Tools of the Trade
During my stint at entrepreneurship all I had was a borrowed Palm Pilot and a shared laptop that I used to create a very complicated Excel spreadsheet. The shortcoming of this ‘excellent’ spreadsheet was that only I understood it and could operate it. But the good thing about it was that any information regarding the project could be retrieved within a couple of minutes.
Looking at the startups today, I have always wondered how the entrepreneurs manage all the variety of activities, which I gather are more complex than at my time. With the technological advances that have happened over the past decade, I guess a lot of support can be obtained from technology. Tools have mushroomed in different areas enabling people to perform various tasks very easily and speedily. Which tools are most commonly used by entrepreneurs today? You will find it convenient if they are discussed according to what they can do for you.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success”. Paul J. Meyer. There are tools that will help in your communication with customers. Starting from chats and help widgets for your web site to newsletters, signup widgets and tools to run your Twitter and Facebook accounts. The list of tools includes Intercom, Drip, Mailchimp, Buffer etc.
“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved”. Mattie Stepanek. Another area where you will look for support is in team collaboration. You can get services such as chat, messaging, task list, file repository and sharing, simple CRM plug-in, project management support etc. The list of tools includes Slack, Github, Dropbox, Streak and Trello to name a few.
“Domain names and websites are Internet real estate”. Marc Ostrofsky. Domain related services such as availability of .coms, check for specific domain availability, domain registration etc. The list of tools includes Lean Domain Search, Instant Domain Search and Namecheap.
“The advantage of online banking is that you can pay bills superfast, and your account is automatically credited or debited for each deposit and payment, making it easier to stay on track”. Suze Orman. Tools are available to take care of your payment processing requirements such as accepting credit card payments with your phone, online payment processing, accepting direct debit payments and so on. The list of tools includes Square, Stripe and GoCardless among others.
“The goal is to provide analytical tools that will last students a lifetime”. Edward Tufte. Access to various analytical data can be of great help to a startup. You have general analytical tools like Google Analytics as well as tools that target specific areas like Google Keyword Planner to see how many people are searching relevant terms and Facebook Ads to compare the approximate size and location of various interests and demographics.
“Paper is no longer a big part of my day. I get 90% of my news online, and when I go to a meeting and want to jot things down, I bring my Tablet PC. It’s fully synchronized with my office machine, so I have all the files I need. It also has a note-taking piece of software called OneNote, so all my notes are in digital form”. Bill Gates. You will have to do a great deal of purchasing and selling for your startup. Online purchase and sale will save you a lot of time and effort. Tools such as Createspace, Newspaper Club, The Game Crafter, Shapeways and Alibaba will be of great help in your venture. These tools will enable you to upload PDFs, sell printed books, publish newspapers, create and sell online games, print on various medium and purchase items for your startup.
“Social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr provide an unparalleled ability for people to stay connected in new and unique ways”. Michael Bennet. One of your core requirements will be the creation of a website. You will find some good tools that will help you design and develop a great website. Specialized tools provide expert services such as themes, features like stores, payments, newsletters, manifestos, personal and company pages, landing pages and even customization. The list of tools includes Squarespace, Strikingly, Shopify and Themeforest.
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for”. Georgia O’Keeffe. Art in the form of images, logos and icons etc. are an integral part of any organisation. You will need to depend heavily on these elements to attract customers and stakeholders to your startup especially through your website. Tools such as Glyphicons, 500px, Flickr Creative commons and Subtle Patterns enable you to create icons, get stock photographs, photograph search services, choice of backgrounds and textures and such like.
“The important thing about outsourcing or global sourcing is that it becomes a very powerful tool to leverage talent, improve productivity and reduce work cycles”. Azim Premji. You cannot keep recruiting people for every little bit of work you need to get done but do not have skills within your startup. Throughout history you will find examples of work being outsourced to external people in the form of contracts and freelance assignments. Today, we have online tools that make the process of getting assignments done seamlessly. To name a few, Fiverr, 99designs, Upwork, Clarity.fm and Dribble help organizations outsourcing tasks such as logo design, copywriting, website and other designing and also getting advice from startup specialists
“The cloud-powered smartphone and tablet, as productivity tools, are transforming the world around us along with the implied changes in how we work to be mobile and more social”. Steven Sinofsky. You can create SMS applications without programming, easily program phone calls and SMSs using tools such as TextIt and Twilio.
“In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company’s machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company’s server, the police can get it without showing you anything”. Richard Stallman. Legal support is of utmost importance for any organisation. You can depend on tools such as Docracy and Duedil for your legal requirement.
“Going online and asking questions is the best way to learn”. Tom Felton. You are a small startup and your need for organisation development is very high. With limited funds you cannot setup your own learning and development team. Not to worry, this requirement can be handled with tools such as Paul Graham’s Essays, Tropical MBA, Seth Godin’s Startup School and Moz Learn. They give you access to articles, podcasts, newsletter and lectures on a variety of subjects.
“I read the ‘Times’ and ‘Post’, but I have nothing against the ‘Daily News.’ I also fish around the Internet for entertainment news but find most of what I read to be untrue or partially true”. Andy Cohen. One need to be up-to-date with current happenings and access to daily news is a critical aspect. There are tools like Hacker News and Product Hunt that are constructively tuned for startups and provide daily news and information on new products.
“Most troublesome is the legalization of ‘crowd funding,’ the ability of start-up companies to raise capital from small investors on the Internet”. Steven Rattner. Your search for investors and crowdfunding is made easier with the tools available on the Net today. Tools such as f6s, AngelList, The Funded, Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide a range of services that include listing of accelerator programs, startup and angel social networks, funding platforms, reviews and due diligence of investors and crowdfunding support.
You will find that most of your needs can be resolved with what I have shared above. In the references you will find a number of links where you may look for information more specific to your requirement.
Food for thought: “Google has placed its faith in data, while Apple worships the power of design. This dichotomy made the two companies complementary. Apple would ship the phones and computers, while Google would provide Maps, Search, YouTube, and other web tools that made the devices more useful”. Ben Parr.
1. Jeff Haden. 60 Great Tools and Resources for Entrepreneurs and Startups. 2014. http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/60-great-tools-and-resources-for-entrepreneurs-and-startups.html
2. Sujan Patel. The 25 Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Know About. 2014. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237608
3. Matt Keener. 16 Productivity Tools Useful for Every Entrepreneur. 2014. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239814
4. Shivam Singla. 55 great productivity tools and, resources for startups and entrepreneurs. 2015. http://yourstory.com/2015/05/productivity-tools-resources-startups-entrepreneurs/
5. Elaine Pofeldt. 15 Tools To Help You Get More Done: Favorites Of Million-Dollar Entrepreneurs. 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2015/09/30/15-tech-tools-to-hack-your-productivity-faves-of-million-dollar-entrepreneurs/#6c02c7c629d6