Starting a small business from scratch is often akin to climbing a mountain with a heavy rock in your backup. You have an undeniably difficult path ahead of you, where a vast majority of people give up, and add to that an endless stream of obstacles, hellbent on derailing your efforts, and defeating you no matter how hard you try, and how much time you spend.
While these challenges are an ever-present reality of the entrepreneurial landscape, there are certain tools and services that can fundamentally improve the odds of success for first-time entrepreneurs and small business owners. While nothing or nobody can offer a shortcut in business, there are ways of making this arduous journey, just a little bit more comfortable.
The difference between a seasoned entrepreneur and someone who is just getting started essentially boils down to the knowledge of various tools, services, and resources available at their disposal. A seasoned entrepreneur knows which tool to use, whom to approach, and how to select from a list of potential alternatives to best address their challenges and concerns.
In this article, we will list 6 such tools and services that experienced entrepreneurs swear by, with a brief overview of each, aimed at providing you with much-needed guidance if you ever feel stuck, confused, or disillusioned by the startup ecosystem.
A website is no longer optional no matter how big or small a business is, and if you’re starting a business today, setting up a website, and finding a name that has available domains is a top priority, considering how important these things are as the business starts to grow.
Not only is your website a virtual business card for the world, but it also has the potential to drive leads from organic search traffic as it develops authority over time. Setting up a site doesn’t require any technical know-how, and the only thing you need is a reliable hosting provider, a domain name that matches your brand, and a CMS solution, preferably something widely used, such as WordPress.
There are services that offer a turnkey solution in this regard, with website design, hosting, and domain name acquisition, all for one price, but it is recommended that business owners learn to do this by themselves, especially considering the crucial role that a website plays in a business.
To interact with your existing customers, prospective customers, website visitors, and others, you must have a communication channel on your website. If the queries go unanswered, there will be no new signups. Therefore, you must integrate any best business chat app's chat APIs like Troop Messenger instead of developing from scratch to engage your users if you want to build a loyal clientele with new user signups.
Additionally, if you want to take your website to the next level and start selling products or services, you can set up a subscription website where the customers will be charged periodically. This will help increase the revenue of the business, and you can use the same chat APIs to help customers with any queries about the product or service.
A vast majority of small businesses still fail to maintain proper accounting systems, and will largely be unable to disclose their revenues or profitability during a period of time. If they do focus on accounting, it is largely on a cash basis, with no regard to inventories, assets, payables, receivables, or depreciation, resulting in a flawed figure, and understanding of the business.
This is mostly owing to the fact that bookkeeping is a sophisticated skill, one that requires extensive training and practice to become proficient. There are different rules for the treatment of different types of transactions, products, and events, all of which most small business owners will largely choose to ignore, but this does take its toll in the long run as the business starts to expand.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of bookkeeping and outsourced accounting services, particularly aimed at small businesses. The average price of such services ranges from $500 to $5,000 per month, but there are cheaper alternatives to small and micro-sized businesses that might struggle to afford even this. In the long run, the data and insights unlocked with disciplined bookkeeping will pay for themselves.
A registered agent for a business is essentially a representative for receiving legal documents pertaining to the business on its behalf. If your business is an LLC, it is required by law that you have a registered agent in each state where your business currently operates. The responsibility of an agent is to receive the documents pertaining to your business during working hours, before alerting you about the same.
Registered agents provide a critical service for small businesses, ensuring that important documents pertaining to legal processes, taxation, and state correspondence are perfectly received and then intimated to the business and its owner. Beyond the fulfillment of statutory requirements, they ensure that important compliance documents are not misplaced, or left undelivered, resulting in major issues.
There are plenty of services and individuals who provide registered agent services for small businesses, with charges ranging from $100 to $300 per year. The price is well worth it, considering the responsibility they shoulder and the critical function they deliver to business owners and the regulatory state. The fee mentioned above does not include mail forwarding fees, which will likely be extra.
Businesses are all about serving customers, and thus, having a robust system in place to manage customer resources, and ensure adequate experiences is critical for the long-term success of any organization. CRM or Customer Resource Management tools are dime a dozen these days, with varying features, pricing, and offerings for different types of businesses and business models.
Having a CRM solution essentially helps you stay on top of customer onboarding, product/service delivery, and the overall experience from within a single dashboard. New-age innovative solutions offer substantial customization options to suit each individual business requirement, while there have been a string of startups focused on CRMs for particular industries, such as salons, schools, restaurants, etc.
Customer resource management (CRM) is turning into a specialized field in and of itself, with numerous systems, frameworks, and best practices. While hiring a dedicated CRM professional may not be feasible for most small and medium-sized businesses, it is essential for business owners to learn the art themselves and try to set up systems that best serve their customers.
Once all of the above is done and dusted, the art of getting a business up and running is mostly an act of project management. Some experts are now considering project management to be in its essence, management itself, with goals, objectives, and milestones, which are constantly tracked, analyzed, and worked towards. As such, a dedicated tool to keep everything on track is absolutely pertinent.
A business does not have to work on projects to make use of project management principles and tools, just the regular course of operations can be deemed as a project in itself, with certain performance indicators, broader goals, and objectives to be tracked against. If a small business has to be productive, it needs a system in place, and fortunately, there are plenty of tools and frameworks to achieve the same.
There is no shortage of project management and productivity tools, with simple approaches such as the Kanban board, more sophisticated Gantt charts, baselines, and more. Businesses can opt for a solution that best suits their requirements at their present stage, before moving onto more precise options and sophisticated tools as the scope of their projects start to grow.
A critical, yet little-known facet of small business management, is managing oneself, which can also be termed as managing your managerial presence in your fledgling upstart. As an entrepreneur, in the early stages of business, every step you take, every action you make, your behaviors, and your styles to the minutest expressions will define the course that your business takes over the coming years.
As such, diary management is crucial for executives at businesses small and large, with proper tracking of conversations, meetings, and decisions taken likely to form the basis of how a business is governed in its early stages.
The choices you make, decisions you take, and the conversations you’ve had a need to be duly noted, so that activities and performance of the organization can be tracked against the same, helping you optimize your own working, and performance over time. Here again, there are numerous diary management tools and solutions that can come in handy, failing which, just a simple Word document would do just as well.
The art of small business is one that continues to evolve, with failures and successes giving rise to new concepts and principles for others to follow. These six services should help your business get off to a great start, but they are far from the only tools and services you need to succeed.