, any time is really important when you’re starting out. Whether you’re firing up a small new Apple consultancy or selling shoes, you’ll need something. If you have inventory, you’ll want something far more feature rich, that allows you to track that. If you are selling hours, you’ll likely eventually need something integrated with payments that tracks that as well. But in the beginning, keep things simple. And pay more for something when you need to, and you can get guidance on what to get for your industry.
There’s no doubt that in the right hands, social media can provide a lot of help to organizations. And really, organizations of any kind. Getting the message out, communicating with customers, finding potential customers, getting your site some exposure for search engines and just in general putting yourself out there. But if you post something on Twitter once and never come back to it, it’s not that useful. Further, you can’t be online all the time. Hootsuite let’s you schedule posts, find things worth posting, analyze what was posted and do all of this across a number of different social networks, from YouTube to Facebook, to Twitter to getting all this into a CRM, such as Salesforce!
Sales is what makes an organization succeed or fail initially. Great products allow you to keep the doors open, and not get run out of town for hocking craptastic wares. But if you can’t get people buying your product then you will fail. This is a universal truth. And your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software needs to be online and accessible from your iOS devices. Most packages seem to get this. Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Oracle and SAP are all big software packages, with plenty of features and complexity. As a new company, you need something simple, that will eventually allow you to grow into something more complex. Consider Elements CRM as one of many options.
When you first start, you need to pay particular attention to how you’re doing. You can do that for free with SurveyMonkey. And when you get bigger and you can afford a very small amount of money for the service you can then upgrade into their paid plans, to replace the SurveyMonkey branding with your own branding. Surveys are really easy to create, manage and distribute.
Pretty cool. We like their business model as well… 😉
There are large, complicated and sometimes necessary marketing automation software packages, such as Marketo. But there’s also a very popular and simple tool that you can use if you don’t have someone on staff to manage Marketo. Since many a small business doesn’t have all the resources available to run a complicated nurturing system, Mailchimp might be able to make your life much much better. And they have a pretty rad mascot!
Hey, it’s our article. But really, these devices suddenly have financials, customer data and even business plans. Keep your assets secure, make them easier to setup and let us help you to push the limits!
Bonus: That killer app for your industry
ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is software that will run your company. You’d probably be surprised how many of your competitors have written software and sell it on the open market. You know how the commercials say “there’s an app for that?” Well, there usually is… And before you embark upon stringing together some random software titles to get a good workflow together, consider trying to find something that will fill those gaps for your organization.