Business owners of small and medium-sized enterprises often lack time, sleep, and money to be as productive and efficient as they like to be. Fortunately, there is no shortage of online tools designed to help streamline and simplify day-to-day tasks, which will improve business workflow.
Lynda.com - Learning made easy
While Lynda.com may not be a tool in itself, it is undeniably an effective platform, keeping business owners up to date with relevant business tools to run the company successfully.
Lynda.com is essentially an online learning platform. Started in 1995, Lynda.com now offers more than 2,000 online courses from over 250 authors. With four million members, it is one of the oldest players in the online learning space.
The Lynda "all-you-can-learn" membership model charges a monthly fee of $25 for unlimited access to its courses. In the business section, it offer skills-based learning ranging from project management to career development and leadership. With such a vast library, the site is able to break down its business courses into different levels, from beginner through advanced.
For keen learners who seek to master new skills on the go, Lynda.com also has a number of applications that support the mobile learning process.
Google Apps - Powerful tools for free
Everybody knows Google. However, surprisingly, not many SME business owners take advantage of the powerful tools Google offers for free.
With Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides applications, the business is not only mobile and in the cloud, but are some powerful tools to use at any given moment.
Indeed, with Google’s suite of cloud-based office software, users can create and edit professional-looking documents, spreadsheets and presentations from their computers, smartphones or tablets. Furthermore, business owners can create and store documents, reports and presentations in the cloud for easy access and save files for offline use. Files can also be synced with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
As a bonus, business partners or employees can collaborate in real time with simple, yet powerful sharing and editing capabilities like Google Drive, which comes with 15GB of free cloud-based space.
A tip: Using Google Chrome as the browser allows for saving of entire folders rather than individual files into Google Drive!
Buffer - Keep on top of your social media accounts
It is clear that social media is an important aspect of business today. Yet, for many SME business owners, who are short on time and resources, tweeting or posting on Facebook a few times per week is not a priority.
With Buffer, business owners can schedule posts and interact with the audience across different accounts, plus get valuable analytics on how their social media campaigns are performing. It is an efficient tool to connect and streamline multiple social media accounts, create and schedule a day, week or month’s worth of tweets, posts and updates, as well as track the performance of your social media campaigns.
While Buffer works brilliantly and can meet most businesses’ basic needs, it is worthwhile to check alternatives such as HootSuite or Sprout.
Zoho CRM - Organise your leads
Zoho allows businesses to drive sales performance and profitability by providing the tools to sell smart. Through automation, it frees the business and employees to concentrate on creating leads, closing deals and growing customer relationships. Zoho makes it relatively simple to perform lead generation, allowing an entire team to collaborate and share information as it happens, aligning goals and eliminating redundancy.
Many businesses use complex customer relationship management (CRM) tools and while Zoho is just one of many CRM tools available online, it comes with the added benefit of being free for up to ten users. SME owners can store and manage customer data, contact info, sales progress and social interactions, and capture customer info on the site and automatically add them to the list of leads. Furthermore, business owners can automatically sort high-priority activities and leads to help organise a business day.
Pixlr - Design made easy
Professional design software does not come cheap and sometimes may cost literally thousands of dollars. While this may be a worthwhile investment for a design agency, many entrepreneurs and SME owners are completely happy with what Pixlr has to offer.
As a free online software Pixlr offers more than enough functionality to support a business’s basic design needs. Pixlr provides free editing, cropping, and design tools for digital photos and imagery. Web-based and lightweight, it is an easily accessible and cost-free way to make great images for one’s website or brochures. In fact, business owners or employees can crop, resize, color correct, and retouch images for the business’ online store and enhance product photography by removing backgrounds and artefacts as well as create professional-looking logos, artwork and even product mock-ups.
While Pixlr certainly does not replace Adobe Photoshop in its entirety, it does a good job in getting those blog or social media pictures in the right frame.
Last but not least...
Evernote - The perfect workspace
Evernote rocks when it comes to scheduling daily reminders, keeping track of notes and creating shopping or to-do lists. In fact, Evernote calls itself “the workspace for your life’s work,” and for SME business owners, it really can be.
The cloud-based service allows users to keep track of notes, links, lists and photos, and acts as a shareable, cross-device hub of thoughts and ideas. Evernote allows its users to clip and save interesting articles at home or on the go and organise reading lists. Business owners can keep all their ideas synced between their mobile devices and desktop and refer to them anywhere and anytime – Evernote is all about productivity.
Another advantage is that Evernote offers plenty of associated apps that help SME owners save time, find files faster, track travel, transcribe voice notes to text and much more. Truly an effective tool for any SME business owner who likes to be on top of the productivity curve.
- Björn Robert Raschovsky -
Björn Robert Raschovsky is a digital strategist, serial entrepreneur and media designer with more than 20 years of experience in the tourism, media and IT industry. Currently, Bjoern works as a consultant and online marketing manager in Germany and Singapore assisting SME's in their digital needs and quest for automatization. His work engagements included consulting services for multinationals as well as startups in three continents. He is passionate about the digital r(e)volution and the opportunities new technology offers SME's to accelerate their growth.