Small businesses are integral to the global economy and far outnumber their enterprise-sized counterparts.
There are a remarkable 30.7 million small businesses in the US, defined as businesses with under 500 employees by the Small Business Administration (SBA). These make up 99.9% of all businesses in the US. Defining small businesses as under 500 employees sets the bar pretty high, but there are still some 3.7 million microbusinesses in the US, defined as businesses with 1 to 9 employees.
All small businesses have to start somewhere and many of the world’s largest businesses expanded from the humblest of origins – Amazon started in a garage, Apple was formed in Steve Jobs’ Mum’s garage in Cupertino, California and the first Harley Davidson was built in a shed.
Aside from their business ideas, the entrepreneurs behind these businesses were adept at using the tools and resources that they had available.
The point is, you can’t build a successful business without the right tools, but with the right tools, you can build a successful business anywhere, even in a shed or garage.
Here are 5 essential tools for small businesses:
A recent survey of failed start-up founders discovered that some 50% of them didn’t have a proper budget in place.
It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of proper financial planning when you’re starting out as a small business, but establishing a budget and accounting strategy is crucial.
One major barrier to professional accounting for startups is the cost, but accounting software has lowered that barrier. Accounting software is all the rage right now and businesses all over the world are migrating their accounting systems to platforms like Xero, Quickbooks, and Sage Accounting.
With low monthly costs and a vast range of tools and resources targeted specifically at small businesses, like receipt scanning, month-to-month budgeting, and financial reporting, accounting software is well worth selecting early on in your start-up journey.
The success of SaaS accounting platforms is matched by the success of SaaS productivity, scheduling and team management platforms. The big names here include ClickUp, Jira, Monday, Trello, Asana, Wrike, and Notion.
These sorts of tools are useful regardless of whether you’re managing a small team or are working entirely by yourself. You can set deadlines, schedule tasks, track time and progress and use automated features to augment your workflow.
Given that well over half of the world’s population use social media, maintaining a social media presence has become essential for business. The issue is, posting to each platform is very time-consuming.
Social media management tools have been around for a while, but they’ve become more sophisticated in recent years, allowing users to schedule posts, create carousels of evergreen content and even automate comments and reactions. Whilst social media does require some level of personal attention and input, social media management tools can still save hours of work every week or month.
Some of the main contenders here are Hootsuite, Sendible, Sprout Social, Social Bee and Buffer. There are some niche offerings too, like Tailwind that works wonders for Pinterest users.
Some CRMs like Hubspot have social media tools built-in, as do some SEO tools, namely SEMRush who have a solid social media management tool.
Customer relationship management is pivotal to scaling and growth as a small business. Whilst CRMs traditionally yield maximum benefits in B2B spaces, they’re also useful for B2C, though it would perhaps be wise to compare CRMs to customer data platforms (CDPs) if your business has a lot of customers.
The main purpose of a CRM is to manage leads and customers. They allow businesses to schedule emails to nurture leads, log deals and organize their sales funnels. Some CRMs like Pipedrive, Nimble and Agile CRM have prospecting tools that help businesses scrape web data for contact details.
Automated workflows are achievable at every level of business. One excellent example of a time-saving automation tool is Zapier.
In a world full of SaaS apps and platforms, Zapier was a real saviour when it hit the market some 10 years ago.
Zapier is a connectivity and automation tool that enables apps and platforms to talk to each other and share data. For example, with Zapier, an attachment received on Gmail could be automatically downloaded to Dropbox whilst a notification is sent to Slack and the conversation logged to a CRM.
Summary: Small Business Toolkit: Top 5 Tools
Whilst all of these tools live in the digital domain, they’re helpful for all businesses from small brick-and-mortar stores, food vans and B2B agencies to eCommerce stores, suppliers and freelancers.
It’s worth noting that the costs of using most of these platforms are low for small businesses or ‘microbusinesses’ with 1 to 9 team members, or are even totally free (e.g. Notion, Buffer, and Zapier all have free versions; Quickbooks’ basic plan is just $12/mo).