As an entrepreneur you have to wear a lot of hats. Working in a small organization means you often need to fill the duties of what in a bigger company would be several different people. For a long time, in addition to being CEO I was also acting CFO, COO, Head of Sales & Marketing, and Product Manager. None of that would have been at all possible without the use of some of these killer tools, many of whom turned out to be real life-savers. In this post I’ve highlighted 7 of my favorites. To keep it interesting, I’ve also tried to pick some less obvious ones you may not have heard of.
As the head of my business I need to know what’s going on all the time. Metrics are the best way to keep up with all the different teams in my organization. Every year we set target metrics for each team and the company as a whole. Whether it be number of users, revenue, up-time, data points, etc.; it’s essential that I know how we’re performing in each area. Geckoboard’s simple interface gives me a real-time view of all of them. The best part is that I can get it on my phone, laptop and the big screen hanging in our office. The metrics are everywhere. And I love it.
Everyone has a different style of managing their workload, and obviously your preferred tool depends on the way you like to work, but Asana is the tool that works for me. I can set up projects, create task lists and prioritize all the tasks I have to do that day. It also has a great calendar feature so I can see how much time I have that day and what I’ve committed to, so I know realistically how much work I can get done that day. It’s not always perfect, but it’s the most comprehensive tool I’ve found for task management. I will also mention that a lot of my team have recently become Trello converts.
When running a startup, user testing is absolutely key to building a good product. A lot of User Testing sites, like usertesting.com, while great for their comprehensiveness, can be pretty pricy. I find it’s best to save them for later in your process. Usabilityhub on the other hand lets you run 5 second tests so you can quickly test and iterate on features before you put a lot of time and effort into development. We use it for everything from naming features, to web design tests, wireframe comprehension and more. Their interface is really simple, and if you do a bunch of tests you can rack up enough credit that you won’t need to pay for it. Another honorable mention in this category is Optimizely, which have installed on our site to A/B test website changes.
I get a lot of emails, from a lot of people, and to be honest, I don’t always remember who they are. Rapportive is a free plugin for Gmail that connects with your social media profiles and shows you a handy dashboard of the person who has emailed you. You can see their social media profiles, their company information and (most helpfully) a picture of them. Often that’s enough to jog my memory about how I know them.
As a young company, navigating the world of finances and accounting can be daunting if you don’t have a CFO. Xero is an actual lifesaver. The New Zealand startup has built a simple, easy to use accounting software that makes organizing and paying invoices enjoyable (almost). They also have a bunch of plugins that give you even more functionality like inventory, invoicing, time tracking and expenses.
Local Co-working Space App
This one will be dependant on where you live – for me it’s WeWork. I’m always on the go, which means I often can’t get to my laptop when I need to book a meeting room. Most coworking spaces have apps that let you book meeting rooms and event spaces on the go. Even if you don’t work there, it’s worth having a membership with one of them so you can take advantage of their facilities. I like WeWork because they have a bunch of different locations, which means I don’t have to ask investors or clients to travel across town.
We have a split office at import (London and San Francisco), which means I’m often emailing people who are on radically different time zones to where I am. Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that lets you send your emails on a schedule. This means I can do all my email early in the morning, and then schedule them to reach people at the optimal time for their time zone. This stops my staff feeling like they have to respond to me at 11pm, or getting lost in the bombardment of email that happens to everyone first thing in the morning.
Focus@will (this one’s a bonus!)
Buckling down and concentrating on one task for more than a few minutes is one of the biggest struggles I face as a CEO. Focus@will is a website that plays music which is scientifically optimized to increase concentration and productivity. How they do it, I have no idea – but it works! They even have a productivity tracker so you can find out what types of music and energy level settings keep you most focused and productive.