Are you starting a new business? Does your tech need a refresh? A successful small business owner recommends these time- and money-saving apps and tools.
Mr Black is an Australian bittersweet coffee liqueur made by cold-extracting selected beans and mixing the result with grain spirit. It's currently sold around Australia and the UK, and will be launched in New York in March 2017.
The beans, purchased through Sydney-based Campos Coffee, come from “the top half a percent of coffee in the world”, according to Mr Black founder Tom Baker.
Baker spends at least half of his year travelling, largely to find new coffee beans and to develop new markets: you build a brand on the street by telling bartenders and drinkers about it, he explained. But when he's on the road it is important that he can respond to enquiries from potential customers and distributors, and continue to collaborate with other members of the organisation.
“I don't know how people would have done business 20 years ago” without cloud applications, he said, because “it made growing our business unbelievably easy”.
Furthermore, Baker’s recommended tech services and products “work so well together” the company doesn't need an “IT guy”, its own servers, or an office manager or HR person, he said. And if you set them up correctly from the start, you never have to worry about them again.
So what are these recommended apps and tools? Here’s his starter pack for new businesses:
File storage and synchronisation service Dropbox is top of his list because storing all documents in the cloud means anyone in the team can access the items they need from any device, anywhere. And if a device is lost or damaged, all you need to do is buy or borrow a replacement, install Dropbox and sync it to the account.
It is also valuable for working with external consultants, designers and so on, and for sharing materials with journalists and other outside parties.
“It blows my mind how well it works,” said Baker.
Slack is a popular text chat system that can be used for internal or external collaboration. An important feature is the way it integrates well with other services.
Xero is a well known cloud accounting system. Like Slack, it integrates with a variety of other services.
Unleashed is an inventory system designed for manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers. It integrates with Xero.
5. Receipt Bank
Receipt Bank takes receipts and invoices (such as photos or scans of the paper documents) and turns them into transactions in Xero or other accounting systems, saving a lot of time and effort.
6. A new notebook and smartphone for each team member
These two items represent the bulk of the initial expenditure, but you want to be able to work efficiently rather than wrestling with bulky or slow hardware.
7. Vodafone mobile service
You can choose your own mobile service provider, of course, but Baker is a fan of Vodafone. Its $5 a day international roaming service makes a big difference to someone who spends a lot of time overseas (though be aware that the $5 roaming service can only be used on 90 days in any calendar year).
8. Sharing services
Baker and Mr Black also take advantage of other web and app-based services including GoGet (car sharing), Uber (ride hailing) and online travel booking.
“A small bunch of really good things makes doing business quicker and cheaper,” he observed.