Over the last nine years, I’ve been demo-ing, tinkering with, and putting to work just about every new tool that promises to give you a few minutes of your day back. Most have disappointed, but not this list of 11.
From payroll to insurance, accounting to cap tables, communication to documentation, my current working list (below) will have any manager, operations guru, or entrepreneur empowered to do business better, faster, and stronger.
Please, beg, borrow, and steal these so that you can get back to what you love doing—because chances are, it isn’t sitting in meetings or on the phone with your company’s insurance provider.
If you tend to protect your schedule, you’ll love Calendly, which allows people to schedule appointments with you based on the parameters you’ve given it (e.g., only between 9 AM and 6 PM in your time zone or never on Friday afternoons). It’s like your own personal calendar gatekeeper.
There are plenty of conference call apps and software out there, but UberConference is pretty much the easiest and best. It sets up the conference line for you, allows you to call in from either a phone or computer without a PIN, allows for easy recording and retrieval, and even calls you when your meeting starts if you’d like it to, for those of us who—ahem—tend to be a little late.
Never sit in a pointless meeting again. Besides being an awesomely visual meeting planner, Do helps your meetings turn into results by converting meeting points into specific task lists (that you can later check in and follow up on). It also allows you to send out automatic meeting summaries after the fact with the click of a button!
For Managing Contacts
Think of this app as your virtual email assistant: It scrapes signature blocks from your emails and then automatically adds the contact into to your address book. Meaning: When you get a phone call, you will know who it is, because Evercontact stored it from a previous email exchange.
Purchased two years ago by LinkedIn, this Gmail plugin gives you a social-profile snapshot of whomever you are emailing. No need to hunt down their job title or most recent tweets; Rapportive puts it all right there for you. Rapportive also allows you to add them on most social networks directly from your email dashboard.
For Managing Your Business
If you are building a business, or even if you’re already a few years in, this is the killer app for writing a business plan. In small, prompt-driven chunks, LivePlan walks you through suggested sections to include, gives you examples, and allows you to drag and drop sections (or remove them if not applicable). It’s cloud-based, so you better believe it auto saves.
What I love about LivePlan is that it removes the intimidating “blank white sheet” challenge and the rarely helpful “let me try to repurpose my friend's business plan from a totally different industry and moment in time.” Boom.
This is the killer app for companies in which investments are made, options are issued, and equity is granted. In short, Capshare manages your cap table better than an Excel spreadsheet ever could. It saves headaches as things get more complicated each round and allows you to play out scenarios to see where you would or could stand as a founder, investor, or employee over time.
This creative project management tool is really intuitive for all audiences (which, let’s face it, can’t always be said for other PM software). It also includes great privacy settings that allow you to control who exactly sees what (e.g., you can hide contact info of contractors from clients even if they’re on the same project); allows you to star projects so you aren’t always looking through a billion options; and has a great mobile app for updating on the go. For a totally fun and ridiculous bonus, you can use an animated GIF for your profile pic.
For Outsourcing Your Business Functions
Think of Zenefits as your in-house HR and benefits department. The company becomes your “Broker of Record” for health, dental, and vision insurance; it interfaces with your providers and is there to help you navigate the unbelievably unwieldy insurance portals.
Beyond insurance, Zenefits handles any additional benefits you might offer (think 401(k) or pre-tax commuter stipends) and makes it easy for new employees to be onboarded, handling the new hire workflow from offer letter to legal docs. It also manages your company’s PTO, showing employees their accrued vacation and sick day balance, emailing supervisors for approval, and putting approved time off on your company calendar view so everyone can plan around one another.
Best of all, the account reps are super knowledgeable and help make this whole thing just generally not suck.
If Zenefits is your in-house HR and benefits team, ZenPayroll is your payroll department. The company manages accounts payable for all of your employees. Additionally, it allows your employees to download paystubs, check withholdings, recalibrate deductions if their initial W2 info has changed, and get a friendly email as soon as they are paid. (Oh, and—wait for it—it syncs with Zenefits.)
This company is a great solution for your accounting needs. Specifically, it serves as your invoicing and accounts receivable system, your dashboard for visibility into your bank account balances and cash flow, and a resource for a variety of other bookkeeping needs. For your employees, it’s where they can submit receipts for reimbursement (via a nice mobile app, if they choose) that can then easily be approved by supervisors (and stored for your records!).
Special thanks to these world-class operators in compiling this list: Jenny Karn, co-founder and VP of content at Beutler Ink; Allyson Downey, CEO and founder of weeSpring; and Farrah Bostic, founder of The Difference Engine.
Photo of colorful gears courtesy of Shutterstock.
TopicsEntrepreneurship , Tools & Skills , Productivity , Apps , Running a Business , Syndication , Operations
Leslie Bradshaw is the New York managing partner of Made by Many, an innovation company specializing in creating digital products that result in stronger customer relationships and new revenue streams. Named one of the "Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company and one of Inc’s 30 under 30, Bradshaw has been helping build and scale businesses since co-founding her first at age 24. A fellow at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Foundation and contributor to Quartz and Forbes, Bradshaw is passionate about using science to get to the bottom of big and small questions alike.More from this Author