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10 online business tools for busy start-ups

Written by Caragh Logan

Anyone who runs their own business knows that time is one of their most valuable assets, alongside employee engagement. Online business tools that streamline and automate processes are a worthwhile investment, as are those that help you build a strong, positive company culture.  

This slightly tongue-in-cheek chart from XKCD shows how much time you can save - and spend - when working on efficiency.

Saving time on routine tasks

Technology is continually evolving to pick up our slack. As your competitors are becoming ever more efficient, it's important not to get left behind, and to differentiate yourself to potential hires with a strong, unique company culture.

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‘Digital tech innovation is transforming the UK economy, creating high-quality employment opportunities and driving productivity nationwide’, states Ed Vaizey, former Minister for the Digital Economy.

To help drive the productivity of your company, here are some of our favourite time-saving and culture-building tools: 

1. Xero – Reduce unnecessary losses

Xero's homepage - accountancy software for small businesses

According to a study by The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), mismanagement of company accounts results in the average annual losses per firm of:

  • £508 due to tax miscalculations.
  • £399 due to an invoice not being issued.
  • £257 for a payment bouncing.

To avoid silent losses in your own business, automate your accounting.

Xero provides business owners with a clear picture of their financial situation by connecting directly to their bank account. The Xero dashboard provides concise and easily digestible information, highlighting any cash flow concerns and identifying overdue payments.

2. Canva – Graphic design made simple

Canva homepage - design automation software

‘An estimated 84 percent of communications will be visual by 2018’, reports Inc.com. Previously, this would have meant that unless your company employed a graphic designer, any marketing activity would be lost amongst your competitors’ visual content.

For companies with no design resource, Canva provides an effective solution. Even someone with little to no design experience can easily create engaging campaign imagery.

Loaded with easy-to-use features, Canva allows you to create brand pre-sets, including font and colours, enabling design newbies to use the platform confidently.

3. Basecamp – Project management made easy

Basecamp functionality - project management software for businesses

‘An efficient project management process is key to the successful development of an organisation’. So says the Association for Project Management (APM),

Basecamp is a leading web-based project management and collaboration tool. It offers centralised communications, full visibility and transparency into projects.

Not only does this allow for better decision making, it also encourages trust from clients who can access project information and receive automated progress reports.

4. Turbine – The alternative to tedious paperwork

Turbine homepage - HR automation software for business

Ellipse, the digital group risk insurer, has revealed that:

  • 22% of UK businesses record staff absence in a handwritten document.
  • 8% make a mental note.
  • 4% don’t record staff absence at all.

Turbine provides a range of tools to improve HR efficiency and accuracy -  without the frustration of chasing paperwork. Additionally, it empowers employees to take responsibility for their own holiday and absences, as well as expense claims and purchase orders. This creates a level of autonomy, thus developing trust.

5. Slack – Centralised communication

An example of Slack's interface - a communication app for teams

With over 3 million daily active users, Slack - a communication app for teams - has enjoyed great success since its launch in 2013.

The online app allows groups to join via a specific URL sent by a team admin. Once invited, group members can chat via instant messaging on public boards. Slack also offers the ability to send private messages to other team members.

Emails can get congested with communication from family, colleagues, sales and spam all reaching the same address. Slack increases efficiency by storing all work-specific communications in one tidy platform.

Whether you have remote team members or you just want to keep in-house communications in a convenient, central place, Slack has long been the go-to for everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

6. RingCentral – Video conferencing via the cloud

RingCentral - online video conferencing

‘A whopping 96% of survey participants agreed that Video Conferencing improves productivity’, states Polycom’s guide to video conferencing.

RingCentral allows businesses to conduct video and telephone conferencing through one simple system. The intuitive platform doesn’t require any technical expertise to get started.

Cloud conferencing can help companies make savings on monthly phone expenses and hardware, and eliminates travel costs.

7. MailChimp – Email marketing made simple

Mailchimp's functionality - email marketing software

‘73% of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business, and 60% of marketers claim that email is a critical enabler of products and services’. Email is still a heavy hitter, as revealed by Marketing Cloud’s State of Marketing Report.

MailChimp allows businesses to create and send attractive emails using pre-designed templates. It connects quickly to online stores, enabling businesses to drive traffic to specific products, recapturing lost sales.

It also offers informative analytics regarding the success of an email campaign, recording who has opened and engaged with e-marketing activity.

8. Survey MonkeyData-driven decisions

An example of a survey on Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey allows you to make better data-driven decisions. Whether your business requires the answer to a simple poll or in-depth market research, the platform accommodates with a customisable survey builder.

Using integrated analytics, Survey Monkey garners real-time results, text analysis and an easy-to-share presentation of results. It also allows businesses to define and reach their target audience using the 'Survey Monkey Audience tool'.

9. Work.bot - Prioritising employee happiness

Work.bot's homepage - Employee NPS automation for Slack

Culture is important at startups. It's the foundation on which you define yourself as a business, and informs the way that you treat clients, employees and your work. When it comes to building a strong company culture, it's crucial that your staff feel that their opinions are heard.

Work.bot gives you a direct line to your employees. It's a Slack plugin that surveys your team to find out how they're doing and what they think could be improved.

Your team is an important resource when it comes to process improvement - after all, they're the ones on the ground. By understanding your company's NPS score, you'll can make informed changes that improve both morale and efficiency.

10. Pikt - Build a healthy company culture

Pikt's 'fruitist' box for offices

A healthy employee is a happy employee is a productive employee. There's data to back it up, with study after study confirming that staff in good nick are significantly more productive. 

Pikt helps you make an investment in that productivity by delivering healthy snacks directly to your office. It's a small price to pay to ensure that your team has enough energy and aren't at risk of burning out on the job. 

Use online business tools to fuel growth

Time is the most important commodity for a business, and a strong culture isn't far behind. As there’s usually more to be done than time or resources allow, the use of these online business tools can make marketing, project management, finance and team communication more efficient and friendly. By automating many of these processes, you'll be free to work on the company, rather than in it. 

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(Updated 20th September 2019.)

Apps , Efficiency , Productivity , Technology , Tools