The Best Apps for Small Business Owners
Being able to work from anywhere was always the promise we heard about the future in the media. While we might still be waiting for flying cars, our phones have virtually eliminated the need to be in one place to do our work all the time. But, how do you choose the apps that will work best for you as a business owner and manager? What apps will help you be more mobile while also being present?
While what works for one business may not work for another, the list below provides a snapshot of some of the best, and most popular, apps out there to help you manage workflows, market your business, communicate with your team, and get paid… while also paying attention to your own well-being.
Sales and CRM
Salesforce is one of those CRM tools that can literally do it all. From managing your customer lists, to scheduling touch points, to integrating a variety of POS and marketing apps, Salesforce Essentials makes it easy to ensure your customer data is accessible and shareable across your organization.
If you need a point of sale, and online payment system that allows you to accept payments, issue receipts, and ensure real-time integration with your online store, inventory management, and provides invoicing, analytics, and even your social media presence, Square is one of the best. Depending on your needs, Square offers a variety of solutions to businesses. It’s free to set up your account, but transaction fees apply. Depending on your needs, a sales team is available to help you customize the solution that suits your business.
One of my colleagues loves Pipedrive as a CRM for small businesses. It’s very intuitive, which is awesome for people who have no time to read all the Help articles and watch all the How-to videos. It’s great if your needs are simple and sales-focused. It is also well-priced.
If you’re just starting out, Wave is a great solution – it’s free. While it may be somewhat limited in frills (there’s no option to track your time and automatically have those hours included in your invoice, for instance, and you do have to download a few different version to get all the functionality), it allows you to easily customize your invoices by client, pre-set tasks you do consistently, and it’s simple to use. That said, in order to track your expenses, or your time spent on projects or clients, you’ll need to download a few other Wave, or third-party solutions, as well.
A made-in-Canada solution that offers quite a few more ‘bells and whistles’ that make it preferable for a growing business. Being able to track your time to ensure accurate hourly billing, track expenses, and provide estimates from within the same app is a huge benefit. Billing starts at about $15 (USD) per month for up to five clients, and they also offer custom solutions for those businesses with 500 or more clients.
Planning, creating, and scheduling social media posts to support your business can be time consuming, and it’s not always easy to see what your top-performing content is. Hootsuite makes that easier. Not only are you able to upload your content, schedule it for publication, and run reporting that allows you to see what’s working, and what may need work, you can integrate team members, content approvals, and build an online library of content shareable by everyone in your employee network. With additional training, and solutions that grow with your business, it’s no wonder that a tonne of Fortune 500 companies also use Hootsuite to manage their social presences.
Hopeless with design, and not even sure what the proper sizing is for social media ads and imagery? Canva to the rescue. Literally drag and drop your way to new designs, business logos, flyers, templates, ads, and more. The free version is great for those just starting out, and has more than enough stock imagery, design templates, and storage to get you started. As you need more, Canva offers paid solutions that include team integration and approval workflows, access to even more stock imagery, the ability to set additional brand and commenting controls, and additional storage. Overall, a great tool for businesses that aren’t quite ready to onboard a designer, or are looking for cost-effective ways to create professional-looking marketing materials.
Slack is one of those apps that’s become ubiquitous among startups and large organizations alike. Why? So many reasons – real-time communications, reviews, and document approvals; the ability to communicate with entire teams, or tag individuals; the ability to upload a variety of different attachments; and, perhaps best of all, escaping the jumble of disorganization in one’s inbox in favour of organized, dedicated channels- meaning you can find those critical conversations quickly. Free solutions abound, but even those growing businesses can benefit from reasonable pricing.
It seems Zoom, over these past few months of working from home, has found its moment in the sun. Everyone seems to be jumping on the Zoom bandwagon. From yoga classes to formal business meetings, Zoom has become the go-to video conferencing platform. It’s easy-to-use, offers free, as well as paid versions (with more control over privacy and encryption than the free option), and you can host up to 100 participants on one call using the free version (with a 40-minute limit). Even the professional versions start around $20 per month – very economical.
There are thousands of project management apps on the market, but Trello is one that works for small businesses to large enterprises, and everything in between. Tasks are set up as tiles, and as the project moves through the workflow process, users simply move the tile to indicate it’s complete. Since the app also allows users to create workflows rules (i.e., a task can only move to the next phase at the approval of a group or individual, etc.), integrate approvals, and provide real-time feedback, it’s perfect for mobile users who still need to manage and approve much of the work being done by their teams.
Basecamp’s popularity has surged in recent years, and for good reason. The ability to manage projects with a complete view of the to-do list, and who is assigned to each task, the ability to set notifications for the group or individuals, the ability to integrate with other third-party apps adds up to being able to view and manage an entire project from your phone. Additionally, the app has a “pause” feature that allows users to control when they get notifications. Don’t want to be disturbed during family dinner? Pause your notifications. Like other project management apps, Basecamp also allows for workflow rules to be defined.
Created by a former Buddhist monk, Headspace was one of the first guided meditation apps on the market, and still one of the best. While the free version is fairly basic, and serves more as a 10-day intro to guided meditation, the app is a goldmine of short, long, specialized, and general meditations to help you stay focused, gain clarity, and reduce stress while running your business.
Strava may be fancier and offer fancier perks when you subscribe and pay your annual fee, but the Nike Run Club app is still a favourite. By measuring your mileage, and tracking each run, it provides you with a solid overview of your training. The app gives you kudos for each milestone reached and provides motivation by offering small congratulations for things like running on New Years Day, or a holiday. The guided runs, some in conjunction with Headspace, make the runs fly by as the storytellers – Olympians and more – talk about their journeys in the sport and in life. Run Club also encourages cross-training through integrations with other Nike apps.
How you manage your business is up to you, but a phone in your pocket that allows you to manage your business means greater flexibility and freedom. It may not be a robot butler that Saturday morning cartoons told us we’d all have by now, but being able to better serve your customers and workforce with a few taps on a screen? Well, that just might be better.
Good luck and have fun!