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10 small business apps to increase productivity

So you’ve got the customers, the product and the staff. All that’s left now is your systems. Luckily, there are some amazing apps that take you through the A to Z of business owning, from accounting to zen.

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re expected to do everything. You’re the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Or more precisely, the accountant, receptionist and dishwasher-loader. Left unchecked, it can all become pretty overwhelming and quickly lead to burnout.

The good news is, there’s a range of amazing apps that help you do it all, better. Downloading one tiny app to your phone might be just what you need to make a huge difference to your business.

1. Wave accounting

If you have a small business, then Wave is likely to be the most cost-effective cloud accounting package. That’s because it’s free.

Designed with small businesses in mind, Wave is free of charge for companies that have up to nine employees. It does all the things a good accountancy package should. It records sales, expenses and payments. It makes it easy to create invoices, scan and store receipts and run reports. Wave even has an in-built payroll package.

You can connect your bank accounts for automatic transaction coding. No more manual data entry means less likelihood of errors. With better systems, there’s better data, which allows you to make better business decisions. You can keep track of cashflow at a glance, understanding what’s needed and when.

There are tax reports, so that compliance is at the touch of a button. No more worrying about filling out forms or juggling Excel spreadsheets.

And then there’s Wave Payments. This costs 2.9% + 30c per transaction, but allows people to pay you directly using their credit card, even in a foreign currency. This encourages debtors to pay on time, every time.

And, aside from Wave Payments, all these functions won’t cost you a bean.

2. Slack

It seems like everyone is on Slack these days. It’s stable, secure and easy to use. But what does it actually do?

Slack is a communication app that works seamlessly from phone to desktop, and from New Zealand to anywhere in the world. You add people and can have conversations with them directly. Or you can start group channels, where people can flick back and forth, share ideas and organise things as a team. You can also drag and drop files into the chats to enable easy sharing of data. Then, when your team members finish working on a project, they can leave the conversation.

You can have voice or video calls, share your screen, invite in stakeholders and integrate with a range of apps, including DropBox, Google Drive and SalesForce. No more silos and overflowing inboxes.

A basic version for small teams is free, and there’s a small monthly fee per user for the paid versions.

3. RescueTime

How often do you end up working late? Do you know where your time goes? The RescueTime app works quietly in the background on your computer, phone and tablet, showing you precisely where your attention and time are going. While this introduces some scary levels of accountability, it also enables you to see which sites, apps and tasks are eating most of your time, as well as when you’re most productive.

Armed with this information, you can optimise how you work. RescueTime makes it easy to find out when you’re most productive and exploit your natural work habits.

The lite package is free. It gives you tracking on all sites and apps, and helps you set productivity goals. The paid versions offer more functions and even more ways to maximise your use of time.

4. Stripe

Accepting payments is an integral part of your business. Whether your business is online, in a pop-up shop or in a permanent bricks-and-mortar location, customers need to be able to pay for things securely.

Stripe ticks all the boxes. It’s a fully-integrated online platform for running sales from your app or website. It’s safe and stable, and available for 25 different countries. It also syncs up with your existing accounting platforms to allow people to pay directly into your bank account from an invoice.

If you need payments to be accepted on the go, Stripe Terminal is coming - but in the meantime Stripe partners have ready-to-use products that let you have a checkout wherever you are. Using a mobile phone, you can receive credit card payments securely.

Another interesting thing about Stripe is the pricing structure. Stripe charges 2.9% of the transaction + NZ30c. No setup fees, monthly charges or hidden costs.

5. KanbanFlow

Based on the Kanban project management methodology, KanbanFlow lets you see what’s happening with your projects at a glance. All your team members, from anywhere in the world, can access the software. It means everyone knows where a project is up to.

You can create boards with tasks and timelines in an easy-to-understand visual format; easily see when a task needs to be completed; and, as an owner, quickly understand where the bottlenecks are occurring. It’s also easy to integrate KanbanFlow with Excel, Outlook and Google Calendar for maximum usability.

The limited version is free, with unlimited users and timeframes. The premium account is $5 per person, per month.

6. DropBox

DropBox allows you to store files online in the cloud, share selected items, and collaborate across time zones and geography. DropBox integrates beautifully with seemingly every app in market; it has become a tool that business owners can’t do without.

DropBox offers four plans. The free option has basic functions and allows you to store up to 2TB in the cloud. For most small businesses and individuals, this is enough. The professional package gives you up to 3TB of storage and costs NZ$33 a month. The team packages are NZ$18.75 per user per month.

7. MailChimp

If you have a mailing list (or you’re planning to create one), then you need MailChimp. It creates custom mailing lists and then helps you package up the data, so your emails are beautiful and streamlined.

It’s more than just a tool though. Mail Chimp offers insights and techniques for landing pages, ads, social media and signup forms that work.

The free plan gives you the basics, with some templates, a marketing CRM and one-click automations. From there, the plans increase to the $299 premium plan, with advanced features and customisation. Most small businesses only require the essential or standard plan, at NZ$16 and $24 a month each.

8. Zoom

Not a fast car - an easy to use and extremely stable video-conferencing platform! Zoom allows one-on-one meetings face-to-face or voice only, from desktop or mobile. It’s simple to arrange meetings with just a few clicks and people don’t even need logins to join. They simply click on the link in the email or message and they’re ready to go.

Zoom also offers full recording, storing the videos and calls either on the cloud or on your PC, depending on what you want. There’s also a chat function, beauty filters to iron out any wrinkles, plus file and screen sharing.

The best thing is the video calling. It has very little lag or delay, even when the internet is not so good. If there is a lag, then the audio speeds up when the user re-joins, so nothing is missed.

The free plan takes up to 100 participants and offers unlimited one-on-one meetings, but group meetings are limited to 40 minutes. The Pro plan for small teams is NZ$23 a month and gives you heaps more usability and functions.

9. TripIt

If you travel a lot, then you know it gets wildly confusing at times, especially long and fragmented trips. TripIt consolidates all your travel arrangements into a single itinerary.

Simply buy your flights, train tickets or accommodation, then send the confirmation email to TripIt. The app takes all the information and puts everything together. This makes it easy to see if you’ve missed a step, like how to get from the airport to the hotel, or if you’ve accidentally booked a wrong date.

TripIt can send you alerts, give you recommendations for where to eat near your hotel and even keep you updated if a flight is delayed or cancelled. And it does this all for free. The Pro account is $49 a year and gives you seat guidelines for planes, navigation through the airport and baggage claim info. It even updates your nearest and dearest on your travel plans.

10. LastPass

The only sure-fire way to easily remember all your passwords is to use the same one, over and over. But that leaves you wide open to hacking and massive security problems. Even if you cycle through a bunch of passwords, it’s hard to know which app or platform has what password.

LastPass lets you store all your passwords in one place. It even comes up with the passwords for you, so you have the right number of capitals, numbers and symbols. You can install it on your phone, tablet and desktop, and it automatically syncs – allowing you to login securely from anywhere. All you have to do is log into LastPass with a single master password or thumb print, then LastPass will log you into all your saved sites as you go. You can also share passwords with selected users when required.

Highly secure, LastPass gives you incredible peace of mind. It also means you don’t have to go through the process of resetting your password every time you try to log into a rarely-used website.