There are so many apps out there claiming to solve, or at least minimise, your business’s day to day operational problems that it can be difficult to know which actually do what ‘it says on the tin’. So, here’s some of our top recommendations:
If you’re one of those people who stuff receipts into your wallet intending to claim back the costs from your business but forget and end up with a mountain of bits of paper, no idea what they were for and then face the mammoth task of manually entering everything into a spreadsheet or your accounting system – then Expensify is for you. Available for both Androids and IOS and with a simple to use online portal, it can be used by individuals as well as small teams and large corporates. Link Expensify to your accounting package (Xero, Quickbooks, Sage, FinancialForce) take a photo of your receipt with your phone and upload – Expensify does the rest. You can even enter mileage claims supported by a map of your route – no more having to remember to write down your daily trips. Prices start at $5 per user per month.
Perhaps one of the better-known accounting packages, although lately supplanted by the likes of Xero, in our opinion though Quickbooks is one of the simplest tools out there for organising your small business finance. Create and send invoices from your phone (particularly useful for tradespeople who are constantly on the move). Calculate VAT; run a payroll and submit reports directly to HMRC; even complete your self-assessment. The interface is clean, easy to understand and avoids ‘accountants jargon’ making it suitable for even the least financially savvy to use. From £6/month (currently with 50% discounts for the first 6 months).
Who hasn’t heard of Skype and used it to stay in touch with family and friends? But what about using it in your business? With a busy business, a face to face meeting is often not possible – Skype can enable you to video call your customers, potential clients, and even remotely based employees, on mobiles, tablets, and desktop devices. You can even organise group video calls – bringing people together without physically leaving their location. With add on fees, phone calls to non-Skype contacts are also possible.
Need to survey your customer or client base? From a simple poll to more in-depth market research, Survey Monkey could be what you need. Now available as an app for both Android and IOS devices in addition to the desktop version, there’s no excuse for not finding out what your customers really think. The basic free package should suit most small businesses.
If you are using multiple different social media platforms for your business, you really need to look at Hootsuite. Manage and post to up to three of your platforms for free via your desktop or the mobile app (Android and IOS). With the mobile app, just as with the desktop version, you can schedule, publish, and monitor conversations from anywhere - from editing a scheduled post on the train or capturing a video, you'll have one seamless Hootsuite experience from desktop to mobile.
As their website says – marketing used to be simple and then it got complicated! Gurgl is a simple intuitive and easy to use CRM (Customer Relations Management) tool which works just as well on your mobile device as on a desktop. Create email campaigns, monitor their impact, and link and organise your marketing activities in one place. Prices start at £15 per month making it affordable for even the smaller business.
So, your business has grown, and you now have employees – how best to handle holidays, sickness, run appraisals and boost employee engagement? An online HR system like breatheHR allows you to run all of this from one cloud-based system – nothing to install and the interface looks (and works) just as well whether used on your mobile phone, tablet, or desktop. As an added bonus, your team can download the free app to their phone, send leave requests, notify absence through ill health, and even send ‘kudos’ (messages praising other team members) from wherever they may be. Ranging from £9/month for 1 employee, up to £199 for 250 staff.
If you run a business that relies on customers making appointments, then you don’t want to miss an opportunity even if you can’t take that phone call or immediately answer an email. TimeTrade is a scheduling tool which enables direct booking of appointments or meetings by linking to your online calendar (Google, Outlook, and ICal). You decide the duration of each appointments on your TimeTrade account and create links to the scheduler on your websites and social media. Your clients simply click and decide on the time and date that is right for them and your calendar is instantly updated. The application itself, whilst not strictly speaking a mobile app has been optimised for performance on smaller screens. From $149 a year.
How often are you browsing on your phone and come across an interesting article or perhaps someone emails you a link to something you ‘absolutely must read’ but you just don’t have the time right there and then to read in full? Then, when you do have the time you can’t remember how you found the item in the first place! Pocket could help: simply sign up (it’s free) using your Google account OR email address and start saving articles/videos/pretty much anything to your Pocket and return to them when you have the time. It works on desktop, Android and IOS.
Traditional note taking be it at board meetings or when you simply need to highlight something for later is fraught with potential difficulty (not the least of which is often reading your own handwriting). Cogi is an app which aims to resolve this. Simply install on your Android or IOS device and it will run in the background until you tap to start recording (automatically rewinding 15 secs as it does so you don’t miss anything). This is not a recording device but is rather aimed at simply capturing the ‘ah ha’ points in a meeting or phone call. It will even transcribe the chosen voice section and allows photos and text notes to be captured. Free to download.
Let’s face it, some of us are ‘to do list’ makers whilst others aren’t but we all need to be organised, especially when running a business. Todoist turns your mobile device or your desktop into a powerful task manager. Share unlimited tasks with anyone – colleagues, family, friends – and collaborate in real-time on shared projects and goals. Add end dates, visualise your productivity, receive notifications when a colleague updates something and much more. The basic plan is free and allows for up to 80 active projects and up to 5 people per project.
Trello is another project management tool but uses a ‘board’ layout rather than a list system – useful for those who prefer a more visual reminder and record keeping system. Again, it is free for the small user and is available on Android and IOS. There is an option to link one another application (Mailchimp for example) to the free package, and files up to 10mb from Google Drive, DropBox, Box or OneDrive can be attached. The free version offers unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists, and attachments.
Scannable and CamScanner
Scannable (https://evernote.com/products/scannable/) for IOS devices captures the paper in your life quickly and easily transforming it into high-quality scans ready to save or share. CamScanner) (https://www.camscanner.com/), which is multi-platform, does exactly the same. The paperless office may not yet be here, but these two apps certainly help digitise your paperwork. Both are free to download.
From Gmail (including using your own domain name) to document storage and creation (via Google Docs/sheets etc), Google Drive is the ultimate office management system and it’s free (up to a point). As your business grows consider scaling up to G Suite for business for shared drives and more storage.
More than 1 billion people in over 180 countries use this free messaging service which is available for Android and IOS phones as well as Mac and Windows PC’s. Create groups, keep in touch with customers and your teams, send photos and videos – all free if you are connected to wifi (or stay within your data limits if roaming).
Of course, the problem with having all these apps and services is remembering multiple passwords and login details. This is where LastPass comes in, store all your passwords and login details in one place with just one master password. The app works on ALL platforms and can even help you generate secure passwords (the sort with random symbols, numbers, and upper lowercase combinations which you NEVER remember!).
For more on this or to find out how we can further support your business contact us.
SmartPA Partner Laura Billingham
With over twenty years in the SME and start up sector, with particular focus on the new technology and digital industries sector, Laura has great experience in establishing back office systems and procedures aimed at streamlining business efficiency and effectiveness. Earlier positions in the public sector, including the NHS and education, together with a variety of roles at senior level have enabled Laura to communicate effectively across the board.