Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

Whether your startup team consists of you alone, you and a partner, or you and ten other people, there are a number of excellent tools that can aid you in becoming more productive and efficient. From recording your various processes to creating a catalog of communications, online tools provide entrepreneurs with the services they need to hit the market more quickly and to keep their businesses on track afterwards.

Delegating someone to keep tabs on productivity tools – or taking a periodic look yourself – can ensure that you’re always using the best, most current tool for the particular task at hand.

If you’re just winging it now, consider this list of tools and give some thought as to whether implementing one or more might make your working life easier. If you already have some systems in place, think about whether it’s time to make a switch.

A tool that isn’t being utilized is useless. Consider which tools could actually help you be more efficient and how you might integrate them into your real-world workflow.

Communications and Sharing Files

Dropbox


Dropbox continues to be a popular cloud storage app compatible with PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. Its ready availability and free storage have proven attractive to a wide range of professionals interested in sharing documents and photos. For those looking to share large documents, a nominal paid upgrade may be necessary.

Google Docs


Google’s popular suite of cloud-based productivity apps enables easy sharing of files for collaboration. It’s very simple to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations and distribute them to your team. You can specify viewing and editing privileges on a per-document basis. If a .doc or .pdf file is required, it’s easy to export in the necessary format. This is primarily a free service, though paid upgrades are available for more space or other features.

Slack


Slack provides an easy-to-use interface that enables teams to share files and communicate on projects. It facilitates group discussions, direct messages, and private boards. It’s searchable and permits the creation of a conversation catalog to which it’s easy to refer when desired. This can be quite useful for workgroup-based brainstorming. Plus, with ever more geographically distributed teams in the workplace, it creates a central location for work-related communications.

SproutSocial


If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for social media and CRM, SproutSocial may be just the ticket. Their platform readily facilitates posting and engagement, as well as featuring built-in analytics to help ensure that your messages are being seen by your intended audience. Accounts start at $59 per month. Other similarly helpful social media tools include Hootsuite and Buffer.

x.ai


Scheduling meetings and appointments can be a frustrating and time-consuming task often requiring multiple rounds of emails before a time and date are eventually settled upon. Amy, an AI-based personal assistant from x.ai, can handle those exchanges for you while referring to your calendar. x.ai offers tiered pricing so you can choose the level of service that’ll work best for you.

Tracking Time and Invoicing

Accomplish


This Android app permits the creation of a to-do list in a familiar daily planner format enabling you to easily block out the time required for any given task.

 

FreshBooks


Small startups must often do everything for themselves. If you’re starting a small business, an accounting solution like FreshBooks may save you some time. Rather than trying to put everything into an Excel spreadsheet, you can create invoices and manage your accounts in the cloud. Tiered pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per month.

Harvest


If you need to charge clients by the hour or just get a better idea of how much time you and your team are spending on projects, consider Harvest. Team members can log time from a variety of devices and you can then generate reports and invoices from the data. Harvest works with a variety of other apps to help you track time spent on each project/client. Pricing ranges from free to $99 per month.

Websites and Graphic Design

Canva


Canva helps make graphic design easier for those who aren’t familiar with Photoshop or similar design software. You can select background images from either free or paid options or upload your own. With multiple sizes and styles, the options are limitless. Canva can help with the production of infographics, slides, and sharable images. You only pay for premium backgrounds, fonts, or designs. Otherwise, it’s a free service.

WordPress


If you’re viewing a website, there’s a good chance it’s a WordPress site. Currently, WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It features a very simple update process and has numerous theme options and customizations available. WordPress sites can range widely in price. At a minimum – for a DIY installation on a self-hosted domain – you can expect to pay for domain name registration and a hosting package (which doesn’t need to be done through WordPress). Additional costs naturally apply when you hire someone else to set it up for you, purchase a theme, or order a fully customized site.

Automation and Process Management

SweetProcess


If you’re ready to start handing off repetitive tasks, SweetProcess can help. SweetProcess enables you to write down your processes, share them, and then track their completion. Starting at $29, SweetProcess doesn’t require any downloads; it’s all in the cloud and readily accessible to your team.

Zapier


Switching between apps and juggling multiple apps, however necessary with today’s workflows, can be an exercise in inefficiency. Zapier addresses this issue by linking your web apps and helping to automate your workflow. You can start with a free account or upgrade to premium for as little as $20.

These few examples are just a sampling of an ever-expanding set of business tools. Consider asking colleagues and friends for recommendations to help find ones best suited to your needs.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (www.GoodField.com).

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to www.JoeJohnson.com.