I always wanted to be a computer engineer (I decided that when I was 8 ) and an entrepreneur. But when I started my own venture I've realized to run a successful start-up there are more things needed than just an idea, initial capital and people.
Right tools are very important for every start-up. I learned it the hard way, but to make things easier for you, here’s a guide which will help you choose the right tools for your start-up.
Making a Website
The very first thing you need is a decent website which can help you sell your products or services. Here you have two options – a. Design it on your own b. Hire a website design company.
If you are on a tight budget, option A might be for you. There is lot of website design platforms or tools available for free, which you can use to design your website. Two open source platforms which come to my mind are Joomla and Wordpress. They are relatively easy to learn and with some dedicated efforts, you should be able to design a fairly decent websites in few weeks’ time.
On the other hand, if you need a professional, good looking, custom designed website, then there are website design agencies who can do this for you. Remember that, when your potential customers hear about you, the first place they would go to is not your office, but your website. So it’s important to make a first good impression.
Cost to make a website?
DIY Way: Domain registration(Godaddy.com or Mistu.in) – Rs 600, Hosting (Hostgator.com) – Rs 2,800, Website - Free.
Through an agency: Rs 25,000 and upwards
DIY saving: Almost Rs 22,000
Assuming there will be good traffic to your website, you would need some kind of analytics tool to track it. Google Analytics is a robust analytics tool that can be used for all websites and the best part is, it’s free! Using analytics, you would enable you to track – where your users are coming from, what search terms did they use to land on your website, which services/products page are they spending more time on. This is extremely useful to calculate return in investment (ROI) for money you’ve spent on marketing. If you have setup goal conversions in your analytics, it would also help you in your sales forecast.
Customer Relationship Management(CRM)
In the last one year, I have met more than 50 business owners. But one thing I realized was most of them do not use any tool to keep track of their leads. I think it is extremely important that you use a CRM tool. Some benefits it can give you include:
a. All your leads and their contact information will be in one place.
b. It becomes easier to follow up with the leads.
c. If you have 2 or more sales executives, they can collaborate using a CRM tool.
d. It helps you create reports like — enquiry value above $1000, $5000; number of enquiries for particular month/year; enquiries for a particular product/service and so on.
We have been using SugarCRM for last one year, which is open source. You can host it on your own server and it is pretty similar to SalesForce (but for free). They also have an iPhone app.
Email, Communication and Calendar
If you are a 5-10 people operations team, it is critical that you work collaboratively on everything you do. As a business, you would be required to have a good email service, communication tool, a shared calendar, cloud hosted documents and file sharing service. This is where Google Apps comes in picture. I would highly recommend it to all the start-ups. It’s free for up to 10 users and they charge around Rs 2,750 per user per year. We broke the 10 people mark earlier this year and we are so addicted to Google Apps that we decided to continue using their paid solution. It’s totally worth it.
Cost: Free upto 10 users
How to share files with your employees or customers? How to collaborate on documents that you need to work with your team or customers? The answer to these questions is not always email.
Earlier this year, Google came up with their own file sharing solution called Google Drive which can be used to store files safely, collaborate with others and access them from anywhere, mobile devices too. We use Google Drive to create requirement documents, share wireframes with our customers, share design elements and create Issue Log during development. These are just some of the uses; there are lot of other tasks that it can perform.
Cost: Free upto 5 GB per account.
Shared Task Management
I’m in the habit of making a big task list for everything — my projects, personal things, about anything under the sun. And thanks to Asana, my life is easy.
Asana acts as a shared task list for your team. All our employees use Asana for their task lists. So let’s say we’re working on a website design project, the we have business analysts, graphic designers and web developers working on it. I create action items for my projects, assign them to team members, set deadlines, set priority, post my comments, upload related files and keep track of action items in real time. Asana has been a great time saver, all I have to do everyday is open my Asana and just go through my tasks for the week.
Cost: Free upto 30 members
Accounting is another thing that entrepreneurs ignore most times. There’s no point running a business if you aren't keeping scores. And gone are the days when you were using physical books, excel sheets or Tally for accounting. Business in the 21st century is all about being real time and getting all the critical data at a click of a mouse.
We use Quick Books Online(QBO) for all our accounting stuff. QBO is a cloud based software, so there's no installing software, updating it and you get to access it from anywhere you want.
QBO helps you to create estimates, create and manage invoices, manage inventory, track sales and expenses, track your profit & loss, balance sheet, cash flow, calculate taxes and much more. The best part of QBO is you can share access of your accounting tool with your investors, partners and accountants, which I think is really cool instead of having to explain them everything over email or phone.
Cost: 30 days trial, Rs 4,100 per year
Entrepreneurs also struggle to hire their core team, provide them training about your industry, tools you use, your own framework and such. If you think you’ll personally provide training to all your new employees, it’s difficult, because as a founder of a start-up your time is short and valuable.
We have been using Lynda.com to provide training to all our new employees. Lynda.com is an online learning company that helps anyone learn software, creative, and business skills. We use Lynda.com for training on HTML, CSS, Jquery, PHP, MySQL, iOS & Android development, Online Marketing to name a few.
What I like most about Lynda.com is that all of these training courses are videos and they provide you with exercise files that they use in the videos. Lynda.com has more than 1200 such videos, so go explore!
Cost: Rs 1,370 per month, Rs 2,100 with course files
About the Author
Sagar is co-founder and CTO at Masterworks, a leading digital marketing agency in Pune. He started his venture when he was 16, he has won numerous international and national web development competitions and has worked on 100+ web, mobile and online marketing projects. He's a globe-trotter and has traveled to San Francisco, Paris, Dubai, Jakarta and Bali Islands. He can be reached on Twitter @sagarpatil