Small businesses need flexibility and the freedom to work on the move. Thankfully, there’s an app for that – in fact, there are thousands. Clever tech bods have created myriad tools to help businesses conduct meetings, catch up with essential admin duties and handle any issues that may arise during the work day.
And they all fit neatly in the palm of your hand. The trickiest part is cutting through all the noise to select the best and most effective apps to keep your business running smoothly.
Think of Slack as a teamwork tool you can keep in your pocket. The cloud-based app makes it simple for small businesses to exchange messages and share files between staff members, colleagues and clients. It’s especially useful if much of your business is conducted away from the office, or indeed if you don’t actually have an office. And for businesses employing freelance contributors or contractors, it’s a way to keep in touch, track progress and deal with any issues or queries in real-time.
A variety of add-on apps can be used within Slack to enhance its effectiveness. For example, Meekan makes it simpler to schedule meetings by coordinating calendars and matching availability. You can also import Google Drive files to Slack.
Skype for Business
While standard Skype can be a handy way to connect with people across the globe via video or audio link, Skype for Business has enhanced security and can be used to add up to 250 people to online meetings. This means it’s a good option if you have more than a handful of employees or contractors, need to communicate with a large number of people to conduct your business, or are discussing sensitive information.
Small businesses can schedule meetings via Outlook, which anyone invited can join from any device. It also synchs with office apps including PowerPoint and Excel, which can be used interactively by an allocated presenter. And the ability to record means no one has to scribble down notes. Instead, everyone can participate by adding new ideas and thoughts by sending instant messages during the audio or video call.
Zipcar for Business
Small businesses may not have the space, finances or even the need for a carpool or fleet of dedicated vehicles for company use. But, as a small business owner, you probably will need access to vehicles at least occasionally – and often at the drop of a hat. That’s where Zipcar for Business could be a godsend. Instead of spending precious time booking hire cars and coordinating travel arrangements for staff or colleagues, you can add an unlimited number of drivers to a single Zipcar account. That means anyone who needs quick and hassle-free access to a car or van can unlock one on-demand via the mobile app.
The flexibility of being able to hire a vehicle for the exact amount of time required – whether you’re taking a 15-minute zip across town or a two-day business trip – means there’s no wasted expense. You can either book a specific round-trip with a return time or choose the Flex option, and drop the car in a Zipzone once you’re finished. Insurance, fuel and congestion charges are also included in the price, along with the services of a dedicated support team and online account management to keep track of bookings.
For businesses that need a specific type or style of vehicle, whether that’s a van for transporting large items or a posh motor to impress clients, Zipcar can tailor a plan with dedicated cars available to team members at specified times.
File-sharing is an essential part of most small business operations. There are many apps that can be used to share photos, presentations and documents in one place, but Box is fast becoming the preferred software for many business owners. In addition to allowing co-workers to share files securely, members can create, edit and review documents in real-time and from any device including a smartphone.
The desktop version, Box Drive, synchs the files quickly and efficiently, creating a dedicated drive on your computer and giving unlimited access to all your data. With everyone in the team able to easily tap into those files without going via a web browser, the app could help to significantly reduce IT costs.
Whether you love or loathe “doing the books”, there’s no getting away from it. Even with a dedicated accountant, it’s up to small business owners to keep track of invoices, expenses and cash flow. The QuickBooks Accounting app is an easy way to stay on top of bookkeeping, avoiding last-minute panics and allowing small businesses to monitor profitability.The app allows you to easily create customised invoices in multiple currencies, with any still owed or overdue on display (so you won’t forget to get paid). Other dashboard insights include categorised monthly expenses, account balances, and profit and loss. You can also throw away that cardboard box overflowing with random receipts, and instead photograph and store them on the app.