Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, especially for a small, independent business, then you’re going to have to learn a few things. First, you need to learn how to thrive on peanut butter sandwiches (at least until you start seeing some financial success). Second, you need to know about the best apps and programs for helping an entrepreneur get his or her business off the ground.
You need programs and/or apps for communication, organization, and managing your finances. Luckily, it’s all out there, and whenever it’s not free, at least it’s affordable. Here are the five best programs and applications for any entrepreneur who’s scrambling to find his or her footing in a frenzied time.
Evernote – Evernote is a free-to-download program that lets you save ideas, pictures, and sounds. It’s available across multiple smartphones, tablets, and computers, including PC, Mac, iOS, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone. Evernote’s search function lets you find what you’re looking for without a hassle. Never forget a prospective client’s name ever again—unless you really want to, for whatever reason.
FlightTrack Pro – Available for iOS or Android, FlightTrack Pro is a must-have application for anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in the air. With the touch of a few buttons, you can look up your detailed flight information, including possible delays and gate numbers. FlightTrack Pro even informs you of cancellations and suggests alternative flights. If your flying experience turns into a scheduling nightmare, you’re going to want FlightTrack Pro by your side.
Skype – Free Skype-to-Skype phone calls with clients or other workers can save you a bundle in phone bills. More importantly, whenever you travel out of the country, Skype-to-Skype calls via smartphone apps will prevent you from having to give up your first born child in roaming fees.
Dimewise – Dimewise helps you manage your budget as simply as possible. You can record and categorize your purchases, then take a look at your spending habits with the aid of a handy pie-chart. Dimewise is web-based, so you can access it anywhere you can find a browser.
Trillian – Many companies conduct a great deal of business via IM (instant messaging) chats. Problem is, everyone has their favorite, and they’re often not cross-compatible. Fear not. Trillian lets you log into several of your favorite chat clients at once, saving you the agony of having to juggle multiple programs. Trillian supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, IRC, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, and much more. It can be downloaded as a desktop program, or as an app for iOS, Android, or Blackberry.
For more great suggestions on programs that every entrepreneur should have, visit:
Top 25 Apps to Grow Your Business at AvivaDirectory
10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs at Forbes
10 Must-Have Business Apps for 2011 at Entrepreneur.com
Can you run a business without a smartphone in hand? Sure, but it would make your life just a wee bit more complicated. Granted, maybe running your business puts enough on your plate, and you don’t have time to run around and conduct the research you need to make an informed decision. But when you narrow down what’s important, choosing a smartphone for your business isn’t as intimidating as it initially appears to be.
What’s keeping you from adopting a smartphone (or several smartphones) into your business? Fear of additional costs? Knowing that you’ll just grab the first smartphone you see off the shelf because you don’t have the time or energy to mess around? Don’t panic. Here are five tips to help you pick the best smartphones for your small business.
Research which phone is best for your needs – What do you need your smartphone for, exactly? Phone calls, primarily? Email? Twitter? Facebook? If you’re truly interested in only making phone calls on the go, you can buy a feature phone and save yourself a whack of cash. Feature phones aren’t brimming with apps, but many models still offer email, personal organizers, Wi-Fi capabilities, and even a GPS. They’re perfectly fine for getting the basics done while you’re on the road.
Find the right carrier – This is the trickiest part of buying a smartphone. The myriad commercials from American cellular providers don’t help, because they all claim to be the best. So which provider/carrier is the best? There’s no easy answer, but you should think about what you need. Are you going to be making a lot of phone calls? If so, which provider has the fewest drops and the clearest reception? Are you going to be fiddling with your apps a lot? If that’s the case, good data plans should take priority.
Evaluate which operating system you need – iPhone? Android? Blackberry? Windows Phone? Oh boy. Again, if you love apps, the iPhone’s your best bet, though Android isn’t shabby at all. But Blackberries are generally affordable and still command a loyal fanbase. If you’re having trouble choosing which operating system to take home, check out our iPhone vs Android buying guide.
Solicit feedback – Seems like everyone has a smartphone, doesn’t it? Well, put that factoid to good use and ask friends and acquaintances what they like and don’t like about their choice. Is the 3G network dependable? Is reception clear? How much did it cost? Will they upgrade their phone, or go with another model entirely?
What’s your budget? – Finally, think about how much you have to spend. Top-of-the-line iPhones aren’t cheap, but if you have a hefty chunk of change to spend on them, go for it. If you’re limited, and who isn’t, go for an older model of iPhone, or check out your options in the Android market.
Need more smartphone buying advice? Read:
How to Choose a Smartphone For Your Small Business at American Express’ OpenForum
3 Tips for Choosing the Right Smartphone for Your Business at Entrepreneur
Picking the Right Smartphone at Tales of a Travelling Salesman
It’s been said that only a poor craftsman blames his failings on his tools, but let’s be honest: It’s so much easier to get a job done if you have some decent equipment backing you up. The modern workplace calls for a lot of gadgets, and while you don’t have to spend a whack of money to equip yourself with the best office tech you need to do a satisfactory job on every assignment that’s handed to you.
Everything comes down to practicality. Even a relatively inexpensive purchase that you make today can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches down the line. Think in the long-term, and think about gadgets that will help you out of a jam if your favored hardware decides to take a day off. Here are five of the best office and home office technology tools and gadgets you’ll want to pick up.
Printer/Copier/Scanner – Every office needs a printer, a copier, and a scanner. If you preside over a big office then an industrial-size copier is your only option (plus an established guard 24/7 to make sure nobody Xeroxes their behind). If you have a small and/or home office, though, you’re definitely going to want to look into a three-in-one rig. They’re comparatively inexpensive, and save a lot of space. Unfortunately, three-in-one jobs don’t have a reputation for long-term health. If you’re looking for a printer/copier/scanner combo that won’t let you down, Engadget recently asked its readers to list suggestions.
Smartphone – Of course. Who goes around without their phone these days, right? But smartphones provide a valuable service beyond calling mom: The permanent connection to the 3G network will certainly come in handy if your Wi-Fi connection ever decides to flop and die. Also, tablets and smartphones like the iPhone and Kindle Fire have great applications that can come in handy for any business big or small.
External Hard Drive and/or Thumb Drive – Let’s be honest. One day, your hard drive is going to go kaput, and it’s going to happen at the most inopportune time. External hard drives (and/or a decently-sized thumb drive or memory card) are vital for backing up your most important files and transferring them to a secondary machine. Back up early, and back up often!
PC or Laptop – Needless to say, you need a dependable machine to help you connect to the Internet, finish your work, and let you communicate with your peers and the world in general. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out our PC buying guide.
Ergonomic Mouse Pads and Keyboards – Far too few employers give much thought to the long-term health of their employees’ bones and tendons. Ergonomic keyboards and mouse pads are inexpensive, but can save typists a lot of pain and inflammation down the line.
For more suggestions on vital office gadgets, read:
11 Gadgets You Should Have on Your Office Wishlist at Workawesome
7 Best Office Gadgets at Focus