This post by guest blogger Larry Bills appears as part of our series Small Business 500.
Entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses have a lot to do and very little time to do it. They want to make their big idea a success, but the reality of starting a business is that you will have to spend a lot of time doing things that have nothing to do with that idea – setting up corporate email accounts, creating budgets, printing marketing materials, and on and on. This makes it critical to have an efficient and focused process for picking the tools and applications you need for your business infrastructure. Here are five tips to help you choose the best apps for your small business:
1. Identify the problem you hope the tool will solve
Sounds obvious, right? But all too often small business owners will invest in tools they don’t need, either because someone told them all businesses need to have a certain application, or they think it’s something they might need later down the line. When money is tight and time is short, don’t buy something to solve a problem you don’t have.
2. Establish a budget
If you decide your business does need an application, determine how much money you can spend on it and stick to it. Every penny counts when setting up a business and you shouldn’t spend any more on infrastructure than is absolutely necessary. If the cost of a new tool will hurt more than help your bottom line, reconsider your purchase.
3. Do your research
There are very few, if any, business tools and applications that only have one version from one company. Be thorough and research price, features, and especially user reviews of a variety of products. Most of the time you will have to cobble together your information from several different sources, but try to find sites devoted to particular products such as FaxCompare.com, a site that reviews all the top online fax service providers and allows you to research all products in one place.
4. Sign up for a free trial
Most business tools and services offer free trials and you should take advantage of them to make sure the product actually fits your needs before you commit to purchasing it. In fact, it’s often good practice to sign up for free trials of multiple products and then simply cancel the ones you don’t like once you’ve decided which app you like best.
5. Be prepared to outgrow your tools
Just because an application or product is critical to your business right now doesn’t mean you’ll always need it, or that you won’t eventually need to upgrade to a more robust (i.e. more expensive) version. It’s easy to get comfortable with certain systems and processes for your business, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always be critical in the future.
Larry Bills is Director of Content for ChooseWhat.com, an online resource guide dedicated to guiding entrepreneurs through the process of how to start a new business. The site provides advice on the best way to set up your business infrastructure and provides reviews of basic business tools such as online fax and email marketing services.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.