October 30, 2014

7 Best Business Management Tools for SMBs

You run a small business. That means you’re wearing far too many hats during the day to be inefficient. You need to be able to switch from accountant to project manager to CEO as seamlessly as possible and you need to set yourself up with the tools that can best help you do that.

Unfortunately, most small business owners don’t have the time to shop around for the best solution. They just need to know what works. Below are several tools that we use at Outspoken Media, my recently formed small business, to help make sense of our day. Each tool was recommended to us by other small business owners through word of mouth, their own blog posts or Twitter. Of course, if you have something you absolutely love, please leave it in the comments!

Things

I know, it sounds funny, but this is as great desktop task management application for those of you who are (sadly) Mac dependent. It allows you to schedule tasks and projects, assign tags and people, and most importantly, attach files to a task by simply dragging and dropping an email, text document, spreadsheet, etc. Things syncs with iCal and the iPhone. This is a one-time purchase and you can add-on other users within your household, so it really is a personal task management solution.

Remember The Milk

If you’re not using a Mac (and God bless you), then I very much recommend Remember the Milk as your task management tool of choice. RTM is similar to the Mac’s Things, allowing you to schedule tasks or projects and then assign people, tags, locations, notes and a priority to them. One feature I like is that you can designate other RTM users as contacts to make it easy to set up groups, share to-do items, etc, which means its great for group collaboration. And if you sometimes forget what you put on your To Do list, they’ll notify you via iCal, GTalk, AIM, MSN, Yahoo IM, Skype, email, RSS, Twitter, text message and probably even carrier pigeon if you asked nicely. If you opt for the $25/year PRO account, you’ll also be able to synch RTM with your Blackberry or iPhone.

Basecamp

One of the leading project management solutions, Basecamp is a Web-based app for small business owners. We use it to keep track of internal projects, assign tasks to contractors, share files and track time. They have a monthly fee that varies depending on how many projects, the amount storage and level of security you need. Most importantly, it has an API that integrates with a number of other small business management tools.

RescueTime

This is a new addition for me, but it’s quickly become invaluable. RescueTime is a time tracking solution that you can use simply to monitor your own time or everyone in the company. When you see how much time you’ve wasted in a particular area, your productivity will likely climb purely from the shame of it. The best part of RescueTime is that it’s free, incredibly versatile (you can choose to ignore certain sites or only track certain hours of the day), captures absolutely everything and has a number of widgets and hacks that make it even more robust. For a minimal monthly fee you can track specific documents, not just program usage and get enhanced filtering options.

Freshbooks

If you need a quick and easy way to do online invoicing and expense tracking, Freshbooks is the best Web-based app for the job. They don’t do full-scale accounting, but if you’re a small business or contractor, you can keep track of your contacts, estimates, invoices, expenses and time. You can also customize the design of your documents and send them to your contacts directly from the site. Similar to Basecamp, Freshbooks integrates with a number of other apps, mostly accounting apps, which makes your life easier. It also offers a sliding monthly fee based on the number of clients and users.

Less Accounting

If you need user-friendly small business accounting software, Less Accounting is one of the more robust solutions. A secure Web-based app, you can import contacts and bank accounts, track your mileage, track business expenses and share access with your accountant for simple tax preparation.

Smart Phones

No, really. Working a smart phone into your life will make you and your business far more efficient. If it feels like an invasion into your daily life, I understand. Still, get one. The ability to quickly respond to emails, keep track of your tasks, communicate with employees via chat services and more makes it the most used tool in our small business. We couldn’t function at the level we do without it. Whether you prefer the Blackberry, iPhone or another solution, there’s a plan and a phone that fits your needs. Not that you asked but we’re Team Blackberry. ;)

37 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

37 Reactions

  1. I’m with you on the Blackberry. I just recently got one and I can’t ever seem to put it down. No matter where I am, I still have access to all of my needs.

  2. Thanks for the info! I am mac dependent! Never heard of things though so I’ll have to check it out.

  3. On the path of getting an iPhone especially since it has a Skype app. RTM and Freshbooks are great sites. I will have to take a look at RescueTime.

  4. Sam – I have a Blackberry, but use the Skype app, too. It’s phenomenal. My conversations can quickly transition from the road to the office. I’ve never used the video feature, just chat, but it’s how we run our company and I keep it clean of other contacts, so it’s the best IM solution.

  5. Quickbooks online also offers a free version (with up to 20 customers) if you are more familiar with their stuff.

  6. Lisa,

    I wrote about Remember The Milk about a year ago. http://egoist.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-want-sandy-to-remember-milk-and.html I have recently purchased a great tool… a pen! ;) It is a digital pen with a recording device. You take down your notes on a special “dotted” paper. You could learn more about this amazing Pulse Smartpen by Livescribe in my post, Share Pencast. (Click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says: if you are interested to watch a pencast clip.)

    In my next upcoming post, I will write about a “structure” course influenced by the “getting things done” methodology that I attended on Monday. It will be my kick-off for my future focus on my workflow.

  7. Hi Lisa, nice list!

    Personally I am a QuickBooks fan when it comes to accounting. There is a free version of QB, too, called Simple Start.

    Rescue Time sounds like something I should be using — I need my time rescued!!!

    — Anita

  8. Anita,

    I installed Rescue Time after I heard Jonathan Fields mentioned it in a podcast interview.

    I will test another program from the folks that have created GTDinbox (“getting things done” application”) for Gmail. It is an extension application to the Firefox browser called MeeTimer.

    http://meetimer.productivefirefox.com/

  9. Lisa,

    How many apps did you look at? I have seen so many task management tools out there, I was just wondering how many you evaluated. Also, do you have a recommendation for the iPhone?

  10. Hi Lisa
    I’m eager to check out Rescue Time. Sounds great. I’ve used Basecamp and a few others. A simpler project management tool that I’ve been using with a client lately is called http://wwww.Smartsheet.com — you might want to look at it. At first glance, its a spreadsheet, but it is far more collaborative than that. Worth a look. We switched from Google Docs to Smartsheet simply due to the robust options within it.

    I had RTM tied to my Gmail and it was terrific, but then I simply got smarter with filters and labels with Gmail and let it sync direct to my bberry.
    Thanks!

  11. Hi Lisa,

    I agree with the Smart Phones. These small yet powerful devices has really helped us a lot to stay connected especially if we have something to do very important out of the office.

    I’m surprised with the other stuff you mentioned above. Thanks for sharing that to us. We might as well give it a try.

    Btw, our team is Skype fanatics. It’s our no.1 IM tool. ;)

  12. Thanks for sharing these tools Lisa! I will definitely check them out.

  13. Does anyone have suggestions for complete free alternatives? I was checking out base camp and it seems somewhat expensive considering there are many free alternatives. However, the free alternatives I’ve tried have so far been disappointing.

  14. Great list of resources.

    For web-based project management, we use ClientSpot (http://www.myclientspot.com). Similar to Basecamp, with the addition of customizable databases so we can track client contacts, social media website details, etc.

    And I’m an iPhone fanatic for sure :-)

  15. You may want to take a look at JobTraQ. Task management with a powerful workflow engine.

  16. I find some other tools to be very helpful in our small cleaning business. We’re on the phone a lot, and anything that can off-load our phone time (particularly for repetitive tasks is great).

    We use VoiceBlaze to make courtesy calls to our customers and for follow-up calls to make sure they are satisifed. Each day our schedule is uploaded to VoiceBlaze and the calls go out as scheduled. There is an option for the customer to press a button and connect directly to one of our customer service people.

    We use MailChimp to do the same thing for people that prefer to communicate by email. MailChimp is also used to communicate estimates and to follow-up with prospective customers.

    We average about four hours per day in saved time doing this and the calls and emails always go out as scheduled. The monthly costs are trivial compared with the savings.

    These two tools allow us to focus on those communications that are not repetitive and do them in person or live over the phone.

  17. Take a look at this tool.

    http://www.onthesystem.com/collaborate

    It’s a totally better way to manage a business, department, process or team.

  18. Time59 does time and expense tracking, online invoicing and has true accounts receivable. It’s aimed at solo professionals and is priced at $49.95 per year for unlimited use. A new feature is Trust Accounting for lawyers.

  19. Hi Lisa,
    I am using Blackberry. I use http://www.deskaway.com for managing projects & collaborating, its an awesome tool. Also use freshbooks for invoicing & stuff. Need to check out Rescue Time.

  20. I want to do businss management in sunday batche i have done 12 so what i do? can i do this course
    & please tell me management releted course please help me &inform to me

  21. Hi there all,

    A new web based manage tools system is up,
    and its totally FREE…

    A few BETA’s left

  22. Hi. There’s a great CRM project management software called Worketc that I’ve been using to handle all my project needs, including time tracking, automatic billing and team management. Works great for my small business.

  23. Hardtree.com Great Tool

    If you want the all the features above in one solution try Hardtree, http://www.hardtree.com which has Project Management, Sales CRM, Service Support and really handy integration with Google and Facebook.

    We’ve been using it for a while now and it’s definitely worth checking out.

  24. Nice article!
    There is a real need for small business to keep track of their financials and to manage their resources. The current world crisis makes it even more important.

  25. Nice article! Business management can also be done by tools like trello, asana and proofhub. These tools are very useful for online meetings, sharing thoughts and getting work done.

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