If you have ever managed a startup business, the experience is likely emblazoned in your memory. While first hand accounts vary widely, some things are relatively common among startup owners:
You might constantly feel as though you are playing catchup to your competitors. You might work so many hours that you intentionally stopped counting (no one really needs to see that number). Your family might be working for you by proxy. You are definitely exhausted.
Startup business owners these days have resources that, even 10 years ago, would have been a pipe-dream for entrepreneurs. Not only do we have a bountiful resource in the Internet, but we have powerful computers and smartphones with apps that can save us time, energy, and precious (at times few and far between) dollars.
Living your dream is harder than it looks. It seems so easy when we look at the Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world, but the grind that you endure to get your startup off the ground can be pretty intense at times. Even if you’ve researched yourself sick, spearheading a startup business is a constant challenge.
Here at Proto.io, we remember those startup days quite well and we want to help you get through them. We’ve looked into some of the best apps for startups – and why you need to download them yesterday.
For Project Management
It’s easy for any business, regardless of size, to skimp on project management. Even though everyone completes their own individual tasks, it’s important to see how our job fits into the big picture. These apps will keep your teammates up to date and your eyes on the prize.
• Trello – Startups present interesting challenges for business owners – job descriptions are fluid, everyone pitches in to fulfill orders on time, and people wear a lot of hats. Zach Cusimano, COO at Bizness Apps (@BiznessApps), uses it “daily for project management, adding new ‘cards’ for projects, customizing the workflow, adding action item checklists, etc.” He adds that “the collaborative capabilities make cross-departmental work seamlessly.”
One of the best features of Trello is the price: it’s free. If you start using Trello and find that your business is outgrowing the free version, they do have (affordable) paid options as well. As far as apps for startups go, users are sure to get a lot of bang for their hypothetical buck.
• Toggl – Featured in major publications for its assistance in keeping people productive, Toggl serves two major purposes: logging work hours and project management. Each employee gets his or her own login, which ties back to one “workspace.” The employee can choose a client and a project from a dropdown menu, as well as manually enter the task that he is working on at that moment.
This allows you, the owner, to see how many hours your employees spend on respective projects. Perhaps some projects aren’t taking as long as you expected, while others are costing your team members hours each week. If a change needs to be made, Toggl can provide the information you need to make a decision with confidence.
For Relationship Management
Small business owners may feel as though customer (or client) relationship management tools are out of their price range. After all, is relationship management really something you can afford to spend cash on when you’re grinding through the week just trying to get a prototype out the door? While the prices of CRM systems vary widely, the apps in this list are doable for any startup business.
• flok – Best described as a “customer engagement and loyalty app for businesses,” flok is providing a streamlined CRM system without the huge pricetag. Flok has a variety of helpful features, such as a “newsfeed”-style home screen, the ability to message customers who are nearby and intercept negative reviews before they hit social media, and our favorite feature: the digital punch card rewards system.
Much like the plastic frequent shopper tags that have taken over our keychains, no one wants a stack of paper punch cards in her wallet anymore. We forget we have the card, or we left it at home, causing us to miss that coveted punch. Turning your rewards system digital is a simple way to make yourself stand out as a startup business.
• Online Sales Pro – This app has a bit to offer including web design, contact management, and social media training. Brian Klock, Founder of Financial Freedom Creator (@freedomcreator_), finds it especially useful for generating and tracking leads. Combined with social media management and an organized schedule, he feels that this is a game changer for his overall productivity.
For Social Media Management
It seems as though a new social media platform is being created every single week. At first, your startup business only needed a Facebook account, but then Twitter came along. Then Instagram. And now Snapchat is begging for attention. There is no reason to feel ashamed if you need a bit of help. These apps can help:
• Buffer – Most businesses are juggling multiple social media accounts at once. Among the five accounts you use daily, you could be copying and pasting yourself into confusion in no time while trying to figure out how to shorten URLs for Twitter (and then having to do the same for Instagram).
According to Kevin Conseil from Salestools.io (@Salestoolsio), “Buffer will offer you a very easy/customer friendly solution to manage, schedule, share and optimize your posts on various social media websites.” Conseil uses Buffer everyday and he believes that it saves his staff loads of time.
• Canva – When your dream is still in the startup business stage, hiring a graphic designer might seem to be a luxury you can’t get afford. Canva, on the other hand, can often do many of the tasks a dedicated graphic designer could do without the need to hire another person for your team.
Canva has a number of templates on their website that offer a good starting point or you can start from scratch. They even offer a “design school” section to show you how to create compelling images to draw the customer’s eye.
For Open Lines of Communication
We cannot stress this enough: communication in a startup business is crucial. Because so few people are involved, it might not feel as though open lines of communication will be a problem; however, it is easy for each of us to get siloed into our own microcosm. These apps will make sure your employees can reach you when they need to – and vice versa:
• Slack – Frequent communication is imperative in any startup business, but inboxes get flooded so quickly with internal emails, it can be easy to miss the external messages from customers. One way to circumvent this is to use something like Slack, a messaging app that allows you to create an unlimited number of specific channels to address your whole team, or just certain portions of the group (development, design, etc).
Manick Bhan, CEO, CTO, and founder of the startup Rukkus (@JoinTheRukkus), says that Slack is the “best system for team communication and transparency.” Less messages in your inbox means less clutter, which leads to higher productivity for you and your team. As far as apps for startups go, Slack is a tool that your team absolutely needs (if it’s not already using it!).
• Skype – Skype has long sense been a staple of the startup. It is a versatile tool for any business – some use it for overseas calls to save money on phone bills, while others use it as a chat medium. You can even share your screen with whoever you are connected to, which will allow you to walk a client through a new design or demonstrate something to a remote worker. The bottom line: it is simple to use, reliable, and free.
• React Mobile Safety App – A large number of startup businesses are service-oriented. Whether that means painting, pest control, or roof repair, you and your employees are going into people’s homes. The React Mobile safety app pairs with a wearable panic button, called The React Sidekick, via LE Bluetooth. With a single click of the Sidekick, users can activate the app and issue an SOS alert for immediate emergency assistance, even when their phone screen is locked or their phone is out of reach.
The React Mobile safety app’s “Follow-Me” feature shares the user’s location with friends, family, administrators or colleagues, enabling them to track the user’s whereabouts in real-time and follow him or her to safety. We can’t think of a better way to keep your biggest assets – your people – safe.
For Keeping Organized
We probably don’t need to stress the importance of being organized. As a startup business owner, you already know – being unorganized costs you time, customers, money, and employees. If you’re going to grow your business, you need to keep everything organized and in its place. Here are a few apps to help you do just that:
• LastPass – We all have the Password Problem – we have so many passwords that we cannot keep them straight. Of course, the constant process of having to reset forgotten passwords often leads people down a road that eventually leads to the creation of such killer passwords like, well, password. To prevent that, you need to use an app that can help remember your passwords for you.
LastPass is a password management program that remembers all that information for you. You only need to remember one: your LastPass password. Craig Bloem, CEO, and founder of freelogoservices.com (@FreeLogoService), believes that LastPass helps him and his team use time efficiently. It’s certainly not a hard testimonial to believe, considering how long our master password list is.
• Google Drive – Any email address that uses Google Servers (even those that don’t end in gmail.com) has access to any Google App. Yasmina Yousfi from Cloudswave (@Cloudswave1) likes Google Drive for its “free document management and collaboration.” The first time you edit a document with multiple people, you will fall in love with Google Docs. They will become a staple in your everyday workflow and before you know it, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them.
• Wunderlist – Some people find it impossible to be productive without a to-do list. They can help keep you focused and goal-oriented; but, if your to-do list isn’t organized, it isn’t doing you any favors. This is another app for startups that Zach Cusimano says he can’t live without. Cusimano says it reminds him of Apple’s Reminders, but on steroids – “You can create lists and subtasks, but Wunderlist also has custom reminder options that bug you with pop-up reminders until you complete the task… and the best part – it’s free!”
These Apps for Startups Will Keep Your Business on Top
Simply put: spearheading a startup business is stressful. It always will be – nothing can take it all away, but it is important that you automate, streamline, or eliminate processes as soon as you can. Startups need a lot of attention in order to grow and time-sucks will stifle your progress every single time. Apps like the ones in this list help you control the little things so that you can focus on the big picture.
We’d be remiss if we left ourselves off this list. Proto.io can help you take a digital leap forward with our easy-to-use drag and drop interface. If your startup needs a new app design (or re-design), make sure you sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io. We will help you design a product that will blow your customers away and keep them coming back for more.
And let us know: What apps are you using in your startup business? What do you love about them? Tweet us @Protoio to tell us how you are making your startup dreams come true!