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Small Biz Matters – a half hour program each week where you can work 

ON your business rather than IN it.

Useful Apps to improve efficiency

with Alexi Boyd

from Boyd Office Management Services

Date: 28th April 2015

INTRO – today’s show is all about useful apps and software to improve business efficiency. Now, when I say efficiency I mean of course, programs to help you improve the way you work, improve your processes and save you time. And of course, what do we way say on the show? Your time is your money, so its great to save money. Get it? Maybe I need an app for that. Hahaha!

Part 1 – Bookings & Calendar Apps

  • TeamUp for organising meetings
  • Meetup for online meetings and
  • Jing from Techsmith is fantastic as Lynette Reeves tells us “I couldn’t survive without Jing! Such a simple app but with so many uses” Is a screen recording as well as a voice record. Great for when you want to teach someone such as a new VA exactly how you want something done. I’ve used it a couple of times and the fact that you can share it instantly is great. It is free, so again I would be wary of what you share and you are limited to 5mins per video.
  • GoogleHangouts and Skpe for online meetings

Part 2 – Storage Apps

  • Dropbox – is great and very easy to use and you can activate pop-ups so people sharing the one dropbox can see when the other person has updated a file. But it does NEED that function since two people opening a file at once can cause what’s known as “conflicted copies” and is painful to untangle. Dropbox Basic accounts start with 2 GB of free space. But you can get more space by inviting in other users. 16GB before paying the annual fee. The Annual fee is $10.99 per month for the Pro 1TB plan. There is also Dropbox for Business at $17 per month per user.
  • And if your Dropbox reaches capacity you can always, like Pia from GeorgiGirls design changed to “We Transfer’ as my Dropbox was at capacity and had an urgent job. It’s a website and you can transfer up to 2GB free – and you get email notifications of other people downloading so you know they got it.”
  • Google is another suite of alternatives. I think they’re trying to take over the world. Moreso. It gives you an initial 15GB of space across all its most used services. Their 1TB per month plan is cheaper at $9.99 per month (US I presume) Their suite includes:
    • Gmail – you actually need to set up a Gmail account in order to access all of these programs
    • Google Drive – for storage but you can also edit documents with their version of Word (Docs) and Excel (sheets) and Powerpoint (slides). Which I must say is getting better and more user friendly. The best thing is that you can both work simultaneously on a document.

Part 3 – Accounts Apps

  • Now as a bookkeeper I am always going to be biased and tell you that you should always avoid free software for processing your invoices and storing any financial info. They may be very convenient but I guess you can never be sure where your info is being stored, or worse sold on to other parties. Call me paranoid but the one area I think you should be concerned about is your financial areas of your business. I think a simple excel spreadsheet and a template word document can suffice as an accounting system well into your business journey. In fact, it wasn’t until my husband started taking on staff that we moved away from an excel/word system and into a “proper” accounting package.
  • BUT there are plenty of people who do use them. There are loads out there
    • Freshbooks is favoured by those in the creative industry
    • invoice2go makes people happy because its app based and you can invoice on the go. Their biggest selling point is that their customers get paid faster and because its cloud based all devices automatically sync
  • And of course when it comes to getting paid, Paypal is great, plus its well known and almost everyone has a paypal account. It means your clients can pay confidently because they have buyer protection (although I’m sure that is fraught with loopholes) BUT remember there are fees for transferring the balance between your Paypal account and your bank account. And even if the income is deposited into the Paypal account you must of course declare and pay tax on it.
  • There’s also ReceiptBank which is $20 per month and works like this:

Project Management Apps

  • By far the most popular and widely used (of the dozens I surveyed) was Trello. Cheryl from Be Ultimate, and even I use this app. It works seamlessly on your phone and syncs beautifully across all devices. It seems to have unending number of platforms (if you have multiple businesses) and job cards (for your jobs/clients). I use it so each client has a job card and then I add tasks to the checklist. You can even create a template card for regular tasks and copy that template each time you start a new task like that one.
  • Basecamp is another very popular project management app which is popular with my listeners – Ursula from Legalvision and Fernanda Ramos. Their website looks excellent with 2 months free and works across all tech platforms and web browsers. And beause its so popular worldwide they have what looks to be great in house support including webinars and Q&A
  • Tayla Kay from NestCreative recommends Hours Tracker is an app on your phone which literally tracks your hours and has GPS and expenses as a feature too. You can clock in and out of a job to track the hours spent on it. There is a free version (with in-app purchasing) Ursula from Legalvision uses Toggl for their time tracking
  • And Adrienne McLean from the Speakers Practice recommends Podio for her project management
  • And if you need to project manage your family there’s always Cozi! This little one looks great: Keep track of everyone’s schedules, activities and appointments, all in one place, Create and share grocery lists, to dos and chores in real time, Access and update from any mobile device or computer

Other Little Handy ones

  • Lynette Reeves also suggested 20percentrule.info which is a great little website which only does one thing – making sure your Facebook ads/images obey the 20% text to image ratio rule.
  • LikeAlyzer is a tool with which you can review your own and your competitor’s websites – its really handy to pick up tips about your own website to see what you’re missing.
  • Car log book is an app which guess what, acts as a car log book! There are a few versions out there so make sure you choose one which uses kms instead of miles!
  • Marcia Ward from Arbonne recommends Zoho, a great CRM programme which is free for 3 or less users.
  • Jenny Jones Thomson from Bespoke Business Support recommends Docusign to get contracts signed electronically (only three per month on the free version though).
  • And a great suggestion from Jenny Lastpass which holds all of your passwords in an encrypted vault. Its free and there’s a premium version which has higher authentication options and is of course ad free. Looks like there is a Shared Family folder too… I use Wallet which is an older version of this kind of software on my Mac but I might need to think about upgrading!
  • Lori Lim recommends Picmonkey for free online picture editing (to change the size etc)
  • Connie Mottshaw says Skitch is great. It takes a screen snap and you can add markers, comments etc to it. Great when you need to get across a design concept or issue with your web pages etc
  • John Hill says YouTube editor is great to quickly edit video content

So there are just a few tips from my listeners but remember that before you invest the TIME (and I say time because most of these software options are relatively inexpensive – it’s the time you spend setting them up and learning how to use them that is what you should quantify.) make sure you do your homework. Research amongst other like-minded businesses and speak to your small business colleagues as to what they would recommend.