Since 2009, small businesses created more new jobs than larger corporations (those with 500+ employees). Because of small business’s significant place in our economy, there are now tools designed just for small businesses. These tools range from accounting, marketing, and communications to project management and operations. Employing these platforms can increase a small business’s efficiency, employee engagement, and team collaboration. We highly recommend choosing tools to aid your small business. We have reviewed a few tools in three critical areas to help your small business.
Take a look:
The Best Communication Tools
Slack hit the scene a few years back, and it shook small business communication. This part-IM/part-group-chat can be your primary internal communication platform. It’s easy to use with desktop and smartphone apps, drag and drop files attach files, and one of the best features, no info is ever deleted. You can look back as far as you need to find something. The most important features of Slack, however, are the integrations. Nearly all of our business line application software is integrated into Slack – allowing for a single platform of communications linking all of our critical data.
HipChat is a great tool for team communication with an added benefit of video chat. HipChat is fully customizable, allows you to share your screen, and you can drag and drop files.
The Best Project Management Tools
Basecamp is a platform that makes simplifies project management. Create a project, include the contributors, assign due dates, attach files, add notes, and get on with it. No extra complexities but you can communicate through this platform with discussion threads and increase team collaboration, adding an additional layer of transparency we don’t see with all PM tools. The workflow is thoughtful, and the file and document management tools are game-changers. Basecamp also has some features that help you NOT work – the snooze option lets you defer notifications for three hours and the Work Can Wait feature enables you to turn off notifications altogether outside of set working hours.
Asana and Trello are both great for to-do lists. Each of these can be used for project management, but they are not as nimble as Basecamp. Trello is best if used for smaller projects or just smaller teams. You can create customized boards to match your workflows. It’s not the best end-to-end project management platform, but it’s great for small team’s task management. In Asana you can create projects, sub-projects and you can assign tasks and dates to yourself or others. You can view your tasks in order of priority, due date, project, or whatever else might make sense for you. Asana has a few trade-offs compared to Basecamp but is still a great option if you want something comprehensive at a lower price point.
The Best Operations and Oversite Tools
15five’s weekly reporting is based on an individual’s goals for the week. They set three main goals at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week, they can report on what activities and tasks they were able to complete. This tool is great for accountability, and after a few weeks, it brings some awareness to employees about how efficient they are in a week and what realistic goals they should set. 15Five’s name comes from “15 minutes for the employee to complete, 5 minutes for the manager to review”. It has helped us as we’ve grown in aiding communication, alignment, and transparency.
TinyPULSE has a few different benefits – with the primary focus being gathering data on your employee engagement. When we were ten people, I could grab lunches with our team and get our answers. Now, with 60+ employees – this allows me to tackle issues before they affect the business. Anonymous surveys are sent out. You can ask your employees anything from, “How happy are you with your job on a scale of 1-10?” to “How can we improve such and so process?” Employees can also send each other “Cheers for Peers” which is a way to send positive feedback and make sure employees know just how appreciated they are.
These two platforms have different enough functionalities that they can be beneficial working side by side.
Any tool a small business uses will have some tradeoffs. A little good old-fashioned research might be necessary to make sure you’re getting what your team needs. Creating a stack of platforms that can interact with one another without having disruption via over-notifications is more challenging than it might sound. Collaboration, engagement, and efficiency for your team should be the three pillars all of your platforms can stand on.