8 Tools You Need to Start Your Own Business
Starting a business can feel daunting, but there are some tools available that will make your life a lot easier. We’re going to list some of the most important ones here.
1. A Business Plan
There are tons of online tools that can help you create a business plan, and there are even free templates available. However, the business plan is a tool in itself, one that you will probably refer to often.
Even if you get a professional writer to write the plan for you, you should fully participate in the process because it’s an important exercise to go through.
The business plan is indispensable. It will force you to seriously evaluate your business idea before you pour a lot of money into it. The business plan requires you to think hard about your competition and what your competitive advantage is. A polished business plan will also be required if you want to try to get seed funding from a bank.
Once your business is off the ground, the business plan’s financial forecasts will be useful to track how your business is performing.
2. A Work-Sharing Platform
If you have an online business and have people working for you remotely, then you absolutely need a work-sharing platform. Even if you work with people in the same office, a work-sharing platform will make everyone’s lives a lot easier.
Not only do you need some software or an app for sharing files, but you also will benefit from having a platform that allows you to shares notes or comments about different documents.
Some of the choices are OneNote by Microsoft, which is very convenient for PC’s, and other cloud-based platforms like EverNote, which syncs between all your devices, or Glip, which is very user friendly.
Each work-sharing platform is slightly different, so you need to try them to see if you like the interface and what the app can do. Some are free and some are paid but are worth every penny.
3. A Website
The vast majority of businesses would benefit from having a website, so it’s something you need to get set up early on. A website would be considered a tool because you will use it to help customers find you and your business, and you can actively perform marketing through the website.
Between 70 and 80 percent of individuals looking to buy a product or service look online first for a company. However, a shocking 36 percent of businesses don’t have a website.
Should you build it yourself? The answer is maybe. If you are very computer-savvy, it’s possible to build something simple yourself, especially if you use one of the many online platforms that make it relatively easy—like Wix or Squarespace, for example. However, most home-made websites look home-made, which is probably not the image you want for your business.
A professional custom website will give you a polished look and will also give you much more freedom. Unfortunately, websites are not cheap and in North America, they typically start at about $5000 for one that’s not too complicated and six to eight pages.
You could build a cheaper one and then build a more sophisticated one once your business gets off the ground. You could also just buy the domain name, and then get someone to put up a simple page with the name of your company, phone number, email address, and a note that the website is under construction.
4. Some Office Space
The reason why this could be considered a tool is that your office can play a role in your strategy and marketing. If you’re going to operate a business, then you need a place to conduct business.
You have a few choices to make here. You could work at home, which has the advantages of low overhead, you can work in your pajamas, and you may be able to deduct some household expenses as a business expense. The downside to working at home is that your jurisdiction may have some restrictions on what type of business you can operate out of your home, and you give up any semblance of privacy.
Renting some serious office space is another possibility. That might work if you have deep pockets, but when you’re starting a business, you may not want to commit a lot of money to a long-term, commercial lease. Commercial leases are not easy to break, either, if you get into trouble financially.
An excellent simple and inexpensive solution is to have a “virtual” office. A virtual office would give you a business address to use without all the risk and expense of a big commercial lease for bare office space that you will then have to furnish. A virtual office would make it easy to meet clients as needed, and we can even give you an office phone number that would be answered by a receptionist.
5. Google My Business
Google My Business is a free online tool that helps people find your business when they search for something like it online. It’s particularly useful if your business operates in a specific geographical area because then when someone searches with Google, your business will show on a map at the top of the search engine results.
6. Google Analytics
In addition to having a website, you will need to monitor how the website is doing. Google Analytics is the go-to tool for website performance. By keeping your eye on what your website is doing (or not doing) you will be in a strong position to evaluate what marketing strategies are working for you or not working.
Whether you sell online or not, you will still want people to be able to find your website and your business easily. Google Analytics is a very sophisticated online tool for giving insight into your website traffic patterns.
7. A Serious Email Address
Once you have a website and a domain name, it’s not expensive to have an email address with your domain name. So, if your domain is mybusinessxyz.com, then your email can be owner or sales or anything you want @mybusinessxyz.com.
If you’re not ready for that, then get a simple free online email address like through Gmail. If you’re still using your fun-sounding email address from high school, like firstname.lastname@example.org, you really shouldn’t use it for business. Just use your name or your business name with Gmail.
You also need to respond promptly to any emails. How you reply literally sends a message to customers about how your business operates, so efficiency is the name of the game. That means you need to check your business email a lot—or pay someone else to do it.
8. Methods of Conducting and Recording Financial Transactions
Under this category, there will be money coming in and money going out. If you are selling a product or service online, then you need a way for them to pay you through your website like with PayPal, for example, and one or more business bank accounts connected to whatever you use when people pay you.
The business will also have expenses and you’ll need a way to pay others and to run payroll. There are plenty of cloud-based payroll programs at different price points you could use. Take a look at them and see which one you like.
You can always change programs at a later date if one doesn’t suit you. The good news is that these payroll programs calculate and remit for you all the taxes and deductions you need to send to the government.
You can keep records yourself with something as simple as Excel or you can use a bookkeeping program like QuickBooks. A professional bookkeeper can help you, but that’s a service you will have to pay for if you don’t want to do this yourself.
There will likely be a need for several financial tools to cover the flow of money into and out of your business. The better the records are that you keep, the easier your life will be when yearend comes around. It will also be important to keep good records for tax purposes.
Starting a business can be complicated, but the tools listed in this article are the basic ones that will help you to grow your business, operate efficiently, and monitor it effectively. It’s so fortunate that we live in an era when we have access to so many tools that didn’t exist 20 years ago.