For business owners, there can be a strong desire to build your entire business from the ground up. However, keep in mind that it’s important not to reinvent the wheel. Building every piece of your operating infrastructure is costly and time-consuming. When you are getting started, I advise you to invest in productivity tools that already exist.
There is no shame in utilizing third-party apps to run your business. In fact, using apps that already exist can help get your business running so you can focus on its core competencies.
Here are my suggestions for common infrastructure needs.
Project management software can help you create a visual to-do list, giving you a tangible way to move tasks along to meet your goals and deadlines.
My pick: Trello
Why you should use it: Trello is a free-to-use, web-based visual organizing application that allows you to physically drag and drop tasks along a customized timeline. The kanban-style interface allows you to see exactly where a task stands, who’s involved and what the next step is in one glance.
Client Relationship Management Systems (CRMs)
There are a plethora of CRMs for you to choose from, and each one should be researched carefully to ensure the best fit for your business. The best CRM for you will complement your established sales process and be easy for your staff to use. Most CRMs also integrate with other business platforms like your website, but you have to evaluate how important integrations are.
My pick: Hubspot
Why you should use it: I like Hubspot’s clean user interface and its integration with my email client. If you work a lot from your inbox on your sales process like I do, Hubspot is nice because it records your actions there so you don’t have to jump between your email and the CRM. Hubspot also offers other services like social media management and email blasts for a combined cost that’s lower than purchasing the same services separately from different vendors.
Many businesses benefit from their employees working remotely — mine included. The beauty of having a remote workforce is that we can hire based on talent alone and not worry about geography. However, this means that we can’t just walk down the hall or to the next cubicle over to talk about day-to-day issues that arise.
If this is the case with your business, consider installing software such as Skype or Slack to make communicating within your company much easier.
My pick: Skype
Why you should use it: There are a lot of other good options out there, but I use Skype because it is free and widely used. With Skype, you can instant message, video chat and share screens with employees working outside your office, making communication simple. Could you just pick up your phone and shoot them a text or call? Sure. But it’s much more convenient to do the same thing with the click of the mouse that you were probably already using rather than break your focus to pick up the phone.
Another great thing about running a business in the digital age is the prevalence of digital files. While having physical copies may offer a sense of security, it’s much easier to share files virtually with multiple people.
File-sharing services like Google Drive, Dropbox and Onedrive allow you to store files and set sharing permissions for those files. Pricing ultimately depends on the amount of storage space your business needs, but most of these services are free to start.
My pick: Google Drive
Why you should use it: At my company, not only are we able to store and share files in Google Drive, but with apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides, we can tackle document editing as a team in real time. You don’t need to be in the same place at the same time to make significant progress thanks to Google Drive and G-Suite.
Customer Support Ticketing
If customer support is part of your business, it’s important to set up a way to track the support process. Having tools in place to streamline customer service ensures a better, smoother experience for your customers and your employees.
My pick: Freshdesk
Why you should use it: Freshdesk provides your customer support agents with an efficient platform on which to organize support tickets. Additionally, Freshdesk categorizes and tracks analytics, response times and agency performance, allowing you to optimize call center best practices.
Having a website for your business is critical. If your business doesn’t have an online presence these days, you are missing out. Period.
While the cost of building a website and the prospect of designing it might be intimidating at first glance, you should know that there are easy ways to establish a website without spending tons of money. Once you have the website domain and hosting figured out, platforms like Wix and Weebly can make designing a breeze.
My pick: WordPress
Why you should use it: WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems out there. It’s theme-based and highly customizable, so you don’t have to dive into the code to get your website to look like you want it to.
Third-party tools like these can help your business operate more efficiently, leaving you more time to focus on what you do best. As you grow, you may invest in more sophisticated solutions, but starting with apps like these can help you learn what you need to invest in before you spend the money.