Find The Right Tools for Your Small Business

Over the years I’ve started several small businesses and learned, often the hard way, that it’s important to have the right tools to be successful. A common trap small business owners and entrepreneurs fall into is not have the right tools at the right time. I find that when I cheap out, or try to make due without purchasing the right gear or software it costs me time and money.

With that in mind, here’s a list of must have tools, and some recommendations for your business:

1. Get an Office Suite

There are many free and paid options out there, but I’ve always stuck with Microsoft Office and it’s never let me down. Free choices like Google Docs , just can’t offer the support and features I’ve come to appreciate in MS Office. Simply put, MS Office just works and I never have to worry about compatibility issues.

I also like that MS Office comes with OneDrive cloud storage, so all my business’ documents are safely stored offsite and accessible from anywhere and on any device. My business uses OneDrive as our central data storage, giving all employees access to important files. This allows us to keep track of all our business documents. I know a lot of people use Google’s offerings, but I’ve found that when my employees use these, I have no control over the documents and files they create. Furthermore, if they ever leave the company, I have no record of where they were storing their work or what documents they still have access too. With MS Office, I know where everything is and who has access to those documents.

Microsoft offers both downloadable and cloud versions of its Office software, depending on what appeals to you. If you’re looking for other cost effective options, check out Corel’s WordPerfect Office Suites.

2. Finances

We all want to get paid and keep on top of our accounts. Fortunately, technology and the cloud have made that so much easier! Accounting packages from Sage and Intuit, like Sage One and Quickbooks, can help any business owner organize their finances. Depending on the complexity of your accounting needs options for downloadable and cloud versions of these software packages exist. Personally, I love the cloud option, as it makes it easy for me to access my financial information from any device with an Internet connection. I can send invoices from the office, home, or on the road. Then there’s Square: they make both a POS cash register system that works with iPads and a small Square Card Reader that plugs into your smartphone. Both allow you to take credit card payments (and soon debit in Canada) by getting the gear and going through a simple sign-up process. I wish they had this service when I first started out!

3. Marketing

Every business needs marketing and sales collateral. Things like business cards, sales sheets, signs, etc. And don’t forget about your web presence. Yes, you can source different freelancers to create all this for you, or you can make it easy on yourself by consolidating it all with Staples Print and Marketing Services. They have experts that can help design logos, promotional items (like t-shirts, golf balls, and pens with your company’s name on them), and even look after your website. Of course, they can also look after all your company printing requirements. Having personally used the different Staples services over the years I can attest to saving thousands of dollars in time and money. I trust them for my marketing needs, which saves me from trying to piece together solutions on my own instead focus on building my businesses.

4. Essential Tech Tools: Laptops

Of course, you couldn’t run a business without a computer or laptop. This is one area where I always say you get what you pay for. When you’re starting a new business you might not have the money for top-of-the-line laptops. However, I’ve learned that when you think you’re saving money in the short term, you end up paying more down the road. Every time I’ve bought a cheap laptop, I’ve regretted it a year later. You save money but, as applications are updated, you realize that the system you’re using is underpowered and can’t handle the new updates. Look for laptops that have at least an Intel i5 (or equivalent) or, better yet, an Intel i7 processor. Yes, they are going to start in the $600+ range, but they will last years longer than a $250 laptop. You’ll get your money’s worth and end up saving money in the long run because you’re not constantly buying new machines. Apple, Asus, Acer, HP, Lenovo and MSI all make excellent machines in those processor ranges.

5) Backup and storage

This is critical for every business but is often over looked until it’s too late. For backup and storage to work effectively, you need to look for solutions that are automatic and seamless. From my experience, when you rely on humans to remember to back up your documents and financial records, mistakes happen. I recommend two types of backup: cloud based, and external physical hard drive storage. There are many different cloud backup services, which make it hard to choose, but keep it simple and go with a name you trust. It’s also very important to ensure your data is stored in Canada. Using a service like Staples Online Backup and Restore service is a great choice, for example. When you go with a foreign service, you are at the mercy of that country’s data and privacy laws. In simple terms, if they want to look at your data for any reason, you have little to no recourse. For physical backup, I recommend external USB or network attached drives from brands like Seagate and Western Digital. They offer various storage sizes, depending on what you need, and include automatic backup software. They’ll make sure your data is backed up, because if you’re like me, you’ll eventually forget.

By Mike Agerbo

October 11, 2017