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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 Reasons to Choose Business Formation Services for Your Startup
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.
Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a 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:
- You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
- You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
- 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.
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.
Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations
COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!
Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.
The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.
However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.
The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.
How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)
Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.
- Determine the cybersecurity risks level
Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not.
To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.
But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.
Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.
- Find the loopholes through technical assessment
A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.
Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.
So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.
Learning for other startups:
This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.
- Software configuration assessment
A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.
Learning for other startups:
While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.
- Quick incident response
Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.
Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.
The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.
Learning for other startups:
Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.
- Train the staff
Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.
Learning for other startups:
If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.
- Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall
To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.
A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.
- Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
- Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
- Admin can know the most affected network.
- Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
- Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.
Learning for other startups:
An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!
In a nutshell:
Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.
However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.
These ways are,
- Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
- Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
- Do not configure the software without proper knowledge
- Form an incident response team
- Train the staff
- Opt for feature-packed security solutions
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