If you’re starting a business and you feel overwhelmed with where to start, you’re not alone. In 2020, over 200,000 new businesses were registered in Australia and in 2019, the UK saw around 390,000 new businesses. Many of those new business owners likely felt stressed for a number of reasons, one of them being that picking out the right tools and resources for success is a tricky process.
Investing in technology for your business can save you time and money, whether by improving how you communicate with customers, or by helping you to run the company more effectively. Some people only wish to optimise certain sectors, while others prefer to purchase a whole suite of tools to standardise operations across the board. No matter which camp you fall into, here are some things to consider as you pick the resources you need.
Consider what tools will suit your business structure
There are a lot of resources available for new businesses. In order to wade through the options effectively, it’s important to understand what you need and why.
Before selecting the tools and resources you’ll need to make your new business run smoothly, you need to:
- Consider how your business will be structured
- Think about what you’ll actually need
- Conduct market research.
You may need tools that you can use to contact and manage clients, or programs to help your organization function well internally. If it’s a smaller business with only a few people, then this may not be necessary. But if your company is bigger, or if everyone works remotely, having a program to help everyone stay organized and on top of everything may be critically important.
The type of operation you run will determine the tools you could benefit from. Creating a solid business plan is a great first step to help you identify what you may need. Some elements you might like to include in your business plan are:
- Your vision for the business
- A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis
- An action plan
This step will help you narrow down which resources you need now, and determine those you might need in the future.
For example, if you own a hair salon, you might need a way to easily book and keep track of appointments. You may find that using a digital calendar is easy while your business is still new, but if you think your business may grow rapidly, you may want to invest in a more robust system.
Research the areas in which you need tools and resources
Once you have a solid understanding of your business structure, you can start researching the areas in which you’ll need tools, whether internal, external, or both. It’s a good idea to conduct research with a clear budget in mind, to ensure the options you’re comparing are within your price range. For instance, basic customer relationships management (CRM) software will set you back a few hundred dollars per month, while other full-stack systems can cost thousands.
Start by looking at the top 10 systems, software and products on the market for your industry. This will give you a nuanced understanding of what’s available to match your needs.
Additionally, there are a lot of free resources for businesses offered by governments and other organisations, such as e-books and templates. It’s worth looking into these before making any redundant purchases. Some areas of your business that you might consider getting tools for are:
You might use a business planning tool to ensure your business plan is easy to follow, and that it has all the elements it needs. These can range from online templates to dedicated software, which could prove valuable if you need to adjust your plan as your business grows.
It’s a good idea to invest in tools that can help you keep track your business’s finances. This can be one of the hardest and most confusing aspects of running an organization, but it’s also one of the most important. When using a specialised finance program, you can keep track of how much profit the business is making, how much you need to pay each employee, and your outgoing costs.
In order for your business to grow and attract both new customers and investors, you need good marketing. This can include a wide range of things, including advertising and email lists. Some tools help with general marketing, while others are more specialized. For example, email management software will make it easier to automate the email sending process.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A robust SEO strategy is crucial in today’s business environment. If your company doesn’t adhere to good SEO practices, then when people search for what you sell, they’re unlikely to find you. Most people don’t navigate past the first page, let alone the fifth or sixth. Spending money on SEO, whether that’s by hiring professional help or purchasing access to online tools, will help your business gain exposure and consequently, earn more money.
Every business needs well-written marketing materials. This could mean blog posts, business proposals, or emails. If you’re looking for help with grammar and orthography, you may benefit from a paid correction tool like Grammarly. If you’re time poor and in need of content direction, try a topic suggestion tool which pulls data from real search engines. No matter the reason, there are tools and resources to help you meet your writing needs.
Ask other businesses for reviews of the tools they use
Even if you’ve conducted significant online research into tools and resources, you still may not know which to invest in. One approach is to reach out to other small businesses. They may be able to recommend helpful organizations to join, as well as essential programs they rely on in their day-to-day operations. Even better, anything they suggest will likely be within your budget, compared to the tools used by bigger companies. This could save you a lot of time otherwise wasted through trial and error.
If you don’t know any other small businesses owners, you might want to contact small business organisations to find out what they recommend. Perhaps they’ll suggest a tool you’ve already heard of, or maybe they’ll point you in a new direction. Either way, take heed of those opinions and then factor in your own research. More than 90% of online consumers read reviews before making a purchase, so make sure you do to. The reviews and recommendations of others are often helpful, but at the end of the day, you need to make sure a given tool is compatible with your business and will meet your needs. That’s something only you’ll know for sure.
Try before you buy
Before making any big purchases or commitments, you should see if you can test out any products you’re considering. Some services might offer a week or month free trial. This will allow you to make sure that:
- You like it
- It’s easy to use
- It serves your purpose
- It fits with your business (and works with other tools you already have)
Sometimes companies may not advertise a trial period, but you can always enquire. Alternatively, they may want you to pay a small amount to have access, but that might still be worthwhile.
Consider whether you want your whole business to join the trial, or if you’d prefer to test it with a select few. Either way, reviewing your experience once the trial ends is very important. To do so, either put together a simple survey for the staff that used the tool, or conduct a meeting where people can share their thoughts about it.
It’s also important to remember that if a tool or resource isn’t working once you’ve made the purchase, it’s okay to look for alternatives. As your business grows and changes, you might find that a tool which worked great at first no longer fits your needs. Maybe you need more features, or it’s too difficult to use now that your business has grown. If this happens, consider asking bigger businesses what they use. At this point, you may be able to spend more on a more comprehensive tool anyway.
There are a lot things to consider when starting a new business, but choosing the tools and resources that will help you succeed shouldn’t cause you stress. With a little time and careful research, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
Keep in mind that, once you have an understanding of how your business will be structured, it’ll be easier to know which areas are in need of additional assistance. In general, sectors like finance, business planning, and marketing can benefit from tools and resources. Also, remember to ask for reviews from other small businesses and try out the tools before you make any big purchases.