10 Apps and Tools to Make Your Small Business Better and More Efficient

When you don't have the resources to build custom solutions, you can rely on these affordable (or free) fixes.

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By Matthew Toren • May 5, 2017 Originally published Apr 4, 2017

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For many startups, achieving meaningful growth -- the kind that gets the attention of investors and potential buyers -- means having the right tools. While larger companies can usually afford to build their own custom solutions, smaller businesses tend to rely on outside vendors. Fortunately, plenty of companies out there cater to the specific needs of smaller enterprises and early-stage startups, and the tools they provide are often as affordable as they are effective.

From customer relationship management platforms to project management programs, here are seven of the best and most widely used tools on the market today. The best part? Some of them are absolutely free.

Related: The 15 Most Profitable Small-Business Industries

1. Hatchbuck

This all-in-one sales and marketing automation platform was built specifically for smaller businesses. Hatchbuck enables you to manage your contacts, automatically follow up with leads and track deals through each stage of the sales funnel. With everything organized and automated, it's easy to communicate with prospects and customers so you can squeeze more revenue out of your sales pipeline and prevent important conversations from falling through the cracks. Hatchbuck provides core sales and marketing functions and leaves out extraneous features that make larger customer relationship managements (CRMs) like Salesforce too expensive and complicated for smaller businesses.

2. The Whether by Better Weekdays

The Whether -- essentially the HubSpot for the hiring world -- is an inbound recruiting platform that helps companies attract, nurture and hire millennial talent. The app gives companies and university career advisors a look at the job-seeking process while boosting engagement. This helps students and recent graduates find careers aligned with their strengths and values.

3. FreshBooks

For companies entering a growth phase, keeping track of finances is imperative. FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting software platform also designed specifically for small businesses. It doesn't have many of the overwhelming and unnecessary features of its larger competitor, QuickBooks, so you don't have to be an accountant to understand how to use it.

Related: In the World of Recruiting, 3 Leadership Qualities to Look for

4. PandaDoc

As companies grow, their document management requirements inevitably increase; new employees need to sign onboarding paperwork and handbooks, and new clients might sign service contracts. PandaDoc is a document management platform that digitizes standard operational procedures and makes them more efficient. For specific suggestions on how to use the app, check out the solutions tab on its website.

5. Slack

Businesses large and small use Slack to improve communication and collaboration. Originally a gaming company, Slack is now one of the most well-known project management and internal communications tools available to businesses. This is no coincidence, as its sleek design and intuitive interface add up to an unparalleled user experience.

6. 15Five

Consistent reporting gets a lot harder when your team is suddenly growing and work is steadily flowing in. It's no surprise that a lot of startup founders and small business leaders struggle to keep up with what everyone in their companies are doing. Fortunately, 15Five is a great tool for getting weekly reports from your team in an efficient and even enjoyable manner. It helps employers learn more about everything from productivity to company morale and help lower employee turnover.

Related: How Successful Leaders Communicate With Their Teams

7. Zapier

All of the tools above get even more valuable when they can integrate seamlessly. That's where Zapier comes in. This popular application takes advantage of application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect a plethora of custom web tools, and the number of possible "Zaps" users it can create is constantly growing.

8. Woo

Building a winning team is always hard, especially when it comes to finding good developers. Hire the best tech talent in the world with Woo and its AI agent, which anonymously matches candidates with employers according to parameters like work experience, compensation, and work-life balance. Woo is already helping giants like Uber, Lyft, WeWork, Yahoo, Quora and Microsoft hire their top developers. It's a great tool for any entrepreneur who wants to find the right talent. (And who doesn't?)

9. Kajabi

Are you an expert in your field? Want to become a "solopreneur?" Kajabi is the ultimate all-in-one platform for creating, marketing and selling digital products. It comes with all of the features you need to turn your experience and passion into a profitable online course business. From fitness coaches and makeup artists to online marketing experts and music producers, Kajabi users have made more than $350M from selling their knowledge online.

10. ClickMeeting

Want to grow your business and audience with video? With ClickMeeting, you can host, promote and market branded webinars and interactive video sessions with potential clients, leads and team members. ClickMeeting is one of the most agile and easy-to-use webinar platforms out there, integrating with all CRMs and email marketing platforms while still giving you the option to have a fully branded webinar environment.

The above tools are some of the best of an array of technologies aimed at helping smaller companies achieve growth. Take some time to explore them, then decide which ones might work for your company, especially before investing in more expensive (and possibly less useful) products. Chances are you'll be glad you did.

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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