Starting up a new company? Then you probably already know of all the important tools youíll need. Things like office space, a phone system, a large bottle of Jack Daniels. You know Ė the essential stuff. Youíll also be slow out of the batterís box if you neglect getting certain software too. Donít worry Ė most of this stuff is pretty inexpensive, too. In fact, a lot of it is free (oh, you LIKE that word, donít you?). Now that your antennaís up, letís look at the five applications no startup should be without.
1. Financial management. The age of one-write systems are long past. From the first day youíll need to record your financial transactions in a good program. It wonít be long before youíll be reporting results back to the IRS, your partners and to your spouse. Quickbooks (www.intuit.com) is the leader here, closely followed by Peachtree (www.sage.com). But keep a sharp eye on Microsoft Office Accounting 2007 (www.microsoft.com/office) because itís free (thereís that word again!). Any of these applications will get your financial house in order.
2. Contact management. A glorified rolodex is one thing, but a centralized place to keep your companyís contacts (customers, vendors, etc), calendars, e-mails, documents, notes and other activities will make productivity go through the roof. Consider either GoldMine software (www.goldmine.com) or Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager (www.microsoft.com/outlook). Both GoldMine and Outlook are about $200/user stand alone. GoldMine can expand to hundreds of users and Outlook can be migrated to Microsoftís CRM product line as you grow.
3. Office management. Every good office will need good office software. Word and spreadsheet processing will be essential. Setting up a shared intranet will one day be inevitable. Integrating all of this together requires an advanced set of office tools. The grand-daddy of course is Microsoft Office (www.microsoft.com/office). Itís closest competitor is Corel Wordperfect Office (www.corel.com). But also take a look at the new (and free) up and comers: Google (www.google.com) and OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org).
4. Remote management. You will be on the road. You will go to tradeshows, conferences, sales calls and customer meetings. And, of course you will want to also spend time with your family too. But workís got to get done, so how to stay in touch? Every great business in this great new millennium has a reliable remote management tool. This way you can go to any internet-based computer to connect back with your office and check email, review proposals, schedule follow-ups, send nasty messages, etc. For a group of employees, have your tech-guy setup either Windows Terminal Services (www.microsoft.com/terminalservices) or Citrix (www.citrix.com). For an individual connection try Gotomypc (www.gotomypc.com) or logmein (www.logmein.com). The former is about $15/month and the latter is free.
5. Communication management. Instant and text messaging applications have been a critical way to immediately communicate with key employees. Once you start using instant messaging youíll kick yourself for not getting it before. Most instant messaging applications are free downloads, so consider AOL or Yahoo. Youíll of course want to also setup e-mail too, so make sure you get an account with either of these services or you can also try MSN or Google (itís free).
Like this list? Thereís 500 more (from over three hundred experts) just like it in The Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (www.smallbizlists.net). Gene Marks is the President of The Marks Group PC (www.marksgroup.net), a Philadelphia-based reseller of financial, customer relationship and service management technologies like GoldMine, Microsoft CRM and other popular software. Gene also writes the Penny Pincherís Almanac, seen nationally in American Business Journals (www.bizjournals.com).