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Tips for Startups

The Ultimate List of Tools You Need for Business Startups

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List of Tools You Need for Business Startups

Go beyond web tools such as Google Docs or Drive and find tools that manage more than your files. Business startups have wildly different demands depending on their industry, but these tools seek to assist any entrepreneur with some of them across the board hurdles.

  • QuickBooks 

Accounting is a struggle for many companies, and startups don’t usually have the funds available to hire a CPA. The solution for small businesses that need to scale quickly is QuickBooks. Owned by Intuit, QuickBooks has been around for a long time and proven itself as reliable, versatile, and exceptionally valuable. 

For those new to QuickBooks, their website has a wealth of resources available to ensure that you use every function or feature that you could possibly need. What makes this accounting software great for startups is that it’s really an entire accounting department in one system.

You can issue payroll checks and calculate your quarterly sales taxes from the same system. It’s also helpful to know that all of your accounting information is secure and available at any time.

  • Slack 

Although Slack can operate as a bare-bones project management system, it works best as a communication platform. As a startup, you’ll likely have people working after they finish their day job, through weekends, or at all hours of the day or night. Startups are known for their flexibility with time and Slack makes that flexibility easy.

You can start a slack account and invite users in for free. It’s a great way to keep your email inboxes clean while also having a documented record of communications between your team. You can separate conversations with different tags, create different “chat room” style environments, and even limit who can be part of which discussions.

You can even set up a specific discussion to track communications or decisions made regarding vendors. Handling issues such as procurement and invoices requires thorough documentation.  

  • Asana 

A simple solution that’s all function and no fluff. Asana lets you orchestrate projects on any scale. Create a project that requires input from many users, with several individual tasks, and you can track each contributor progress.

The thing that users really love about Asana is that you have three primary views. First, you see your tasks due soon on the home page, then under another page, you see all of the tasks assigned to the person in a single list. Finally, you can view the entire team’s scheduled assignments on a calendar.

For anyone managing multiple departments or who has a few major projects going on at once, Asana can make life much easier. 

  • Pipedrive 

A sales management tool that even startups can afford. Amidst the CRM landscape, it’s easy to focus on getting qualitative data into a numeric format, but the missing element is the actual sales data.  

Pipedrive offers many of the same functions as a CRM, is much more affordable, and it caters to what salespeople need. Your salespeople are likely stretched thinly enough as it is, gives them a hand and let them help your company grow.

As a CRM, Pipedrive does track leads and where a customer is at in your sales funnel. But it helps your salespeople identify where they can act and how they can close the deal with each customer. 

  • Google Analytics 

Of all the Google tools that businesses are told they need; Google Analytics is probably the only one that you can’t do without. If you have a website, you need to monitor your traffic and other performance metrics. Google Analytics is the best way to ensure that your marketing campaigns are effective and that your site is performing on the level it should.  

Use Google Analytics to increase conversion rates and achieve your overarching business goals. It’s the only effective way to monitor your website strategies and find problems before they cost you sales.  

  • Shopify

Are you really bootstrapping it? Are you bringing together everything you possibly can and using every resource possible? Shopify solves many problems for startups. Through Shopify, you can set up an entire online store, as well as marketing and even shipping. For some companies, Shopify is the only reason that they got off the ground at all.

Not every startup-entrepreneur can manage the interweaving of setting up their own marketplace on their site, coordinate shipping and execute a marketing plan. For the startup owner who’s on their own, Shopify can be a lifesaver.

  • Amazon Payments

Have you seen a site that has a handy “Checkout through Amazon” button and it makes checking out so much easier? You can offer that same ease to your customers. Amazon Payments allows businesses to redirect customers to their Amazon account for fast and secure checkout.

This does not mean that your guests are going to Amazon to purchase your products, and you don’t need to be an Amazon store owner or affiliate. Amazon Payments simply provides another secure payment platform for your customers.

  • Emma

Campaigns, email marketing, and everything else that fits into your marketing strategy can seem overwhelming. Startups often struggle with building an email list, creating unique and enticing designs, writing content, and they’re often doing all of this without much insight into its impact.

Emma offers email campaign designs as well as full reporting. Essentially you focus on building your email list, and Emma will take care of everything else. You can easily see which email campaigns are useful and which are floundering. If you plan to get into people’s inbox and grab attention, you’ll need help, give Emma a try.

  • SumoMe

When it comes to building your email list, you have tools available to help. SumoMe is a tool that builds email lists through web analytics. It performs well beyond its base function of email list building as it also optimizes landing pages and can even increase social shares. SumoMe is a great way to seal the deal on an effective marketing strategy.

Put Your Tools to Work 

All around utility apps such as Evernote and OneDrive are base level tools. You need tools that will make handling your startup easier. Use the tools here to boost the impact of your marketing strategy, connect with customers, make your sales team more productive and streamline communication.

Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years. She is the Content Advocate for Greenwingtechnology.com.

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Tips for Startups

Considerations for Managing Your Startup’s Financial Health

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Finances play a key role in your startup’s success. If you manage your startup’s finances well, you can grow your business. Conversely, if you ignore your startup’s financial health, your company can collapse.

Whether you’re a financial guru or dud, you need to manage your startup’s financial health if you want it to be successful. To do so, you need to consider the following factors:

1. Initial Financing

Initial financing lays the foundation for success. However, there is a finite amount of initial financing at your disposal. If you do not manage this financing properly, it can quickly run out.

Track your initial financing and how you spend it. Oftentimes, it helps to budget your initial financing. It can be beneficial to invest these finances in different areas of your business, too. By doing so, you can avoid the risk of putting all your eggs into one basket and losing your financing in one fell swoop.

Of course, in addition to securing initial financing, explore myriad opportunities to fund your business. One such way is through a business loan or other grants to help keep your company afloat. Regardless of which financing options you pursue, weigh their pros and cons. Afterward, you can make an informed decision about which financing options meet your requirements.

2. Personal Finances

If you’re comfortable doing so, you can also use your personal finances to fund your startup. Although this may feel like a risky option, you may have more skin in the game, so to speak, so you’ll be more likely to keep your business on track. On the other hand, it can put you in a personal financial bind.

It pays to separate your personal and business finances. Any money your business generates should go back into your company. Resist the urge to take too much money for yourself to recover any money you invest in your business as well. Otherwise, this can lead to poor spending habits that can be costly for you and your business. Also ensure you’re managing your personal finances with a fine-tooth comb, to ensure there isn’t any accidental overlap or accidental overspending in any part of your life.

Try not to become too reliant on your personal finances to fund your company. Remember, there is no guarantee your startup will succeed, regardless of how much you invest in it. Instead, prioritize crowdfunding and other funding options. Then, you can get money for your business without having to leverage your finances.

3. Accounting

How you monitor your startup’s expenses and spending can have far-flung effects on your bottom line. With proper accounting measures in place, you’re well-equipped to get the most value out of your money, time, and resources.

You can hire an accountant who can become a vital contributor to your team. However, the demand for accountants is increasing. To find a quality accountant, you may want to consider full-time, part-time, and contract professionals. You can use online job boards to identify accounting professionals who can perform budget audits, prepare your taxes, and perform similar financial tasks. Also, you can leverage your professional network to engage with peers who may be able to put you in touch with talented accountants.

Moreover, it helps to find an accountant capable of analyzing financial data and generating insights from it. This accountant can produce reports that highlight your startup’s performance and help you establish goals. From here, you can determine the best course of action to ensure your startup fulfills its expectations.

The Bottom Line on How to Manage Your Startup’s Financial Health

Throughout the process of building your business from the ground up, know that it takes time for a startup to grow. By managing your startup’s financial health from the get-go, you can put your business on the path to success.

Treat your startup’s financial health in the same way you treat your own. Much in the same way that maintaining a balanced diet supports good health, it can be beneficial to identify the ideal balance of financing and investments for your company. In addition, it helps to track your startup’s financial health much like you handle your wellbeing. That way, if you identify any financial health problems with your startup, you can address them in their early stages.

Ultimately, you need to take care of your startup’s financial health day after day. In doing so, you can put your company in an excellent position to thrive now and in the future.

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Tips for Startups

6 Reasons to Choose Business Formation Services for Your Startup

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business formation services

Have you finally decided to chase your dreams and take your business live? Laying the foundation stones of a business can be a momentous experience in an entrepreneur’s life. However, handling business formation procedures is not.

Read on to find out why businesses prefer to take help during the initial steps of setting up and officiating their business.

6 Reasons You Need a Business Formation Service 

1. Zero Errors During Business Formation Procedure

A new business must always stand on a solid legal foundation. For that, you should ensure that all legal procedures are handled with precision from the outset. 

Business formation involves a series of steps such as verifying the availability of your business name, preparing your articles of organization, filing documents, etc. One small miscalculation could lead to large consequences. Even seasoned professionals can make errors while handling the paperwork frenzy that business formation usually entails.

A business formation service will handle your paperwork procedures entirely and ensure that no human errors are committed. From paying attention to small details while preparing sensitive documents to handling their delivery, a business formation provider will shoulder the responsibility with extreme care and finesse. 

2. Get Valuable Advice From Experts

Starting out into the dynamic world of business can be daunting, and a smooth start could set the right tone for your business’s future. Setting up properly is probably the very first challenge you’re going to face, and there are many critical questions you’ll need to answer. 

For example, do you need protection for personal liability? What business entity do you want to form? What are the pros and cons of different business entities, and which one fits the bill for you? What tax structure are you willing to follow? 

Having experts to help you navigate you through these complex problems can be a huge bonus, as it will give you a thorough understanding of legal compliances, the laws that protect you, the tax structure you follow, etc. 

Business formation services usually employ experts and skilled professionals, so you can rest assured that your business will be in good hands. 

3. Get Complimentary Registered Agent Services

Government agencies mandate that all LLCs and Corporations have a registered agent. Also known as the resident or statutory agent, this is essentially an entity that receives tax and legal documents on your company’s behalf.

The point is to have a registered address that serves as a point of contact between your business and the government. For many startup owners, it is a problem to have a physical location in the same state the business was formed. 

A business formation service can provide you with an agent who meets state requirements and can be trusted with handling key business documents. 

4. Easy Preparation and Access to Documents

Business professionals usually frown at paperwork, and rightfully so. It is a mundane piece of task that needs to be handled with extreme care nevertheless. When forming a business, you’ll be required to file the following paperwork:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Articles of Organization
  • Operating Agreements or Bylaws (depending on your business entity)
  • Paperwork for licenses and permits

While filling paperwork, you need to have full knowledge of what details to fill, how to frame your paragraphs, common mistakes to avoid, caveats to pay heed to, and much more. 

Business formation professionals are experienced in this and can assist you through the entire process with their knowledge and resourcefulness. Moreover, they can provide you advice and services customized to your business’s needs.

You’ll be able to access your paperwork and monitor everything during the procedure while someone else does the heavy lifting and files it for you. 

5. Find Time for Other Important Issues

A new business must tackle a series of question marks- how to get its first customer/clients? How to gain recognition? How much investment to procure? What talent to acquire?

The list is endless. Any entrepreneur would much rather invest their time on growth-related matters than tedious formation-related procedures and paperwork. 

A business formation service takes these initial mandatory tasks out of your way so that you can focus on growing your business. You can entrust the responsibility paperwork filing and legal details to your business formation advisors. 

Their entire purpose is to take unwanted work off of your plate so that you can pay attention to other matters at hand, thereby enhancing the productivity and efficiency of your business functions right from its inception. 

6. Work Smartly by Getting Access to Premium Business Tools

Business formation services seek to make the process fast, easy, and smooth for their clients. Competitive ones offer business tools that provide extra value to their clients. 

For example, you might get access to smart document creation tools. If you pay for premium services, many firms will offer quick filing and approval speed to fast-track the process for you. 

Be Smart With Your Choices

One skill that entrepreneurs need to work on diligently is decision making. Oftentimes, you’ll have to decide which business operations to run in-house and which ones to outsource, based on a cost-to-benefit analysis.  

It’s usually smarter to outsource business formation services, as they can help kick-start your business and save you from getting overwhelmed by uncharted territories. 

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Tips for Startups

Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a Successful Startup

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key to Successful startup

The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.

Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?

Turns out, it’s something else.

What Is Customer Discovery?

Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.

When Would You Need Customer Discovery?

In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.

Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:

  1. You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
  2. You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
  3. You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).

Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.

Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.

Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis

This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.

The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.

You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?

That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.

As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.

Step Two: Define Your Assumptions

As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.

You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).

Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.

Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.

Step Three: Test It out

Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.

You are going to ask some people some questions.

The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.

Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.

As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.

You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.

This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.

To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:

  • What do you currently do for…?
  • Do you like the process?
  • Is it working out for you?
  • If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
  • What is the biggest challenge about…?
  • What do you like about it?

And so on.

The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.

Step Four: Evaluate Your Data

Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.

If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.

This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.

If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.

Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.

Final Thoughts

Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.

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