If you run a small business, how many hats do you wear? Chief Technology Officer. Chief Financial Officer. EVP of Sales. Chief Counsel. It’s a mind-boggling challenge to keep pace with the latest tools, technology, and tactics in all the diverse fields required to keep your business humming and growing.
Fortunately, now there’s an app for that. The cloud, internet-connected devices, and smartphones enable a new breed of business apps. These tools offer small business owners many of the capabilities that were previously available only to large companies, which can afford a staff of experts to manage expensive software and IT infrastructure.
But with the thousands of business apps available today, how do you choose the handful that will make your life easier and your business more profitable? With the holidays upon us, we’ve compiled a short list that you might want to send to Santa. It includes five transformative apps, many of which integrate seamlessly with RingCentral Office, the number-one cloud business communications platform.
1) Square: When you see a kid at a garage sale charging credit cards using a smartphone, you know the planet has experienced a tectonic technology shift. Square is a point of purchase (PoP) app that replaces the bulky, hardwired payment machines used for so long in retail stores and restaurants. It works using a small accessory that plugs into a smartphone, which enables you to swipe credit and debit cards, or read their chips, anywhere. You can even use it where there is no internet connection, and then process the payments later. While the app is free and there is no monthly fee or minimum transaction amount, you will pay a percentage per transaction.
2) QuickBooks Online: Some of you may remember what it was like to manually reconcile bank statements. It was a major pain. Then came Quicken, which revolutionized personal finance by automating the process on a personal computer. Quicken’s business-oriented cousin, QuickBooks, dramatically simplifies small business accounting in a similar way. The latest version, QuickBooks Online, automatically connects to your bank, downloads transactions, and reconciles your accounts. Reporting and other powerful features make it easy to run your business and get visibility into its financial health by instantly generating sales projections, profit and loss statements, accounts receivable, and other reports. The cloud-based app also integrates with online banking other apps like PayPal and Square, seamlessly downloading data. It can even pay your employees and invoice your customers. And since it runs in the cloud, all your accounting data is automatically backed up.
3) Salesforce: The company calls this app the world’s #1 CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution for small business. Basically, a CRM lets you store and manage prospect and customer information—such as contact info, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities—in one central location. The company also claims that, on average, Salesforce helps users boost their sales by 37%, and that the benefits of the CRM app for small business don’t end when you make a sale. Salesforce customers report that it helps them build stronger relationships (45% increase in customer retention rate) with current customers, find new customers (44% more leads), and close more deals faster.
4) DocuSign: Wouldn’t you love to end the paper chase and have a way to get documents signed electronically? DocuSign simplifies approval processes and contract signing with bank-grade security. Calling itself the #1 eSignature platform for small business, the DocuSign app basically makes the whole process of signing documents and sending them to the various parties electronic. It’s a fast and easy way to get an electronic signature or approval back from any customer or vendor, anywhere, anytime. And it works on desktop computers and mobile devices.
5) Expensify: Whether for you or your employees, Expensify makes keeping track of expenses while on a business trip a lot less painful. It can link to a credit or debit card, and the Expensify app will put the charges directly into an expense report. You can also snap pictures of your receipts using a smartphone (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows) and Expensify will automatically extract the relevant information. Then access your cloud-based account and create an expense report in just a few minutes. Better still, according to the company, Expensify eReceipts meet the requirements for IRS Documentation per Publication 463.
Once upon a time, capabilities like the ones provided by these apps would have required a large IT department and an expensive data center. Now the cloud levels the playing field by giving small businesses easy and cost-effective access to the same features simply by logging in using a smartphone, desktop computer, or tablet and a web browser. So this holiday season, check out these apps and give yourself a few little gifts like a competitive advantage, faster growth, and less time spent on mundane tasks.
Originally published Dec 16, 2016, updated Aug 12, 2020