I. Business Tool Box
These are tools that help will make your business life, and maybe your personal life, a little less confusing. If you have a tool that you would like to see in our Tool Box, please contact us.
The Startup Toolbox: Twelve Free Tools Every Small Business Needs
1) Evernote — A free, amazing suite of products and services designed to transport note taking and archiving into the 21st century. I take almost all of my notes in Evernote on my laptop or on scraps of paper that I scan with my iPhone. After a whiteboard session, I’ll snap a photo of the board and upload it — where I can search my barely legible chicken scratch without transcribing a thing. That article I don’t have time to read? Evernote. That company I want to reach out to? Evernote. Notes for my investor update? Evernote. It is a game changer, especially for those of us with ADD.
2) Boomerang — Have you ever wished you could remind yourself to follow up with the hundreds of people you email every week? Until I found Boomerang, I dropped countless leads through poor email management. Boomerang is a free and super intuitive Gmail plugin that allows you to “boomerang” emails back to yourself. If I haven’t heard from Joanne in 2 days, Boomerang shoots a follow-up reminder directly to my inbox. “Get back to me mid-month.” With one click, Boomerang reminds me so I don’t need to build a reminder into my calendar. If you email people and expect responses, Boomerang is essential.
3) Rapportive — Rapportive, another free Gmail plugin, links people’s social profiles directly within your Gmail. No more copying and pasting names, searching LinkedIn, guessing which Joe Smith from New York you’re talking to. Rapportive pulls Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Angel List, GitHub and other profiles directly into Gmail. In an instant, you can literally see who you’re chatting with, and what they’re all about.
4) Dashlane — If you’re like me, you strive valiantly to “be safe” and use different passwords on different sites across the internet. However, the downside to this “safe behavior” is that I can never f-ing remember any of my damn passwords. I spend hours each week hitting “Forgot your password?”, waiting for my new password, getting re-authenticated, only to do the whole rigamarole over again next week. Dashlane to the rescue. With one master password, Dashlane covers you across the internet — airline frequent flyer numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, addresses, pin codes. Never forget an online password again. Brilliant.
5) LinkedIn – I had a LinkedIn profile for years before I realized how to leverage the platform. It’s free, and if you’re diligent about inviting everyone you meet, within a year you will be one or two connections away from a truly astounding number of people. I can’t imagine building a business without LinkedIn.
6) Streak — This is SalesForce lite, an amazing CRM tool and yet again, another Google plugin. Track sales, hiring processes, investors, partnerships, vendors, real estate — all directly from within your email. It allows me to stay on the same page with everyone at Plated, and make sure we have the same baseline of information for every conversation we have.
7) HipChat – Email is broken. I receive literally hundreds of emails each day, and I feel perpetually behind the ball. At Plated we have started using HipChat to mitigate some of the email overflow. If you’re sitting next to someone, talk to them. Otherwise, start conversations in HipChat, instead of cluttering your inbox. Email management is a constant battle, but HipChat helps.
8) Spotify — At Plated we work out of TechStars, in a co-working space where there are close to 100 people talking, meeting, brainstorming and (occasionally) drinking all within close proximity, with no walls, few conference rooms, and certainly no corner offices. I work (from a standing desk) next to our community manager and interns, across from our senior engineer and culinary director. I can reach out and touch four other companies. Things are always chaotic. So for our team, “Headphones on = office door is closed.” It’s the only way to focus. And Spotify is the best place to find the perfect work tunes.
9) HootSuite — We have built our business on the back of social media, and HootSuite is our favorite social media management tool. Manage Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more all from one dashboard. You can setup alerts and tags, incorporate analytics, and auto-schedule posts and Tweets so that friends don’t think you’re a total dork for sending out messages at 11PM on a Saturday. There are other tools out there, but HootSuite is pretty solid — and it’s free.
10) Basecamp — Our business consists of four different businesses in one, so we are constantly managing multiple projects that bob and weave between culinary, e-commerce, operations and content. Basecamp is a robust project management tool that allows our different teams to seamlessly collaborate. As our team grows and expands into different regions, having this sort of centralized project management is 113% essential.
11) Google — If you’re still paying for email, you probably shouldn’t be on the internet. If you use Bing to search, you watch too many TV commercials. If you use Skype, you have an inferior product. Google is a startup’s best friend. Google hooks you up with a free toolbox in and of itself between Drive, Documents, Spreadsheets, Hangouts, Search, Chat, Calendar and (of course) Gmail. A decade ago, this suite would cost a small business hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Google is free, and it rocks.
12) HelloSign – Every week there are dozens of documents that need to get signed. Before I discovered HelloSign and HelloFax, I was downloading, printing, signing, then scanning — or worse, running to Kinko’s to fax. Now I can do all of this from within Gmail using a digital signature. I can also request signatures from others and track progress from one screen. An essential piece of gear.
II. Website Services Tool Box
A. Convert Word Documents to Clean HTML is a free converter tool for documents created in Microsoft Word, Writer, and other word processing software.