Countdown to Small Business Saturday: Small Business Tools
With Small Business Saturday rapidly approaching (taking place on November 30th this year), a spotlight is once again being shined on the role of entrepreneurs. Of course, being a small business owner actually means playing multiple roles — from boss to employee and human resources to accountant. And yet one thing’s for certain: you can’t do everything by yourself.
To help, there are several free and paid tools that can help you ensure you’re on the same page as your team, enable you to better manage your finances, and empower you to efficiently hire new talent. Let’s take a look at a few of these solutions and how they can make running your small business a little bit easier.
Whether you have a team that works remotely or just want to keep your entire staff updated from shift to shift, there are several communication tools that small business owners can utilize. Here are just a few ideas for keeping your employees and yourself in the loop at all times.
You may have heard about Slack from one of the nationwide commercials they’ve run in recent months and assumed it was intended mostly for large enterprises. While it’s true that Slack can be employed to help big, dispersed workforces to communicate, small business owners might also find some of Slack’s features helpful as well.
For example, Slack may give you a more professional way to keep in touch with your employees as opposed to texting and keeps the conversation in one manageable thread unlike with email. Additionally, the site’s channels could potentially be used as a digitized logbook where your staff can easily share important notes and reminders with the entire team. So, even if you’re not a massive company (yet), you may want to consider giving Slack a try.
For many startups and small businesses, collaboration is key. That’s where Trello comes in as it allows you to create the digital equivalent of note cards on a corkboard where your team can share and organize their various ideas. This easy to use site also offers a mobile app for updating on the go and a number of integrations with other services (including custom alerts in Slack). Best of all, the basic Trello service is free.
Another popular option — especially for remote workforces — is Google Hangouts. The reason for this starts with the fact that many of us are already plugged into the Google ecosystem in some way, thus eliminating the need for an extra account and login. What’s also convenient is that Google Hangouts gives teams the ability to communicate in either text or by videoconference. Sharing and collaborating on documents via Google Drive and Google Docs is also helpful, although both Slack and Trello can integrate with those services as well.
If you already use Microsoft’s Office 365, you may prefer giving their Microsoft Teams collaborative hub a try over other options such as Slack. Teams includes a number of features, from chat and calls to integrations and file storage. Ultimately the choice between this option and others will just depend on your preference of ecosystem.
Bookkeeping & Payroll
When starting a business, some entrepreneurs may find the role of accountant to be a difficult one. But, before hiring someone to take over your bookkeeping, you may want to try some of these solutions for managing your finances and payroll.
When it comes to keeping track of your business finances, QuickBooks is the leader in the clubhouse. The service offers a number of packages based on your needs, ranging from the self-employed to those with larger teams and 1099 contractors. QuickBooks also offers a number of additional services including full-service payroll and invoice payments. Additionally, business owners can access their accounts via the web, desktop apps for Windows and Mac (excluding the Self-Employed option), or smartphone apps for iOS and Android.
Xero bills itself as the “QuickBooks alternative” and offers many similar features. However, their pricing structure is a bit different as their top tiers include payroll services. Doubling down on their QuickBooks alternative status, Xero also offers a way to convert your QuickBooks files when switching over to their platform.
As the name implies, Paychex is a small business payroll solution but they also offer a number of human resources packages. This could include time tracking and attendance solutions, benefits administration, and much more. Overall, small business owners looking for both HR and payroll help might consider requesting a quote from Paychex.
Hiring & Outsourcing
One of the most time-consuming but important aspects of running a small business is hiring. If you’re looking to find the right person for the job, here are a couple of online resources to try.
There’s no shortage of job recruitment sites and places on the web where business owners can post about open positions. That’s why ZipRecruiter aims to simplify the hiring process by letting you post to more than 100 such sites at one time and manage your responses from a single interface. The service also includes some features aimed at weeding out less desirable applicants, such as the ability to add pre-screening interview questions. As a result, ZipRecruiter says 80% of employers who use the service find at least one qualified applicant within 24 hours of posting.
While ZipRecruiter is mostly for finding permanent employees, Upwork is one option for finding freelancers to assist with your project. From web developers to graphic designers and content writing to contract lawyers, the site hosts profiles for specialists in a wide number of fields.
To get your project off the ground, you can either search for freelancers in a specific area and reach out to them or post a job proposal and let applicants come to you. Beyond the basic service, Upwork also offers premium packages with more account management options.
Fiverr is another option for finding freelancers. Although it originally launched as a marketplace for product/service offerings you could buy a la carte, it’s evolved to become a source of ongoing outsourced service providers.
You can often find specific services, e.g. video editing, that you may need on a regular basis but not to the extent that hiring a full time employee makes sense. Fiverr is an international marketplace so you can find these part-time outsourced employees at very reasonable prices. It’s always good to try a test project first, as quality varies, but there are a lot of talented providers ready to help expand your business.
No matter what line of business you’re in, as an entrepreneur, you likely have to wear many hats and perform multiple roles within your company. However, with the help of some of these tools and services, you should be able to do all of these jobs with greater ease. So whether you’re looking to improve your collaborative workflow, better your process for sending invoices and paying your employees, or make hiring new team members and freelancers a bit simpler, each of these small business tools is worth exploring.
Also published on Medium.