8 Excellent tools to get your business started

As an entrepreneur, or anyone looking to shift gears and become one, the sheer thought could be daunting. Usually many of us hear information about two extremes: either about the wondrous success of a few companies and how their founders went from rags to riches — thus sparking a sudden flux of interest and pure, albeit impulsive desire to start a business; Or, we’re reminded of the statistics and just how difficult this game actually is by how many businesses actually fail.

Truth is, many of us thrive on the fact that it’s difficult. If it was guaranteed it wouldn’t grant the same feel. Nonetheless, despite the level of difficult to actually succeed, it shouldn’t discourage you. Taking into consideration that everyone’s threshold is different, and although starting your own business isn’t for the faint of heart, many times you just need to get started on the right foot.

As an entrepreneur this couldn’t be a better time period. There are  thousands of online applications to use, social media channels and other various online resources at your disposal; however, I’m not here to highlight them all — or even attempt to. Instead, here are 8 great tools that I know and either still use, or have used. I recommend all these resources highly (As a bonus I’ve also added a few more resources too). In total, you will find that this list is an ample size resource for anybody who’s trying to ignite his or her entrepreneurial dreams.

#1 Launch Rock

Before you really start to work on your upcoming awesome business, you will want to generate excitement and buzz. One of the best tools right now to do this with is Launch Rock. You shouldn’t just effortlessly piece together a website, so during that time, you should create an account & try to get people to help spread the word for you. One of the many fatal mistakes that failed company founders have repeatedly stated was that they failed to promote their product, before they had it. There are very few times when you should keep your business a secret, but most likely you’ll be better off telling the world and trying to get customers as soon as possible.

#2 WordPress

After you setup your Launch Rock page, the very next thing you should do is create a blog. Content creation marketing is some of the best & free marketing you’ll have as a startup. With that in mind WordPress is one of the top blogging platforms to choose from for doing serious business. There is a huge active community that is constantly adding great plug-ins and extensions ranging from little fun facts, website SEO (search engine optimization), user tracking data, etc.. to help bolster your blog into a true business tracking and funneling machine.

In addition, if you are planing for an e-commerce company, there are plenty of resources, and websites giving recommendations.

#3 Basecamp / Backpack/ Pivotal Tracker

Although I couldn’t necessarily choose between either of the 3 tools mentioned, they are all great project management tools. Having randomly scattered notes, to-dos and reminders on paper were great 15 years ago, however now that you’re an adult it is time to take your organization seriously. Personally I started using Backpack, and evolved to using Basecamp; At TripLingo we currently use Pivotal Tracker to project manage our applications. Either way, all of these tools are amazing. In addition, all of these web services will keep your data secure and is constantly backing everything up.

#4 Dropbox

Dropbox is simply one of the best file hosting services, period.
If your working with another partner(s), or team, this is a great way to easily share documents back and forth with virtually no hassle. You install it, add files to the ‘Dropbox’ director/folder and your done. It’s really that simple. This service also saves all of your files, however it takes it a step further and lets you access different versions of the file if you need to revert, and gives you the ability to access them online from any computer.

#5 Skype

Regardless of how big or small your team is for your business, you will need a mechanism for communication. Depending on your business needs, you will likely not need to meet everyday. In addition you shouldn’t send minute things via email either. Instead, I suggest everyone get a skype account. It’s accessible on almost any computer — and smart phones too.

#6 Google docs

Purchasing Microsoft Office, or other equivalent word processing software is relatively expensive, and unless you already have it installed on your computer you may want similar free yet still powerful tools. Google has done an amazing job with all their ‘doc’ apps.  I still use this service even though I own the Office suite & iWork because it does everything I need from the apps in addition to backing everything up (this {having backups in the cloud} is a very important and a running theme of mine).

#7 Google voice/ Grasshopper

Depending on the type of business, or your networking needs, you may need a dedicated business phone number. Google voice will be free for the next year or so and is a great service for getting a local phone number. Sign up for this service and instead of giving out your personal number, you would then give people the number you selected and then have it forward to your phone.

However, if you need an 800 number, or something more powerful than the 1st option Grasshopper would then be your best choice. It is a really great service that offers many great side features like call forwarding, unlimited extensions, get voicemails via email and many more.

#8 Evernote

There are a plethora of different ways you could use this tool. Everyone has different use cases for it. In essence it really is a great tool to capture anything; either online or in person if you take a picture of it. With it’s built in OCR ( Optical Character Recognition ) engine it can scan the text from images and include them in searches.
As an example, I partly use this product as a trunk for business cards. After networking events, I will take a snapshot of each business card and send them to Evernote along with any notes I may have. Later I can then search for a persons name, job, title — any text on the card itself really, and voila it shows up in the results. Say goodbye to that age-old rolodex. I also use it to dump snippets, text, images and quotes that I could then later use for presentations. There’s really almost no end to how you could use this amazing service.


Bonus Resources

about.me

Before you even do anything else, if you don’t have a personal brand out there online you need to at-least set up an account with about.me. In 5 minutes you can setup a quick page that has a small blurb about who you are with possible links to other online social sites where people can find you. This is a great tool that you could/should then amend to your personal email footer, thus people can then in a single click know you in a simple concise manor.

follwupthen

Although this is in the ‘bonus’ and not featured in the top 8, this service is amazing and very, very, useful. When your starting your business, there’s not enough time in the day and it is practically impossible to remember everything or everyone you have to check-up on, remind, followup with, etc. This is a great Get Things Done type of tool.

shopify

This is one of the best places to start when you’re building your shopping cart. It’s painlessly easy & integrates will with many content management solutions you may use.

Squarespace

Although I’m a huge advocate for the simplicity and all-around powerhouse of WordPress, I don’t recommend taking it lightly. If you have absolutely no experience with web hosting or that even scares you then my #2 recommendation would be this awesome resource. It’s a really great All-in-One Package. The only downside is that you’ll loose out on the many WordPress plugins and extensions, but this is still a great tool nonetheless!

 

Are there a few tools that you believe that other people should absolutely not be without when starting their business? If so, please share them in the comments, or let me know.

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