What Small Business Software Do You Need to Start?
What small business software do you need to launch your new company? It is an important question and one you need to answer before you start the business.
Here are some tips on selecting the right software:
Take inventory of your knowledge of business software. Unless you just landed here from Mars, you probably have a working knowledge of some small business software. If you are one of those people who does not understand computers or software, and there are many out there, you need to take a step back from your new business venture to learn basic computer software applications. Chances are you probably know more about software than you realize. At a minimum, you probably understand the necessity of installing and maintaining virus protection software. You probably have a working knowledge of a word processing program—perhaps Microsoft Word. You know how to use email, at least to send and receive correspondence. You may have a passing knowledge of Microsoft Excel and perhaps Microsoft PowerPoint. You have probably used the term "pdf file" and read some of those files online on the internet, although you may not know what pdf stands for. (It means, Portable Document Format and regardless of the operating system, hardware or software you are using, you can read a pdf file as long as you have installed on your computer Adobe Reader, a free program from Adobe Systems, inventor of the software.)
You also know how to use a web browser to the extent that you can get on the internet and do searches on Google and perhaps shopping. If this is your minimum knowledge, you are off to quite good start and this may be just about all you need to get the business going, with a few additions that we will mention shortly.
Determine what other small business software you need at the start of your business for it to function successfully. Make a list of 20 things in your business for which you could possibly use small business software of some type.
A small business person who suggested this to us, showed us her list of 20things she needs software for in her business. The include:
Once you finish that list, make a list of 20 additional items that could put small business software to good use. On a fresh sheet of paper, divide up that list of 30 to 40 items into three columns—Column A--Items that need a small business application at the start of business; Column B—Items that could wait six months for new software applications; and Column C—Items that do not need a software application in the immediate future.
Look for the most effective small business software with the shortest learning curve. If you need to process photos (and photo processing is not your main business), don’t buy an expensive program like PhotoShop with manuals that run 1,000 pages. Instead, by a simple photo paint program that you can master in a couple of minutes. Another example: If you need to build a web presence but cannot afford to hire a web master or devote the time to learning a program like Adobe Dreamweaver, look for a system like Site Build It. With Site Build It, you could literally have your home page up and on the internet in an hour. The secret to Site Build It, and we have not seen anything quite like it on the internet, is that you get to chose from a variety of templates. Then through a system of blocks, you insert the copy you need, press preview at any time to check progress and then when you are satisfied, you launch it into cyberspace. There is also tremendous amount of written and video documentation to help you dig deeper into the process. The trick is, you can get your web site up and running and then tweak it as you have time. There is nothing worse than to get bogged down with business software when you need to be focusing on your business and getting customers. We like programs like Microsoft Word where you can install it and start typing a document. You are up and running quickly and as you need to understand new items, you can read about it in the help menu and then keep working.
When you think you have made the right software choice, always sample that software before you buy it. Most companies today will give you a 15- or 30-day trial period to work with the software. Take it the time. A program may seem appealing but after an hour or two with it you might discover that you need something different with different capabilities. Perhaps the program has been promoted on its website and in product reviews that it is simple to use and that anyone can pick it up in an hour. That review might have been written by a 20-something and if you happen to be in your 40s or 50s, perhaps you cannot learn it in an hour or even a day or a week.
Related to the above tip, don’t commit to a "free" software program until you have run it through its paces.There are many free programs on the market that are good, basic programs serving a specific purpose. The trouble is, there is usually little or no help available if you run into a problem. Further, there is no guarantee that it is not filled with bugs and glitches. Just because a program is free, does not mean it is a bargain. If a program costs you or your employees more time to learn or to work with than another paid program, it is a horrible waste of time and money for you. Go with the program that works best for you. Think about it, nothing could be worse than to commit to a free small business accounting program and then discover down the road that it does not cut it for you and you need a larger, more complete program. The problem is, the material you have inputted in that free program may be of an incompatible format with the new program. It may have to be inputted by hand all over again. On the other hand, it is perfectly fine to try out free business card software. If that does not work out, you can switch to a paid program without much loss of time or material.
Consider obtaining these types of small business software before or at the time you start a business and grow from there: Anti-virus protection software, office suites software, business plan software, contact management software, small business accounting software, and voice recognition software. Naturally, depending on your business, you may need to immediately learn other more specialized software like: restaurant business plan software, small business management software, inventory management software, contractor software, non-profit-related software and others.
Hire help where you are weak: Consider hiring a freelancer or outside contractor for specific projects. For example, if you must undertake an online survey, hire someone with that expertise rather than trying to get up to speed in an online survey program. It will save you time and money in the long run. You can do this across the board, except in one area--small business accounting software. Even though you may hire a bookkeeper to input data into your small business software program, make sure you learn it yourself so that you can create and print out different reports and scenarios on your company. So not leave this responsibility solely to others.
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