Are you starting up your own business in 2016? Or perhaps you just want to improve the profits and success of your current business? Whatever stage you are at on your journey as an entrepreneur, you have a wealth of tools at your disposal to help improve your productivity, stay connected and keep you organised, all by using your smartphone. Lots of apps are available which were created to help people like you run your business more smoothly and make it a roaring success.
When you run your own business, you often have to do work out of office hours, on the go or when travelling, so having a device in the palm of your hand which contains tools to let you continue to work on your business with ease is indispensable.
Did you know that around 50% of start-up businesses fail within their first five years and that 90% fail in total? Employ the help of some of the apps below to ensure the success of your business and join the 10% of businesses that succeed.
Start up your business
If you are in the early stages of planning or starting up your business, there are tools that can help you. When you’ve got an idea in mind and want to develop it into a viable business, try using MindMeister to get your thoughts down and help the creative process along. This free app is a mind mapping tool which allows you to record your thought process and further develop your idea from its infancy to a fully grown business proposition.
Once you’ve got your idea established, creating a business plan is the next step. A business plan is essential to securing finance for your company as well as giving you an idea of how the business will develop, how you are going to market it, who your target demographic will be, how much financing it will take and how much profit it could bring in. Business Plan for Entrepreneurs’ Startups will help you to write your plan, which can be a complicated process. The app is free to download and provides you with a nine-step guide to writing a business plan as well as templates and examples of good business plans.
Scan business cards
Developing relationships with people in your local area or the same industry as you is vital for almost all businesses to succeed. The best way of making new business connections, meeting potential clients and forming strong professional relationships is through business networking. After you’ve been to a networking event and you’ve collected a stack of business cards, what you should do is record the contact details on these cards so that you have them on record for future reference. However, typing all these details into a spreadsheet can be extremely time-consuming, so what often ends up happening is you place those business cards at the back of a drawer and probably never look at them again.
The way to get around this, save yourself a lot of time and give you a well-organised, systemized way of recording contact details of people you meet is by using an app that scans your business cards. There are many options available on the market; Business Card Reader Pro allows you to scan cards using your iPhone, directly uploading the information to your iOS contacts. It recognises text in a variety of languages, so is also ideal for any business which trades internationally. The app costs $6.99 to download, but should be well worth the amount of time it will save your business. If you are looking for a tool without the expense, CardKeeper is free to download from the app store and functions similarly to Business Card Reader Pro. CardKeeper also scans your business cards and uploads the information to your iPhone’s address book, but it also stores the cards within the app as images, so you can keep a virtual stack of cards on your phone. You can sort them into categories and search through them using the app’s functions.
Store and share files
Most businesses will be working with a lot of different files and documents. Having these files saved on your computer is fine, but it’s also important to have them backed up elsewhere in case something goes wrong with your computer. Apps such as Google Drive and Dropbox allow you to keep all of your documents in cloud-based storage so that you can access them from anywhere and on any device. Both apps are free to download and come with 15GB and 2GB worth of free storage, respectively, but Dropbox does give you the opportunity to earn an additional 16GB of space for completing tasks such as referring friends to the service. Beyond this, you can purchase extra storage space for a given fee.
With apps such as these, you also have a simple way of sharing files with other people or between your devices, which is particularly useful if you have files that are too large to send via email. Plus, you can quickly view and edit files using the apps.
Keeping track of everything that needs doing in your business can be difficult, especially if you are working in a large organisation with lots of employees and have to collaborate with different teams. Emails go back and forth between the various people, messages get missed or forgotten about, or they go to the wrong person. Many apps can help you keep on top of your tasks, projects and team members to ensure that they get everything done on time.
Two stand-out apps for achieving smoother project management are Asana and Trello. These apps can help you stay organised no matter how small or large the scale you are working at is; whether you simply want a to-do list to keep track of your tasks or a tool for managing large-scale projects and teams. Both Asana and Trello allow you to create projects and smaller tasks, which you can either assign to a project or leave as a stand-alone item. You can assign tasks and projects to team members and give due dates for tasks, so everyone knows what they need to do and by what date or time it needs completing. Both apps are free to download and use.
Manage finances and business expenses
Keeping track of your income and expenditure can be a very confusing task for business owners. Certain apps allow you to keep accurate records of your expenses so that you know what you can claim at the end of the year, and to stop you from getting bogged down in receipts. Expensify and BizXpenseTracker both allow you to scan receipts using your smartphone. They also make it easy to track your mileage and other business expenses to create your expense reports with minimum fuss. Expensify automatically creates reports from your receipts, and BizXpenseTracker also allows you to export your information to a CSV or PDF file, or straight to Dropbox.
Expensify is free to download, whereas BizXpenseTracker costs just $5.99 from the App Store. Both apps are time and cost-efficient ways of staying on top of your business expenses throughout the year.
For anyone who is not a sole trader, communication amongst your team is essential for good business management. You might currently be using email as your primary method of communication, but this can lead to miscommunication, people forgetting to ‘cc’ other members of staff into an email, or messages getting missed due to a stacked up inbox. An app which provides you with an easy way of communicating with individual team members or starting a group conversation with everyone can help to streamline your team’s communication.
Apps such as HipChat can improve your communication with tools including group chat, video chat, one-to-one messaging and file sharing all in one place. This kind of messaging service is particularly useful for teams with members that work in different locations or are out of the office for meetings a lot of the time. GroupMe is another handy group messaging app. The benefit of GroupMe is that it can be used to communicate with the entire team, even if some members don’t own a smartphone; you can send group messages for free, and anyone without a smartphone will just receive these as text messages.
Social media management
When it comes to marketing your business, social media is a cost-effective way of reaching a broad audience. However, it can be time-consuming to manage multiple social media accounts and consistently remain active on them all. If you feel like you don’t have enough time, social media management apps can help you. Buffer and Hootsuite are both free-to-use apps which allow you to manage all of your social media accounts in one place, cutting down the amount of time spent going from one account to another. From these platforms, you can post and schedule content, read your messages, view other people’s content and like, share or comment on it. Being able to schedule posts to your social media can help to save you a lot of time; if you have an hour free at the beginning of the week, schedule some daily posts for the rest of the week or even the month. With this content scheduled, you know posts are going out and don’t have to worry about logging in each day.
Make your start-up a success this year with the help of your smartphone. Try out some of the apps listed here to see how they can improve your efficiency and productivity, leading to more sales and higher profits for your business.