10 More Tools to Boost Your Business’ Efficiency

In our last post, we highlighted 10 of the best tools for collaboration. With so many great—and affordable—tools on the market today, we decided to cover 10 more to help you scale your business.

Cloud-based products typically offer significant cost savings over traditional software and can greatly help increase efficiency. You just need an Internet connection and you can give your entire team access no matter where they’re based.

If you have people working in different offices or remote locations like their homes, these tools are not only convenient but also very cost-effective. Not to mention, most of these tools have apps so you can use them on the go.

From accounting to payroll solutions, here are several tools to help you streamline processes and increase effectiveness in key areas of your business.

  1. Zenefits

This free HR tool enables you to onboard new hires quickly and to manage paperwork and benefits for employees—all online. The company can also help you select insurance providers and plans.

  1. ZenPayroll

An online payroll solution, ZenPayroll automates the payroll process, including payments and taxes. It electronically generates and files tax documents and deposits payments directly into employees’ bank accounts.

  1. Zendesk

The last “Zen” product on our list, Zendesk is a very popular customer service solution. It connects email, chat, social media, and phone channels in one dashboard. Since it’s online, your support agents can help customers from anywhere.

  1. Xero

Founded in New Zealand, Xero provides online accounting software for invoicing, managing cash flow, paying employees, creating purchase orders, and more.

  1. RingCentral

An affordable alternative to traditional office phone systems, this Internet-based phone service provides voicemail, faxing, and phone lines for your company and employees. Everyone can be on the same system even if they’re in different states.

  1. MailChimp

This email marketing service provider reportedly sends more than 500 million emails a month on behalf of its customers. It’s known for being easy to use and includes analytics tools and A/B testing.

  1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a very popular tool that lets you manage your social network accounts in one place. Schedule posts in advance, post messages in bulk, monitor engagement, and more to streamline your company’s social media channels.

  1. Magento or Shopify

If you’re looking to set up an online store, Magento and Shopify are two popular e-commerce platforms. Shopify is easy to use and works well for smaller businesses. Magento is owned by eBay and geared toward larger companies, like current customers Nike and Vizio.

  1. Carbonite or CrashPlan

It’s always a good idea to back up your data. Carbonite and CrashPlan are two online storage services that will automatically back up your files to the cloud for safekeeping.

  1. Optimizely

Test, test, and test again. This online optimization platform enables you to run and track A/B tests on your website or mobile app, so you can optimize the experience.

Stay Agile with Collaboration Tools

Initial startup costs are one of the biggest expenditures businesses have to make. From office space to equipment to inventory, the costs can add up quickly.

Luckily, there are many affordable—and even free—technology tools that not only can help you save money but also improve efficiency and productivity. And because they’re cloud-based solutions, they’re especially handy if you have people working in different offices or remote locations.

While there’s a plethora of great tools available, here’s a roundup of 10 of the best to start putting to work for your business.

  1. Basecamp

This project management tool enables everyone on your team to see what’s happening with a project. You can set deadlines, track progress, share files, post comments, etc.

  1. Trello

Another project management tool, Trello is kind of like an online version of sticky notes. It enables you to create cards with to-do lists, attach files, add comments, and move the cards around.

  1. Asana

Created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is a workflow and collaboration product that lets you manage tasks and communication in one place. Like many of these tools, it aims to reduce the need for email, which can get unwieldy.

  1. Box and DropBox

Box and DropBox offer similar options in the online file storage space. This side-by-side comparison can help you decide which one might be better suited to your needs.

  1. Google for Work

Google has a popular suite of tools that work well for business and are great when you’re on the go. The suite includes: Gmail (email), Drive (file storage and sharing), Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (presentations), and Hangouts (voice and video calls).

  1. DocuSign

If you deal with a lot of contracts or other types of documents that need to be signed, DocuSign will come in handy. It enables you to electronically sign and send documents.

  1. Jira and Confluence

Both of these products are made by Atlassian and are widely used by developers to help manage the development process. While Jira is mainly used to track and resolve bugs, Confluence is used for collaborating on and managing projects, as well as storing and sharing information like product requirements. Atlassian also offers HipChat, a messaging and video chat tool.

  1. Snagit

This useful tool enables you to grab an image from your screen or take a video of your screen and share it with someone. You can also add comments and arrows to the image to illustrate your point.

  1. InVision

Used by everyone from Adobe to Zappos, InVision lets you turn designs into shareable interactive prototypes. Colleagues or clients can test out the prototype and comment on it in the tool.

  1. Flowdock

Another collaboration tool often used by developers and product managers, Flowdock has chat and messaging features so you can discuss projects and share files as a team or one-on-one.

5 Steps to Make Hiring Easier

Hiring the right people is critical for any organization, whether it’s a small business or a Fortune 500 company. Here are 5 steps to help you find great employees for your team and engage freelancers for key projects, so you can grow your business.

1. Pinpoint What You Need

You’ll need to do some prep work before you can start recruiting. Take stock of your company: What are the goals for your business? What do you need now? What will you need in the near-term to grow it? If you’re a business owner, you simply can’t do it all. Think about what you do best and identify key areas you’re not as knowledgeable in that you can hire others to handle. For example, if building an app is a priority for your business and you’re not a developer, you might want to start there.

2. Identify Who You Need

Once you’ve determined the work you need help with, it’s time to figure out the type of person who can help. What is the role? What are the skills that are needed? Is it just one role or many? You’ll want to find someone with a specific skillset based on the specific tasks you need done. For example, do you need someone to answer the phone and respond to customer emails? Then you should hire a customer support pro with a friendly, patient demeanor. Don’t expect one person to be able to do everything from customer support to marketing to accounting to web development. If you do, hire them right away because they’re superhuman!

3. Consider the Role

After you’ve figured out the projects and skills needed, think about whether it’s a full-time, long-term, or project-based role. Will the work be ongoing? Does it need to be done onsite? If you have an e-commerce site, for example, you’ll probably need someone in-house to help you pack and ship orders. While many roles require an employee, there are many types of projects that a freelancer can accomplish. Does your company need a logo? You can hire a freelance designer. Do you need someone to write content for your blog? A freelance writer can help with this.

4. Write a Great Job Description

Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can take steps to find the right person. Start by creating a thorough and detailed job description. Go into detail about the responsibilities, duties, skills, and requirements. If it’s a freelance project, create a contract that specifies what deliverables are needed and what the timing for the project will be.

5. Attract Top Candidates

Once you’ve crafted the job description, you can start attracting talent and getting the word out to as many people as possible. Your first stop should be your own network. Ask friends, family, and current and former colleagues if they know anyone. Go to industry events and get-togethers. Networking is the best way to find great talent. You should also post the position on your company website, job sites, and your social media accounts.

Follow these 5 steps and you’re sure to find the right person—or people—you need to take your business to the next level.

How to Succeed in Silicon Valley and Beyond

Grow Your Business

Venture capital funding and startup valuations are at an all-time high. To say business is booming is an understatement. If you’re thinking about starting a business or moving your company forward, now is a great time. Here are three key areas to focus on to take your business to the next level.

Lay the Foundation

Whether you want to attract initial funding or recruit top talent, a solid business plan is an essential part of any business—large or small. It serves as the roadmap for your company to help inform your decisions and ensure you stay on track along the way. Creating a business plan will help you define your company, understand the market you’re competing in, establish what differentiates you, identify your customer base, set objectives, and define how you’ll achieve them. The U.S. Small Business Administration site has step-by-step guides on how to create a winning business plan.

Hire the Right People

Finding the right people to help you build your business is important no matter if you’re looking for your first hire or your fiftieth. Before you even consider writing a job description, take a moment to identify your own strengths. It will enable you to figure out the key areas where you’ll need help and where you can best focus your own energy. For example, if you’re a sales and marketing pro, you might want to bring in someone with tech expertise to build your website or develop your product. You don’t need to be an expert in everything; there are many tasks you can easily delegate to other people who are. When it comes to legal or accounting matters, you’ll definitely want to seek out help from an expert. Learn more about how to hire your first employees in this article from The Wall Street Journal.

Pace Yourself

It’s great to be ambitious, but that doesn’t mean you need to set out to be a multimillion-dollar company in your first year of operation. Setting realistic business goals will be much more beneficial—and achievable—in the long run. Make your goals specific (e.g., increase revenue by 5% this quarter) rather than vague (e.g., selling more product). When you consider your business and the direction you want to take it in, goals can help ensure you get where you want to go and you get there at a sustainable pace.

By taking the time to create a solid business plan, find great people, and set attainable goals, you’ll be in the perfect position to move your business to the next stage—and achieve even greater success.

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