Change. It’s all around us. From the way we buy groceries to the way we wake up in the morning or even the way we communicate with family members – things are different.
In business too. If you’re a technophobe, all this talk of change has beads of sweat starting to appear on your forehead just one paragraph in. But for small businesses, technology has become a reality. And this reality can be turned into a priceless growth engine for little to no monetary investment.
“My business is fine – I don’t need technology – I’ve operated the same way for 20 years and have done it successfully”. Fair enough. We understand that it might be hard for you to see how free online tools can help you grow a primarily offline business. But wipe the sweat off your forehead and read on.
Common Resistance To Using Small Business Tools
You’re not the only one either. Over 80% of small business managers still use a pen, paper, and spreadsheets to run their workforce. And like most SMBs, it’s very likely that your outlook is strongly influenced by your current focus on day-to-day operations. When you’re buried up to the ears in work, it’s hard to find the time and energy to find solutions that help you shift your focus from day-to-day operations to strategic growth.
You don’t need to wait for your team and operation to grow to introduce technological solutions and tools. Often, it’s their implementation that affects business growth.
It’s too expensive
That’s just part of the equation. The second part is the cost. Until recently, business operations software, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), was considered to be too costly to implement for small businesses. But that’s all changing now. Business software has become easier to implement and much more affordable. For a fraction of the cost, SMBs can get their hands on the latest software. Sometimes, even for free.
So, now that we have successfully removed all fear and cost considerations are no longer an obstacle, let’s have a look at some of the easiest to use, and more importantly free, business operations management tools out there. We dive into the 20 must-have small business tools to run your business.
All-in-One Business Tools
Business owners juggle multiple roles at any given moment. Whether it’s communication or time tracking or creating effective work schedules, filing reports, managing payroll, boosting engagement, or…well, the list could literally go on and on. But you get the point by now.
With advancements in automation with business tools, managers can keep their finger on the pulse with little manual upkeep so they can focus on the bigger picture of what really matters. Only a handful of business tools even offer the total all-in-one package.
When you have many deskless or remote employees, Connecteam is the best free small business tool for you. After all, it was specially designed and built to cater to these employees! Apart from being super easy to use, Connecteam enhances your daily business routine. How so? Connecteam is the leading business tool that makes it easy for managers to offer feedback, enhance engagement, track work hours easily to enhance timesheet management and payroll process, share intuitive schedules, remain transparent, and unite all workplace communication and collaboration – for free.
- Get peace of mind with GPS time tracking so when employees clock in and out from their phones, a real-time timestamp and GPS location is automatically tagged. This creates more efficient and easy to manage timesheets and payroll processes.
- Create interactive communication with group or one-on-one chat and share GIFs, videos, and pictures. Decide whether your team can engage with your update with likes and comments or if it’s a one-way announcement to keep everyone on the same page.
- Share an efficient job schedule when you easily assign a schedule (use drag & drop, templates, etc.) that’s based on different requirements. For each shift, offer additional key information so your team has everything available in a tap like address, tasks to complete, time, and more. Employees can accept or reject shifts, check-in when they show up to the site, and more – while on the go!
- Manage reports on the go and in real-time like an incident report, expense reimbursement, operational checklists, and more so you can ensure compliance from top-to-bottom.
- Boost engagement through announcements, newsletters, and updates that you can segment per group and channel to avoid information overload. Share goals met, new sales landed, key protocols, and more.
- Offer a better training & onboarding experience so your team has direct access to training resources, such as the employee handbook, safety protocols, benefits, etc.
- Use the searchable employee directory to keep all work contacts on the app instead of your personal phone, easily find the contact needed with a quick search (name, job title, location, etc.) and quickly engage with the contact through action buttons like a phone call, email, or chat.
#1 Free Business Tool
Reinvent business operations in your organization with powerful, robust features on Connecteam’s all-in-one employee app.
Communication and Collaboration Business Tools
As your business grows, so does your team of employees, contractors, and service providers. Managing communication, collaboration, and cooperation between everyone can become a time-consuming task for you, as a manager. These tools can help you streamline these processes and save you the time you might be spending as an information conduit for your subordinates and partners.
You can’t write about free online services without mentioning Google, so we’re going to start with the Internet giant everyone knows. This is a great tool when you need to collaborate on files.
When it comes to sharing files and collaborating on documents, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are the way to go. The files are stored in your Google Drive and are a wonderful way to avoid those endless back-and-forth emails when collaborating on various documents.
Gone are the days of conference calls. Well, maybe not gone but definitely changed. Solutions like LogMeIn’s join.me conferencing tool lets you present to multiple employees or clients from the comfort of your home or office chair, saving you long trips.
CRM and ERP Business Tools
Keeping track of sales processes and inventory gets increasingly harder as your lead acquisition channels vary and your operation grows. By digitizing your inventory and sales process tracking, you can save a lot of time and complete sales faster and more effectively.
4. Hubspot CRM
A free CRM solution that promises to stay free forever and offers automation features that help track customer interactions. You can also create and follow sales-related tasks and get a good overview of your sales funnel at any given time.
This easy-to-use project management and team collaboration software is a great option for small businesses. By replacing the multiple tools required for task management, collaboration, time tracking, communication, file sharing, and reporting with a single all-in-one software, and gives teams a central source of truth.
One of the challenges with managing sales processes can be combining sales process data from various channels (online, PoS and inside sales). Sellsy combines that with client relations and contact marketing, as well as inventory management and even time tracking.
The path from product manufacturing to sitting in the hands-on of your customers can be complex. xTuple is a free open-source ERP solution with an integrated CRM system, intended mostly for companies producing products rather than services.
Automation Business Tools
You might not even notice, but some of your precious time is spent in two of the most unpleasant activities: waiting and catching-up. You wait for replies to messages or responses from clients. And try to respond as quickly as possible when you miss communication or customer action.
By automating as many of your business processes and tasks as possible, you can save precious time you might currently be spending doing something a simple algorithm can.
“If this then that” is a simple but flexible automation system that integrates hundreds of apps and services to create automated processes for things. For example, you can create an IFTTT so that leads from your website turn into contacts in HubSpot.
Similar to IFTTT, Zapier is a more business-oriented automation tool that integrates with significantly more apps and services than IFTTT. So before selecting one or the other, you should ensure it communicates flawlessly with the tools and services you currently use.
Email Business Tools
Many online experts like to claim then email is dead or dying. It really isn’t. Email is still the most common tool for communication in business, and that’s not about to change. Just evolve.
Today’s challenge is cluttered inboxes and difficulty keeping track and measuring the effectiveness of email correspondence. Some tools are out there to replace your current messy inbox. And others just try and make email communications a lot more effective for your business.
If you’re not a fan of Google’s services and prefer your email client and messages stored locally? Thunderbird is your solution. It’s a free all-in-one email, tasks, calendar, and chat, somewhat reminiscent of Microsoft’s Outlook experience of old.
Keeping track of emails is time-consuming and often annoying. MixMax is a browser plugin that helps you track correspondence, schedule emails, and use sequences and reminders. Unfortunately, the free version is limited to 100 tracked emails and 10 scheduled emails per month, so if you communicate a lot over email, you might have to get the paid version.
Email communication with clients and partners is often based on regular newsletters, and few solutions do it better than MailChimp. With a WYSIWYG template editor and tracking of open and click rates, this tool is a must for any business managing a newsletter. The service is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails.
Another cool feature worth mentioning is integration with the automation platforms we mentioned earlier which lets you get creative with how you maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.
Task Management Business Tools
The bigger your team and, the harder it gets to keep track of all the various tasks of all the employees, contractors, and partners. Without a management solution, these tasks can get lost and not completed, falling between the proverbial chairs of everyday work. Alternatively, you’ll find yourself wasting too much time micromanaging your workers’ tasks. And no one wants that.
This simple and free (up to 15 users) task management solution is easy to use and rather flexible. Much like asanas in yoga. It lets you create repeating tasks, assign them to team members, and keep track of the task progress from a single customizable dashboard.
In real-time, Wrike allows you to analyze performance insights with clunky spreadsheets. Customize everything to your needs, from the dashboard to automation, add comments, live edit, share information with stakeholders, look at individual tasks or team projects, and more. Wrike can also integrate with various tools like GitHub, Slack, Box, SalesForce, and more.
Or get started with Connecteam’s free task management tool! It’s that much easier to allocate tasks, even on the go, to build transparency and hold your team accountable.
On-the-Spot – Point of Sale Business Tools
Once upon a time, you needed a cash register to keep sales organized in your store. Those things were expensive, bulky, and aside from the famous “ka-ching” sound, they had little to offer in terms of features. Those days are gone, and now all you need is a basic desktop computer to manage your POS activity.
This free POS tool, as the name implies, is a POS and loyalty program solution for businesses like beauty salons, florists, and small stores. It includes analytics as well as inventory management and is available for free on Google Play and the iTunes App Store.
If you’re more into old-style DOS desktop registers, KeyHunt by Dale Harris is your solution. And if you’re not, it’s still worth checking out the grumpy humor and 90s-style website of the developer.
Analytics Business Tools
Managers of small businesses should keep an eye on how their brand is performing online, this ties directly to sales and show you where more effort is needed.
17. Google Analytics
Google shows up on our list once again because its capabilities are great and free. Google Analytics shows you how and from where your customers are coming from on your website. This allows you to enhance your marketing strategy to generate more leads.
Business Development Tools
As a business owner, you are always learning new things to help push your business forward and into a money-making machine. There are lots of free resources available so that you can gain the knowledge as you’re developing your business from start-up to raking in the cash.
Taking a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website can really make a difference so you can learn more about writing up business plans, how to finance your business, insights and tips for entrepreneurs, and so much more. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running a business for years, SBA is a valuable source of information.
SCORE, a non-profit, has been around for 50+ years and is an amazing resource for helping small businesses get off the ground. It offers free learning opportunities online, in-person mentoring, and more.
Design Business Tools
Creating gorgeous design assets for your website, social platforms, and email marketing is a must in today’s day and age.
Hiring a professional graphic designer is a costly expense and one you might not be able to afford straight away. With Canva, you have pre-formatted templates for EVERYTHING. Including social media banners, marketing flyers, events, documents (presentations, letters, reports, etc.), and so much more. Canva is super easy to use and the results are stunning!
Bottom Line On Tools For Small Business Owners
You don’t need to become a mobile phone expert or software developer to use technology to grow your business, be it a local grocery shop, a plumbing service, or a toy manufacturer you can quickly and easily set up any of these tools to start managing your business operations.
That being said, just implementing a bunch of tools doesn’t guarantee success. You need to be strategic about how you operate your business. But fear not more tips, strategies, tactics, and more are available in our blog posts.
Run Your Business with Connecteam
Managing communication, collaboration and cooperation with all your employees, streamlining daily processes and finding an affordable solution that allows you to do it all easily – look no further, Connecteam is the choice for you. Do everything we listed and more, start your FREE plan now.Start for FREE