We’re always on the lookout for small business tools and apps that will increase productivity while preserving our sanity. So we decided to reach out to fellow small business owners to hear what they recommend.
The number of replies wowed us, as did people’s passion as they wrote to us about their favorites. While we encountered many interesting apps and tools, a few names rose to the top because they were the ones that multiple people from myriad industries brought up repeatedly.
You’ll find the results below along with comments from some of the business owners who recommended these business tools.
Slack’s tagline is “be less busy,” an apt description for this team communication platform. According to its website, Slack gives you “everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.” Use the free version (which includes an unlimited number of people) or try one of the reasonably priced upgrades to access other features.
What small business owners are saying about Slack…
Bill Fish is the founder and president of ReputationManagement.com. He says, “We absolutely love to use Slack. It is such a great tool to keep in close contact with the entire staff as well as any outside consultants. It’s super easy to set up groups to keep the conversation only to the relevant parties. In 2015, with so many people working remote, Slack has been a lifesaver for us.”
Yale Zhang is the CEO of Safe Heart, which boasts the first smartphone pulse oximeter powered by the headphone jack. A new user to Slack, Zhang says, “It has made communication easy, clean, and integrated between our office in Atlanta and our other office in China…the ease-of-use and integration this application provides to our other productivity software has made this an indispensable tool in our day-to-day operations.”
Myles Anderson, founder and CEO of BrightLocal.com (trusted tools for local SEO), also loves Slack’s ability to seamlessly integrate with other software. He explains, “We use it to pull in information and alerts from various applications like Zendesk, JIRA, Airbrake (there are tons more) so that it acts like an information hub for our business. Rather than checking each of these applications independently, we just keep an eye on Slack and have all the alerts in one place.”
Shane Park works for Coinplay.io, a PC digital games store that partners with game developers and publishers. He calls Slack his company’s “life blood.” Park says, “We’re a small team of three—all remote—and staying in contact is crucial to meeting goals and adapting to events. Our developer has created webhooks from our own website to Slack so that we can stay on top of important events, such as possible fraud and when users make requests to our server. We also have webhooks for social, customer service, and tasks so that we always have a pulse of what’s going on.”
Trello describes itself as “the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone.” The free version is quite popular, but if you need more support and added features, you can check out Trello Business Class and Trello Gold.
What small business owners are saying about Trello…
David Henry, founder of lifestyle apparel company Riverpoint Threads, can’t say enough good things about Trello. “I use it to schedule out my days, weeks, and months as well as set my monthly and yearly goals. It allows you to set due dates for any projects or deadlines you have, you can collaborate with several team members on it, and much more. It is a very versatile app that you can use on your smartphone or computer to keep your productivity at a maximum. It is the only app I have found that is exceptionally easy to use and has no limits.”
Justin Kerby, who works for marketing agency CAVE Social, says his company uses a variety of productivity tools, but his favorite is Trello. “Trello allows us to visualize our daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and prioritize as needed. Trello allows us to create a digital Kanban board so that we can see what is done, what needs to be done, and what we are currently working on.”
As a project coordinator with Yoko Co., a website design firm, Staci Jansma knows how important it is to effectively manage teams. Jansma also appreciates Trello’s visual boards for tracking and managing projects. “We can see at a glance where they are at.”
Trevor Ewen, a partner for a small software firm called Neosavvy, says that when developing and releasing products on a client deadline, productivity is key, and Trello gets the job done. “Trello is immensely intuitive, great for collaboration, and easy to customize for the needs of a project. I enjoy the tool so much I even use it for spring cleaning in my home. It keeps me on task and provides measurable goals to hit.”
Wunderlist describes itself as “the easiest way to get stuff done.” It’s the ultimate to-do list app and has legions of fans since it works on all major devices. You can create a free account or upgrade to Wunderlist Pro or Wunderlist Business.
What small business owners are saying about Wunderlist…
Srajan Mishra, who works for manufacturing and exporting company TSI International, calls Wunderlist a “must have” for all small and medium business owners. Mishra explains, “In today’s multi-channel and multi-device world, it is so important to have a to-do app that can be synced across all kinds of devices. Wunderlist is available for android, iOS, Windows mobile, Mac OS X, Windows desktop, on the browser as well as a Chrome extension. ”
Lisa Chu, owner of a children’s formal wear brand called Black N Bianco, is also a fan of Wunderlist. She says, “I love this app because it’s a lot more efficient than a notepad, and I can add my employees onto Wunderlist and assign them a task directly from this app. Without this app, my life would be very unorganized and my productivity would suffer because of it. I cannot see my business continue to grow let alone survive without Wunderlist.”
Teamwork is all about “project management made easy.” It offers a variety of pricing plans, including ones geared towards small businesses.
What small business owners are saying about TeamworkPM…
Dawn Martinello runs Monday Morning VA, where she teaches and helps entrepreneurs how to run successful, profitable, and meaningful businesses. Martinello says her workday starts and ends with TeamworkPM because it helps her stay focused (she loves the app’s built-in timer). She adds, “The calendar system allows for different events to be color coded, which means I can pop everything from staff vacations to launch details into the calendar and have it all show up color coded in their dashboard. For extra bonus points, it allows me to add privacy options to the events, too!”
Shareef Defrawi owns Bonafide, a digital marketing agency in Houston. He’s a fan of TeamworkPM and has an interesting way of describing it. He says, “If you’ve heard of Basecamp, it’s like that tool on steroids. It helps us manage all the projects we’re working on and basically serves as the brain for our business. Everything from project and task management to client communications happens inside Teamwork. We get virtual paper trails for conversations, file storage with version history, even virtual whiteboards for brainstorming ideas.”
Defrawi also talks up the app’s integration capabilities. “The best part is it integrates with lots of other tools right out of the box, most notably our time tracking tool, Harvest. So not only can we document all of our business functions in one place, we can periodically review them to look for ways to make them more efficient.”
Do you have a favorite small business tool or app that helps boost productivity? Share yours in the comment section below!