There are many daunting tasks when starting and running a small business. You have to focus on getting the word out there, ensure that your product is top notch, and maybe you even have to have a storefront. Sure, this all takes a great amount of time; but then there’s behind the scenes. Staffing may be one of your earliest priorities, along with other issues, such as web design, cash flow, overhead, and payroll. Nonetheless, you may find that one of the trickiest tasks to accomplish is finding the software that can not only help you tackle all of these issues, but can keep you running down the line and actually grow with your company.
So what do you need to look for? There are so many new apps these days, particularly those targeted to small business owners like you, that it would be impossible for us to recommend the right one. You may find that compartmentalizing works for you, with an app for HR and a separate program for accounting. Or perhaps more of an all in one business management software is right for your company. Whichever way you choose to go, it’s important to have sort of a roadmap to make sure all of your bases are covered. So we’ve thought of a few things that we think are most important when picking out the software that’s right for you and your company.
Whichever way you choose to go, whether you are rooting for all-in-one software or you prefer to separate your tasks, the first thing to do is analyze your specific needs. We can’t stress enough: needs not wants. There is a place for those fun apps that you’ve heard about and there is certainly a place for the unnecessary, but intriguing ones – we just aren’t there yet. Most important are the absolute necessities, and most of them we have already listed above: accounting, staffing, payroll, marketing, product development, web design, and general organization and management. It’s imperative to really take some time and break these down for your specific company.
Look ahead to where you want to be in, say, 90 days. How do you want everything to be running? Does your product need more workshopping, and do you see a software helping you map it out? Marketing is, of course, crucial right off the bat, so who is taking care of marketing? In this day and age, you likely need to have great concern with web design and your online presence. Whether or not there is someone whose sole task is getting the word out, there likely needs to be software in place to ensure that the job is getting done and lines of communication are open. Do you have a staff so far, and how are you paying them? How are you keeping track of time put in? Accounting and management will prove to be some of the cornerstones in this decision-making process.
So what's the best accounting software for small business? Well, we’re not here to recommend any names to you, because only you know your specific needs. Just like marketing, maybe there is a person whose sole task is to keep track of cash flow and be your own accountant – but as any person in charge, don’t just settle for assuming everything is in order. You want to make sure that you get something that everyone understands, and further, that will keep everyone on the same page for the finance side of things. Here, just like everywhere else, communication and open understanding are key. After finding a bank account you can trust and secure the small business loan if needed, use software that will help you develop and integrate bookkeeping and payroll systems. It ideally will be linked to whatever way your company accepts money from consumers. It always helps to read reviews! You can always search tech review pages for “best accounting software for very small business” or “most integrated app for accounting;” the trick is to find a review where the writer describes a business scenario similar to yours.
Alongside accounting, management is one of the most important tasks that your software must help you with. But unlike accounting, this varies greatly from each and every business, especially with startups today. Maybe your management is simply making sure everyone gets their writing done on time, or maybe you have to do something a little different, like schedule a rotation of workers to view the changing time of the sunrise every day. Again, we don’t know your business. One thing we do know is the great power of sitting down and making a list. Get everyone together and figure out what you want your software to do for you, and how it can help you get everyone on the same page each and every day. There is no “best business management software for small business,” but that phrase is another great place to start checking out those tech review sites.
Circling back to marketing and web design, we know that these are going to fall under the needs column for just about every small business today. While it is crucial to get the word out about the company and have a usable website along with a solid online presence, some of the gimmicks can, in fact, wait until a bit later on. Find software that allows you to communicate with your consumers and really let people know what you do. You’ll likely find that your wants and needs under the marketing and web design will have to be subcategorized for your unique company.
Hopefully, we’re not sounding like a blank record on the communication issue, but this aspect should certainly fall into the list, not to mention should be used when making the list. Whether or not you choose all-in-one software or separate apps, if you have a team, you need some sort of platform for communication. Group messaging, video chatting, and sending presentations, mockups, or quick ideas can all be done on a smartphone these days – take advantage of it! Most of these features are free or near free.
One thing that every company has in common is that they are trying to reach a goal. This must be a priority when searching for management software. When you’re putting the list together of everything that needs to be managed, all of the odds and ends for your specific small business, don’t forget that there will be long-term and short-term goals. Absolutely ensure that the software you choose is one that will help you keep track of these.
Here is the part where we get to talk about your wants. All we can say is, of course, these can be even more specific to your company. If your small business is targeted to pest removal, then your dream software probably has some way to integrate with Google Reviews or Yelp! to find those bug-ridden motels. Or maybe your dream app would give you access to marketing tips that you don’t necessarily need now, but maybe down the road. These have to go on the wants list and yes, they should be in some sort of order.
Once you have your list compiled, you and your team have a good idea of wants vs. needs, and the order you will prioritize – but only wants should be prioritized, don’t skimp on any of your needs! Now, start researching. Look at those online lists of best software for small business owners and get a sense of what’s out there. See what each has to offer. Of course, it can’t hurt to make a chart if that’s your style, noting which programs check off each aspect of your list. If you can find one, great software that’s everything that you need then that’s perfect, but if not, look for a few that can perhaps be integrated within a master program.
If you’re not the list and chart making type, we won’t be offended – but you may want to skip this next part, because we are about to recommend a pro and con list. Yes, a pro and con list. At least we didn’t say Venn diagram (but if you find it helps, then go for it). Once you have seen what’s out there and looked into your favorites further, you should have a good idea of your top selections. If you think you have found an all-in-one software is heading up against a few applications that can be integrated, make a pro and con list. If you want to get really detailed, make the pro and con lists for each app or software, and then make another list to help bring to light what you like and dislike about each combination.
Within that pro and con list, surely price will be a huge factor. Understand what your budget is, but don’t pinch pennies any more than you really have to. Set a long-term plan and budget, and look at how you may grow as a company and possibly add on some of those wants down the road. Hopefully, you are choosing software that will assist you with these budgeting decisions next time.
There’s a great community out there of tech users – ask for help. Ask questions to other users of software you are considering. Particularly, if there was a review that you found helpful, don’t be afraid to ask for some more details on the topic. This great age of technology that we live in opens so many doors to have our questions answered, and there are many ways to find help. Use it! Even ask other small businesses what kind of software they use. Maybe don’t ask your competitors, but look around and see what types of business models use which apps or what software. Find out what they like about what they have in place, or what they would maybe change. Always ask if there is anything they’ve used in the past and absolutely hated. Last, don’t forget to take all of this information with the slightest grain of salt because, after all, their business is not exactly your business.
If you haven’t gotten the rest of your staff on board so far, shame. Hopefully, everyone has at least been able to throw their two cents into the decision process, even if you are the final decider. If this has been a sole decision-making process, now is the time to get everyone together and discuss how each part of the company will have its needs met. Even if you are the only person because your company is in its early stages, talk to some people that work in the area you might consider hiring. For example, maybe you’ll need an accountant in a few months. Talk to an accountant and get his or her input on what you’re looking at, even if this isn’t the person you plan to hire. Overall, at this stage, you should have your whole staff on board with what you’ve decided and each one of them is ready to move forward with the purchase.
Many of you will think, just like us, that here is the fun part. You’ve got your new toys – your software – and are ready to get everything set up. Most apps these days have self-customizing features that cater to you over time, but you want to get everything in place as much as you possibly can. It’s a nice, rewarding feeling putting your business name into everything – even if it is just the slightest bit tedious. Integrate all your platforms as much as you are able to, or, if you went with the all-in-one, make sure all of its features are functioning properly together.
Once you and your staff members are up and running, make sure that the individuals on staff are linked up with each other. You will probably find that there are more things you wish to add on over time, but the hard part, at this point, will be finished. Just remember the important things for this process are communication and research.