Top Tech Tools for the 5 Business Basics Readily available technology is making it easier for entrepreneurs to get the chores done so they can focus on strategy.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
From smartphones to the Internet and beyond, computer technology has radically transformed how we live and work in the 21st century.
When I founded The Protocol School of Palm Beach more than 17 years ago, I started out with nothing more than a computer, fax machine and printer, yet I still managed to run my business efficiently (or so I thought). Now, like many other entrepreneurs, I have access to high-tech software applications that didn't even exist a decade ago and I find myself more productive than ever before.
Over time, I've learned that these super-tools enable you to get more done in less time with fewer resources, if you know which ones to use and how to make the most of them.
The problem is that there are so many resources to choose from, and their number is exponentially growing all the time. It can be extremely confusing. Additionally, implementing and learning a new system takes time and effort, so deciding which ones will work best for your business can be a challenge.
To simplify the decision-making process, here is a quick overview of some of the most popular platforms categorized by task areas most relevant to entrepreneurs.
As your to-do list grows, it's more challenging to keep track of all the tasks that must get done on time. Project management tools including Evernote, Basecamp and Asana help you organize all of your information across multiple platforms in a single application.
2. Data storage.
The cloud allows us to store vast volumes of information and media (text, audio, photo or video files), and access it almost instantaneously from any Internet-connected device. This enables entrepreneurs to work virtually anywhere, anytime, and easily share data with colleagues and clients while protecting their precious data from hard-drive crashes. Google Drive, Dropbox and Apple's iCloud are the most widely-used platforms
3. Social media.
Social media has revolutionized the way companies communicate with their customers. It has leveled the playing field between entrepreneurs and large corporations to an unprecedented extent by enabling individuals to directly connect with their target audiences, make new friends, and speak to people on a personal level. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of other social media sites gives you direct access to your client base, while platforms like Hootsuite enable you to coordinate your social media activities.
Email may seem old-school at this point, but it's still a highly effective method of engaging current clients and winning new ones over. This personalized form of communication lets you check in with customers and clients from time to time, send articles of interest, or just say "hello." MailChimp and Constant Contact are just a couple of the services entrepreneurs can use to send out customized announcements, promotions and e-newsletters with easy-to-use templates.
For entrepreneurs, finances generally fall into three categories: increasing revenues, billing, and tracking income. Fortunately, some applications help with all three. Quickbooks, FreshBooks and Square, for instance, enable users to quickly create professional-looking invoices while tracking which clients have paid and which haven't. Getting paid on time enables you to run your business without undue stress.
The tech tools now universally available to anyone with Internet access make this a Golden Age for entrepreneurs looking to take their business to the next level. Use these tech tools wisely, and you'll be well on your way to success.