As the last of the turkey sandwiches are digesting and the sofa is starting to feel like a second home, many peoples thoughts will start to turn to plans for 2018.
Some of those more adventurous minds might be thinking of working for themselves and setting up their own business. If you are one of those people, this article is just for you.
We have worked with hundreds of start-up businesses over the years, and we are often asked what sort of software our clients should be using to run their business, or what kind of services are useful to a startup company. So we decided to do a short round-up of our favourites.
Obviously, not all startups are the same, but for most SME’s the following suggestions will be more than perfect to get you up and running quickly and cost-effectively.
(Note, we are in no way affiliated with any of these solutions, we just think they are great value ‘must haves’ for a startup business).
1. G-Suite for business
G-Suite is Google’s outstanding collection of business apps. If you only pick one off this list, pick this one.
G-Suite runs in the cloud and offers a full range of business applications including Google Docs (just like Microsoft Word), Google Sheets (just like Excel) and Google Slides (just like Powerpoint).
You also get access to Google Drive (online storage for all your business documents) and Google Meet (a video Conferencing Service, similar to Skype or GotoWebinar) and on early release at the time of writing Google Chat (an online collaboration tool).
From only £3.30 per month, you can be up and running immediately and not wasting time trying to install software or set-up complicated DNS and mail settings.
It also does your email, but you don’t need to be restricted to an @gmail.com account. If you have your own domain name, you can use it for your emails as well to give that professional touch.
I love my to-do lists, and I especially love my to-do list apps. I’ve tried 100’s over the years, but I always keep coming back to GQueues. I would go as far as to say it is the perfect app.
GQueues is built on the GTD principles by productivity guru David Allen. It is a very simple but very powerful app that lets you create folders and lists and organise them however you like.
GQueues is also incredibly well integrated into G-Suite and the Chrome Browser, so where ever you have your ideas or think of tasks that need doing, you can dump them into GQueues at the click of a button and organise them later. It also has a very robust mobile app as well.
This integration means you can also start to build some fairly nifty business processes as well. For example, you can set up a folder called ‘new business’, each new business opportunity can be a list item, and each list item can link to a Google Doc which details all your information about the sales lead.
GQueues uses are quite literally infinite, and at less than £20 per year, it’s an absolute bargain.
Again, we love ProsperWorks because it ties in so well with G-Suite. As your business grows, you will very quickly need a way to manage your leads and customers. ProsperWorks is very easy to get started with but contains some very powerful tools making it a better solution than managing your leads on a spreadsheet.
You can set up email templates and send out bulk emailers to all your contacts, automate sales processes and create visible pipelines. It can also store any email dialogue with your leads.
It’s one of the more pricey software options we are recommending, but from less than £20 a month for the entry-level package, it’s a lot less expensive than the majority of its rivals.
As you start to build up your business, you are going to very quickly have to learn about invoicing, cash flow and tax.
QuickBooks is fast becoming the go-to app for small businesses due to its user-friendly interface and ease of getting started. In the UK there is a big push towards ‘making tax digital’ which basically means the Government are trying to move to a real-time tax system based on live accounts rather than submitting once a year.
With QuickBooks, you are well on your way to being compliant (so one less thing to worry about), and you will always have a clear idea of where your business is up to financially.
Prices start very low for the small business (introductory offer of just £6 per month) and can scale up as your business grows.
I wish we had known about MoneyPenny years ago. Basically, they answer your phones for you. While this might sound like nothing special, they are invaluable.
As a startup, you want to be focussing your time on your business. MoneyPenny can shield you from pushy salespeople (they can take up hours of your time if you let them) and will make sure your clients or new business calls are put through to you, wherever you are.
You will also no doubt spend a large amount of your time working, so knowing the phone is going to be answered professionally is worth every single penny when it comes to presenting a professional company image. Nothing screams ‘small business’ than an unanswered phone.
Their prices are based on call volumes and service levels, but if you factor in NOT having to hire a person to sit in your office full time to take your calls and the fact you will never miss a new business call, I think they are a must-have for every business.
Another ‘can’t live without’ for start-up businesses. Virtalent is an outsourcing company who can help with a huge range of admin tasks. As a start-up business owner (especially if you have a young family) you can find the small but essential admin tasks can either eat into your evenings and weekends or simply don’t get done. Virtalent are there to take care of them all for you.
If you have decided to use some or all of the software’s listed above (or any cloud-based systems for that matter) it means your assigned Virtual PA can access them remotely, meaning you have less need for an office. Your PA can input invoices, chase outstanding payments, handle your appointments, manage your email marketing campaigns, pretty much anything.
The great thing about Virtalent is you can start from as little as £240 per month AND any unused time rolls over into the following month. They do their best to be efficient (our accounts inbox is a thing of organisational beauty since our PA got hold of it) and you can see how much time they have used with a handy online portal.
You can also turn the service on and off whenever you like making it a far more cost-effective solution than hiring full-time staff until you have enough work to keep them busy.
If you sell your time or a combination of time and goods (i.e. a solicitor or a builder), then WorkflowMax is another great online tool.
I’m not going to lie to you, it is neither pretty or intuitive to get started, BUT it is worth putting the effort in.
WorkflowMax allows you to store customer and lead contact details, set up quotes and estimates, send them via email to your potential customer and convert them to a job once approved.
You can then track progress on the job, log time and expenses then generate either a final invoice or percentage invoices at various stages of the project.
It’s got a low-cost entry price of only £15 a month for a single user and will help keep your projects on track and profitable.
There are literally thousands of online business software solutions and service providers, these are our favourites but let us know if you have any you particularly like, or any we might have forgotten about.