After working with hundreds of customers and colleagues over several years, I’m baffled by what so many of them are hiding. On the surface, they may possess a beautiful website or app, consider themselves quite tech savvy, or they could even be making millions of dollars…. but when I take a look at their technology behind the scenes, it is a total nightmare. By the way, this is beyond the technology stack for a website, app, or product – that is a completely separate discussion. What I’m referring to is the VERY basic business tech stack (aka productivity tech stack), consisting of common technology tools and services to increase productivity. It is mistakenly assumed most businesses have already got that all in order, but truth is, it’s really not the case (even tech-focused ones). Perhaps in the bubble of Silicon Valley, where people are on trend with tech, but we’re talking about the other millions of startups and businesses outside of the Valley.
Just imagine: excel spreadsheets that are being used to manage 100s or 1000s of customer accounts just doesn’t cut it – that’s a customer fiasco waiting to happen! Confidential company discussions that are taking place on Facebook groups – and bosses question why employees are distracted by Facebook during work hours. Data and documents that are stored on each person’s hard drive with no backup – fingers crossed no one spills coffee on their laptop. Team tasks that are being managed and tracked using Notepad, or even worse, pen and paper – gasp! I have seen this too frequently in startups, small-medium sized businesses, as well as enterprise corporations.
If you’re guilty of any of the above, I’m going to break the news to you; you need a tech intervention, especially if you’re an Entrepreneur.
Say you went to a lovely restaurant and they presented you with a succulent, gourmet meal, but then you visit the restroom and it’s a disgusting cockroach-ridden, backed-up sewer mess. My guess is you would never eat there again, no matter how tasty the food, or how ambient the dining room.
It’s the same thing with your business! People aren’t going to respect you as a tech savvy Entrepreneur if they find out you can’t really walk the walk. And top talent, whether they be Developers or Digital Marketers, will be horrified and may not work with you when they discover your antiquated technology practices – unless you’re hiring them to specifically get you digitally up to speed. Your business tech stack is a direct reflection of you as the Boss, whereas your market-facing technology is usually created by your CTO/ Tech Lead or a third-party developer. If you are indeed the CTO/ Tech Lead, what’s interesting is that many truly technologically advanced minds also need a little push when it comes to organizing simplified, practical technology for their business. Besides sheer embarrassment, not having a solid tech stack is costing you time, money and even business. Sooner or later the digital disorderly chaos will catch up with you.
To help you fast-track your digital transformation at the basic level, or if you’re a new startup to get your business tech stack started off right, I’ve compiled a list of the best basic productivity tools Entrepreneurs & Business Owners need to start using ASAP to stay digitally on track, digitally.
1) Team Communication
Move over Email, Skype, Facebook Groups, Whatsapp, and AOL/ MSN Messenger ( total throwback here). Slack is the new standard for real-time, company-owned team communication. There are a slew of benefits: it keeps all team communication in one place, you can create public channels for different topics or private discussion groups with select people, and even communicate and share files with just one person if you wish. So if you want be “with it”, get with Slack.
2) Cloud Drive
Recommendation: Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive – DOESN’T MATTER, JUST USE IT!
This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many people are not on the cloud – maybe their head is (chuckle), but not their business. Some benefits are: no more fear of crashing your laptop, leaving files on your other computer before a major meeting or needing to work in the cubicle from the office computer. With the cloud drive’s amazingly affordable prices for 1TB of data, you should be be able to backup everything, without having to pick and choose. No more fumbling with external hard drives, plus you always have access to your files from any computer or mobile device. To help you decide, here is your rule of thumb: Google Drive is best for Googlers, OneDrive is best for Microsoft users, and Dropbox is best for the rest.
3) Cloud Enterprise Suite
Recommendation: G Suite (aka Google Business Apps) or Microsoft Office 365
Either is fine, just as long as you are using the Cloud version which is key. Why? Because just like with your cloud drive, your documents are always backed up and available from any device. Plus it allows for easy sharing and live updates, eliminating the need to email back and forth attachments that always seem to get lost. The difference between the two is if you just need basic functions for document, spreadsheet, and slide creation, than G Suite is perfect. Plus any Microsoft document can easily be converted to a Google doc, and vice versa. However, if you need more advanced features and programs, then 365 is the better bet.
4) Organizational App
Wunderlist is great for getting your whole team’s Todo list in order. It’s the ultimate checklist that you can share, email, and print. Want to change a priority? It’s as easy as dragging dropping. So nix the Notepad and start “Wunderlisting”. I should note that once you have a larger a team, a more advanced project, or multiple projects, you’ll likely need to use additional tools and processes, but that’s a whole other topic.
5) Video Conferencing
Recommendation: Zoom or Google Hangout
I know you are thinking “but what about Skype”?! Truth is, Zoom is now the hottest player on the block, having mega startups as their customer, such as Uber, who prefer to Zoom. With a multitude of features such as your own custom business url, a direct dial-in number (with no password), HD recording capabilities, screen sharing, and remote desktop access, it’s worth it to dish out the few extra bucks a month for this service. That way you can always be connected with your virtual team and customers as if they were right next to you. Looking for a free tool? Google Hangout still does the job, all you need is a Google account.
6) Digital Signature Software
Recommendation: Adobe Sign or DocuSign
If you have a business, you’ll be continuously signing and sending documents to be signed. Don’t embarrass yourself by not using an e-signing tool and requiring others to print, sign, scan, and email (fax?!?) documents for signing. Seriously that’s like 4 annoying steps – why, oh why?! Make it simple by having your own digital signature software so that they can easily sign and send in seconds. Adobe is good if you are already subscribing to the Acrobat, but if you aren’t, then DocuSign is a solid choice. Plus their user interface is a lot more friendlier.
7) Calendar Booking System
Recommendation: MixMax or Calendly
Being an Entrepreneur is going to keep you busy and the last thing you want to do is play email tag! Most of us fall into this ongoing email trap, from weekly or daily meetings with team members, partners, customers, and investors. The solution is a handy smart calendar to help you book all your meetings, without you doing the work! Two options I like to recommend, and both operate a little differently, are MixMax and Calendly, all you have to do is choose based on your needs and style. MixMax is a chrome extension for Gmail, and one of their main features is their built-in scheduling tool, which connects directly with your calendar to select available time slots on the fly and will embed directly into your email. Calendly on the other hand is more of full-featured booking system that can integrate with your email, website, CRM and more. So if you don’t have Gmail and you want a more advanced off-the-shelf scheduling system, Calendly is a great option.
BONUS: CRM – Customer Relation Management System (Advanced)
There’s a LOT to be said about using a CRM, but let me break it down in a couple of sentences. Your customers and their data is arguably the most valuable asset of your business. So do you really want to be managing that using a basic spreadsheet? A CRM allows you AND your team to collaborate in keeping your 1000s, maybe millions, of contacts up to date, whether they are a current, previous or potential customer. It’ll also identify where they are in your sales funnel or when they were last contacted in your marketing campaign. When people think CRM they think of the super expensive and complicated Salesforce, which definitely has it’s merits. But if you’re starting out, or are a small-medium sized business, then ZoHo is a great simple and cost effective starter solution. Plus it can scale with it’s many business extensions and integrations.
Using the appropriate tools and processes from the start is basic business 101. Impress your future employees, customers, and even investors, as a tech savvy and digitally organized Entrepreneur by understanding and using the latest tools in tech. Having your basic business tech stack setup from the get go will do you wonders and allow for much more success to come your way.
Too busy to set up and learn these productivity tools yourself? Contact us at www.AskaTechie.com to get you up to speed fast so you can do what you do best. Or Download here my Top 7 List, which outlines the best basic business technology tools Entrepreneurs & Business Owners need to start using ASAP to stay digitally on track.