Tools for Small Business

This site wouldn't be complete without a list technologies.

I use every one of these in my business.  

 

Note that this list is weighted toward inexpensive or free software with broad applicability.  There are, of course, many industry specific or highly advanced (and expensive) additional tools. 

 

But these are the tools you can test quickly, and could be game-changers for very little marginal cost. 

 
Notion_app_logo.png

Note taking app on steroids

 

Notion is my "killer app".

 

I run huge swaths of my life and my business in Notion and its replaced near a dozen tools I previously used.

So what is Notion?

 

Its a cross between a note taking app (like Evernote), a wiki, and a project management app (like Trello).

It also brings together features from Medium, Slack, and Microsoft Word.

Honestly, Notion is one of a kind. Here are some of the things my team and I track in it:

  • OKRs

  • Project List

  • Task List (tasks connected to projects)

  • Internal documentation

  • Documentation for clients

  • Light weight CRM

I plan to write a full length essay on how my team and I use it, and how helpful it can be. Stay tuned, or sign up for the newlsetter here.

airtable%20logo%202_edited.jpg

Excel + Database + Web

 

My wife tells this story about once a month. 

I first ran across Airtable on a Sunday evening around 10PM back in 2018. I realized instantly how powerful it was going to be. That night, I was so excited I tossed and turned, and dreamt of spreadsheets. 

 

I got up at 4 am and started building.

You can think of Airtbable as a hybrid of a spreadsheet (Excel or Google Sheets) and a full blown database.

It makes storing and viewing related data easier than databases but more structured than a spreadsheet. It’s collaborative, and hosted in the cloud. And the add-on features are incredible - maps, charts, sending out text messages or emails, etc in seconds.

I've built dozens of applications in Airtable.  They rarely take more than an hour spin up.

Here are a few examples of things I’ve built:

  • Light weight CRMs

  • Customer pricing calculators

  • Work Order Systems

  • Payroll hours tracking system

  • Project priority list

 
Slack logo.jpg

Replace internal email

 

Slack is the gold standard of business messaging applications.

Microsoft Teams is an attempt to clone much of the functionality, but nothing can beat Slack.

What makes Slack so great?

Two things.

First, in Slack, you put messages into designated "channels" rather than infinite email chains.  This small function is like a superpower when a team first starts using it.

 

Setting up your channels is key. Too granular and you get lost. Too broad and the conversations lacks focus.

Second, the number of features and quick-commands that Slack has built in. I can start a virtual meeting, send a GIF, attach a file, or alert a new person within a conversation, each with 2 to 4 keys stokes. 

 
Loom logo.png

Asynchronous video communication

 

Loom is the missing piece of the puzzle for communication.

When you have more to say than an email can handle, but too little for a meeting, Loom is perfect.

 

It’s is a video recording application streamlined to make recording, sending, and viewing videos smoother than a phone call, email, or meeting.

Open the application, hit record, and it is recording your voice and video, as well as your computer screen. When you hit "Stop", you automatically get a web link to the video. Pop the link into an email, send it to your boss, employee, or brother and they're be seeing your screen and hearing your voice in 30 seconds.

I use Loom constantly to roll out products to my clients and ask questions of my employees.

Loom is like Zoom for asynchronous communication.

 
Google Docs Logo.jpg

Just better

 

Google Sheets = Microsoft Excel

Google Docs = Microsoft Word

Google Slides = Microsoft PowerPoint

With the exception of advanced Excel functionality, these tools beat the Microsoft versions every time.

  • They are web based: you never lose anything.

  • They are collaborative: multiple people can edit simultaneously and you can see one another actively typing.

And before you point out that Microsoft has these features in their web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint know that my argument is that these Google products just work better.

 

 
Google Drive Logo.png

Cloud file storage

 

There is no excuse for losing any files when a semi-truck runs over your laptop.

Dropbox, Google Drive, and other systems can be set up to automatically back up your files.

 

Everyone should use one of them, and my suggested top choice is Google Drive. Its super easy to use and I have found it to be more reliable than the competitors.

No matter how you accomplish it, never have files saved to just your computer. 

 

 
Scannable Logo.png

A scanner in your pocket

Scanners are so 1999. Or was that fax machines?

Scannable lets you set a document on your desk, hold your phone over it, and get a perfect PDF.

 

Email it or save it.

Never send a crappy photo of a document again. We’re all tired of getting them. See the comparison images below.  They take the same time to create once you download Scannable. 

Picture

Scannable

 
1Password Logo.png

 

Bad password: Jimmy2019

Good password: 4*Q8qt9?(yo3

We all know this.

Oh, and every password needs to be totally distinct.

 

At last audit, I have 140 accounts needing passwords. Even if you only had 20, memorizing secure passwords would be impossible.

1Password converts password guidelines from that crazy thing your tech guy says to a very doable reality.

I have exactly 1 password memorized ... the password to my 1Password "vault". I have no idea what my other passwords are. When I need to log in to an application, I open 1Password, look up the account, copy out the password, and paste it in. I never even see the password itself.

1Password (or one of its competitors) is the single most important tool to protect yourself, your employees, and your business on the internet.

Secure passwords without thinking

 

Don't waste time coordinating schedules

 

Calendly is a game-changer for anyone that needs to set up lots of one-on-one meetings (salespeople, managers, etc).

Send a link to a contact and let them choose a slot on your calendar to for a meeting.  Simple. 

If you're interested in how my company can help use your data, for instance, you can use this link to schedule a quick call with me.

 

The contact can't see what's on your calendar, just your availability. And you can tell Calendly that you never want meetings between 8am and 11am on Tuesdays, even if you're available.

Using Calendly eliminates the "When are you available" email chains for one-on-one meetings.

Unfortunately, for coordinating whole group of people, the emails continue (for now).

 

Video Calls

 

COVID-19 made Zoom a household name. For better or for worse, we’re all familiar with video calls now.

Its worth noting, however, that Zoom really is great. Don't go down the path of Google Meets, GoToMeeting or heaven forbid Microsoft Teams Meetings unless you're already there.

Zoom just works.

 

A whiteboard without an office

 

I used to put a whiteboard in every one of my employee's offices.

 

When I needed to do coaching or teaching, I always had a whiteboard on hand.

Since I manage remotely now, Jamboard accomplishes the same thing for me. I can rapidly sketch out an idea, and keep it accessible to myself, my employees or my clients.

Note: Jamboard works so much better with a tablet (iPad, surface Pro, etc).

 
Excel Logo.png

Spreadsheet Gold Standard

 

While I advocate slowly moving away from Microsoft applications like Teams, Word, and Powerpoint, Excel cannot be beaten.

It’s advanced features aren’t even attempted by Google Sheets or any other competitor. It’s a mainstay, and for good reason.

While momentum and ecosystem keep other Microsoft products in use, Excel needs no dubious defense. Its simply the best stand-alone advanced spreadsheet application.

 

The Wonderland to your Alice

 

If you've made it to the end of this list, presumably you're interested in exploring new tools.

 

Here's the rabbit hole for you.

Product Hunt is a site wholly dedicated to exploring the latest software tools being built by start-ups and established companies alike.

If you're like me, you'll spend half a day diving deep into Product Hunt.

You're welcome.