4 "Must have" business tools: software solutions no SME should be without
Updated: Nov 21
Today we launch our "must have" business tools series. In this series we recommend business tools that you can use in your business. We use all of them ourselves and can bear witness to their effectiveness in our practice. Today we look at software and how it can make your business better.
I vaguely remember the days when things were written down using pen and paper. These days 'writing down' takes place using software. Finding the right software solution for your business should be a strategic decision, made with your growth ambitions in mind.
I can hear you asking: "Why are you talking to us about software? You're an accountancy practice!" Yes we are that, and because we are we care about your business being efficient, productive and above all profitable. Utilising software fit for purpose in your business has a direct impact on all three of those areas.
The big four software solutions, the ones you use for (a) customer relationship management (CRM) & communications; (b) finance & sales; (c) productivity; and (d) marketing & social media fall into the big ticket item category. Let me show you what we use in our practice and why it works for us.
In pole position
I am a Google junkie. Their range of products include some of the best solutions available to start-ups, sole traders and small and medium sized businesses. None more so than G-Suite.
G-Suite is a collection of business, productivity and collaboration software. Integrated into one 'suite' across almost all of Google's products. Google's marketplace makes integration with hundreds of non Google software suppliers effortless.
Three of our most important business tools, Gmail, GDrive and Calendar also form the core of the G-Suite product. We are increasingly using Meet for online meetings and Chat for internal messaging. Google's offering of custom email (and web) domains, unlimited cloud storage and 24/7 support adds more value to an already outstanding product.
If your business has a website (I hope it does!) you'll love how it integrates with Google Analytics, Adsense, Google cloud services, webmaster and YouTube. The support site is one of the better ones around, and their blog is packed full of useful articles.
Don't just take our word for it. Navigate to the G-Suite homepage and read for yourself some of the testimonials from G-Suite customers (as of April 2020 G-Suite had six million business customers).
Here is why we consider G-Suite to be a "must have" tool: it's cheap.
That's right, you won't have to pay through your nose for this service. Their simplified, flexible pricing structure and no minimum tie-in makes converting worthwhile (in 2019 G-Suite pricing was increased for the first time in over ten years!). Unlike some of Google's other products, G-Suite users are not bombarded with any advertising at all.
The second of our big four software solutions, is our accounting "must have".
You will be hard-pressed to find a software solution that is more user-friendly and robust than FreshBooks. It is an all-in-one small business invoicing and accounting tool.
FreshBooks is MTD (making tax digital) compliant, HMRC approved and packed full of features designed to make your bookkeeping effortless.
Expenses management, time-tracking, estimates, payment integration, reporting suite and outstanding invoicing functionality are just some of the features that this software offers. In their words FreshBooks describes itself as "software that makes running your small business easy, fast and secure. Spend less time on accounting and more time doing the work you love."
FreshBooks offers great integrations (e.g. G-Suite, Dropbox, Trello) to help you make your business more productive. New integrations are added on a regular basis, resulting in its "must have" credentials increasing with every new addition.
Brilliant customer support, an app for on-the-go bookkeeping, industry standard SSL and data encryption, twenty-four million users in more than one hundred and sixty countries means that you simply cannot go wrong with this software.
One of FreshBooks outstanding features is how easy it is to use. Requiring only an minimal (but worthwhile) investment of time, anyone can use the invoicing and basic bookkeeping functions.
Unsquared was recently certified by FreshBooks and accepted into their accounting professionals program. This means that we have undertaken mandatory training to use all of the features that FreshBooks offer. Not only can we onboard you, but you also have the ability to invite us into your organisation as your accountants.
Sign-up through us is hassle free and your the first ninety days is completely free of charge. All you have to do is send us a message via your client portal account and we'll take care of the rest.
Disclaimer: Unsquared Accounting receives a referral bonus for every new sign-up. Find out why we ring fence this type income and how we use it here.
Here is why we consider FreshBooks to be a "must have" tool: we use it to do our own books.
We think that if its good enough for us to do our books with, it should be good enough for you to do yours.
The third and fourth of our big four software solutions, is our customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing "must have".
Do you know what outbound marketing is? How about content marketing? Do you have a content strategy? Is your brand book up-to-date? Perhaps you don't know how to effectively deal with your customer's queries? Struggling to convert leads into customers?
Ladies and gentlemen I give you HubSpot!
Hubspot is the one-stop shop for all things marketing, sales, CRM and customer service. At face value not the most exciting subjects to study, but nevertheless absolutely business critical.
In this digital, fast-paced, global business environment we operate in, knowing which social media channels to market your products and services in is essential. Generating leads into sales before they disappear to go elsewhere could be the difference between making a profits or having to report losses.
The software is offered in four "hubs", CRM, marketing, sales and customer services. CRM hub to help you organise, track and build relationships with leads and customers. This software is offered completely free forever.
A marketing hub for growing traffic to your website and tips and advice to give you the best chance to convert your leads into customers. The starter plan (ideal for small businesses) is offered completely free forever.
A sales hub to help you gain deeper insights into prospects through meaningful analytics and reporting. It provides you with skills necessary to close deals. The starter plan is also completely free forever.
A service hub for connecting with customers on a meaningful level. Some of the features of this hub include a helpdesk ticketing system, a knowledge base and customer feedback forums. Again the starter plan is completely free forever.
The software makes more than four hundred different integrations possible (including both G-Suite and FreshBooks). The CRM hub comes with personalised, guided on-boarding. The support site is comprehensive and backed-up by a community of users willing to help and guide you.
The two outstanding features that HubSpot offers are (a) their blogs; and (b) their academy.
The HubSpot blogs (marketing, sales, customer service, CRM and website development) receives more than seven million visitors every month. They are jam-packed full of articles that comprehensively cover the subjects they are dedicated to. In addition, a very large percentage of blog posts contain downloadable resources.
Their academy makes it possible for a someone who has very little or no knowledge of marketing, sales, customer service and CRM to gain the skills needed to benefit their organisations. The lessons are interactive and some even lead to some kind of certification. Most of the course offered are completely free of charge.
Here is why we consider HubSpot to be a "must have" tool: everything is completely free forever.
The sheer volume of professional advice, training and resources offered by HubSpot, completely free on the starter plans is unprecedented. Don't pass this one by, it's worth every minute you invest.
A final thought. Making change merely for the sake of it is not a change for the better. Honestly assess the software that you have. Consider:
Do you spend a lot of time doing additional data analysis outside of the application?
Do you ever wish the software that you use could do more?
If you have a problem, do you have unnecessary down-time whilst you wait for support?
Do you fear that the next malfunction will render it completely inoperable for good?
Does the software help or hinder your growth ambitions now?
If you answer 'no' to most of those questions you probably don't have to change anything. On the other hand if you answer 'yes' to most, I suggest you prioritise making a change. Unsquared offers an evaluate and recommend service particularly aimed at the software you use and how it can be improved. Find more information here.
The recommendations in this article are just that, recommendations. I stated at the beginning that we make these recommendations based on our use of the software in our practice. I accept that it may not fit your particular business. If you are using other software tools (in one of the big four categories) to great effect in your business, please do share the details by commenting on this article.
Upcoming articles: in part two of our "Must have" business tools series we will be discussing skills that every business owner, director or manager "must have".