About half of all new small business start-ups close their doors within the first four years. The reasons are many and varied, but equipping your business with the right “tools” from day one is certainly one factor that will help you avoid the pitfalls that can lead to business failure.
While the exact tools you need in your corporate tool box will vary, of course, based on your industry, here are 5 key business tools that are beneficial across a wide range of small business-types:
1. A “Heroic” Copy Machine
Copy machines for small business use are certainly plentiful, but in offices and in any business that even has an HR office or a department (which means the vast majority of businesses), you need much more than a “basic, get-by” copier. You need a “true hero.”
Investing in a powerful, versatile, and durable copier with high page-per-minute rates, ability to handle card stock with ease, auto-collation, stapling and saddle stitching of small booklets, 3-folds for mail-outs, and sharp, bright print in both color and black ink, is one expense you’ll never regret.
It will make advertising, HR, employee handbook printing, tax records, and numerous other business tasks far faster and easier, while yielding superior, more professional-looking results.
2. Cloud Computing Services
Small businesses don’t usually have the budget to handle hiring on-staff IT workers, or if they do, it is a big strain on the company’s bottom line. Yet, even the smallest businesses need to be able to run numerous business apps and leverage the latest Web technologies to effectively compete in today’s economy.
Cloud (Saas) is the obvious solution. This eliminates your need for most on-site equipment and of buying and constantly upgrading important software on your own. It minimizes, if not eliminates, the need for in-house IT. That saves you money, time, and stress, and enables you to focus on running and growing your business instead of “technical issues.”
3. Time-saving Business Apps
We have a new cliche in our culture, “There’s an app for that”; and as flippantly and humorously as it may sometimes roll off the tongue, that phrase has a lot of truth in it.
There are apps (some free, some not) that will boost your communications, team collaboration, sales, in-house business phone system, customer feedback, distance worker management, recruiting, tax deduction optimization, and other business abilities. If you aren’t taking advantage of these helpful business tools, you are putting yourself at a needless disadvantage: because your competition probably is using them.
4. CRM Software
A huge part of growing your new business is establishing and nourishing trust with your customers. Relationships with customers will often die if you don’t “manage” them properly, and CRM (customer relationship management) software systems are designed to help you do exactly that.
CRM will track all your customer interactions, store customer-related data in a single, convenient location, and (often) automatically make updates if you integrate it with other business systems. CRM boosts communications internally too, and it gives you access to the metrics you need to improve customer relationships and maximize customer retention rates.
5. General Liability Insurance
One final “tool” that you may not have and may not realize the importance of, is general liability insurance for businesses. You have little choice about getting workers comp insurance and, in some situations, commercial auto insurance; but general liability is often overlooked.
But general liability is a virtual business necessity because it covers you for any personal injuries that may occur on your business premises to customers rather than to workers (which workers comp covers). It also covers any accidental damage you may do to customers’ property. Since even one such suit could cripple or destroy your small business, this is one tool you should definitely put in your tool box.