The sheer number of new apps and tools to help manage your business can feel overwhelming – especially for those of us who aren’t “digital natives.” It’s important to think through what you are going to really need before you start researching what is available, so you aren’t distracted by all of the “shiny objects” you’ll likely discover. Think about what you, as an encore entrepreneur, can simply put into place to support the smooth operation of your new business.
There are several key tracking and customer retention needs you’ll have as you get started, and it is great to choose a solution that is straight forward and can support those needs. Check out the list below for my favorites and suggestions:
Scheduling Appointments: It is important to have an easy to use scheduling tool like Acuity. It has an intake form capability for prospective clients to complete as they schedule appointments, and it is easy to use. There is another provider called Calendly, which is also easy to use and quite popular.
Payment: There are quite a few options out there for getting paid. Paypal is easy to use and well known. So is Square. It is a device that attaches to your Smartphone and allows you to swipe credit cards on the spot. Both options have email invoicing and report generating features.
Email Campaigns: There are some great systems out there that allow you to collect and track email addresses, segment your email groups, and generate automated campaigns like regular newsletters. Probably the most popular and easy for beginners to use are: Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Active Campaign.
General Office, Document, Presentation, and Report Generation: Microsoft Office is still the most popular suite of tools. If you are coming from a corporate environment you have probably worked with all of them. Plus Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are pretty straightforward.
Accounting software: Some businesses may have special industry-specific accounting needs. For a simple to use, get started solution, I believe that QuickBooks is the best.
Business phone: Many people run their business from their cell phone. If you would like a separate phone number, different from your personal one, you can set up a business phone number through google voice and it will forward to your personal phone.
Conference calling and conferencing capabilities: Freeconferencecall.com is easy to use and allows you schedule conference calls – free of charge – with multiple attendees. I like Zoom.us for webinars and group calls. There are many webinar options available but it is important for you to choose one that is simple and manageable for you.
These are just a few suggestions for tools that I have found particularly helpful as I started my business. Finding good foundational options that are reliable and can grow as your company grows is critical. I hope these ideas are helpful as you are setting up your business!