SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Top 4 Free Applications for SMBs

Even though most people may not realize it, small and medium businesses are the backbone of the economy. In 2016, there were 28.8 million small businesses in the US, which translates to 99.7% of all American businesses – and in fact, since the 1970s, 66% of total net new jobs are generated by small businesses, which also make for 55% of all jobs in the marketplace. Yet only 50% of those businesses are set to surpass five years and only one third will survive for at least 10 years. This means that SMB owners have to play it smart in order to increase their chances in a highly competitive market – so why not take advantage of free applications that could be ideal for your enterprise?

1. Project Management

One of the most important questions you have to deal with as an SMB is how to deal with managing various projects among the few people that you employ. There are software tools out there that can help make that easier for you, by streamlining communication between team members and allowing you to stay on top of the workflow. Asana, one of the most popular PM apps, is free for the first 15 users, making it great for small businesses. It has a flexible interface and visually documents progress, while it can integrate with services like Evernote, Google Drive, MailChimp, and WordPress.

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Source: Pexels

2. Traffic Management

When your SMB has a website – as most businesses today do – then sometimes managing traffic can be daunting. A load balancing tool such as HAProxy (High Availability Proxy) allows you to allocate load across multiple servers and help optimize system performance and speed. HAProxy is a free and open source (FOSS) application– it is included in some Linux distributions, if your system runs on Linux, or it can be downloaded separately. Due to its elaborate nature, though, it also requires IT expertise to set up and maintain – so having the right people on board in-house or hiring outside help is crucial.

3. Productivity

Especially when working in small numbers or when you are freelancing, time can really fly. A good time tracking app can help both you and people on your team stay more focused on the task at hand and spend less time distracted by social media or less important tasks. RescueTime is a time management app that tracks where you allocate your precious time by website and application and allows users to set productivity goals. The basic version is completely free, but if you want features like blocking certain sites or breaking down offline activity, then you’ll have to upgrade to premium for a little extra. RescueTime is flexible across platforms and can be used on Mac, PC, and Linux, but its app is currently only available on Android.

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Source: Pexels

4. Team Communication

Besides specialized project management apps, it is nice to have a tool dedicated to internal communication in order to make sure that everyone is up to date and colleagues can get easily in touch when needed. Slack is your best friend – and its basic version is free for an unlimited number of users, although it comes with space and feature limitations. You can create a shared workspace with organized communication channels, customized notifications, searchable messages and mandatory two-factor authentication for extra security.

So if you’d like to increase productivity while on a budget, there is no better way to do it than to look out for these free software tools and choose which one right for your company’s needs.

 

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10 Great Apps Every Leader Needs to Be Effective

BY SHAWN MURPHY, CEO and founder, Switch & Shift - 

It's not enough for twenty-first-century leaders to focus on getting things done. They must also connect with employees to inspire performance. Digging deeper, top management today needs to marry purpose and meaning to each employee's contribution. Amid these expectations, and these are but a handful, it's easy for a leader to overlook herself.Apps

A leader depleted of energy is no good to anyone. Turning to digital for solutions, the list below recommends apps to help you be more effective in your life professionally and personally.

The recommended apps are broken down into six categories to increase your leadership effectiveness.

Personal Growth: Deepen your skills through personal development
Communication: Increase clarity, awareness, and understanding within your team
Productivity: Get more done and have energy left to be who you need to be to people important in your life
Inspiration: Know how and why to inspire people
Creativity: Add fulfillment in your work through creating solutions to business problems
Collaboration: Strengthen how you get things done through others. Work is a team sport.

1. Personal Growth

The Leadership Challenge: Hands down the best leadership app out there. Developed by the authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner and based on their best-selling book of the same name, this app gives you tangible actions to grow your leadership according to five leadership practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, Encourage the Heart. Excellent app if you want to grow as a leader.

Igniter: There's a saying, "Know what you stand for, or you'll fall for anything." To accomplish the first part of the saying, you need to know what your personal values are. Igniter, from Luck Companies, takes you through an automated process of identifying your core personal values. You ought to know what you stand for. Values are your true north.

Day One: Keep track of what's important to you. Capture ideas. Record memories. Day One is a journaling app to help you develop a routine of reflection. The best leaders take time to reflect.

2. Communication

Slack: My team of seven is completely virtual. Rather than overwhelm email with small requests or updates, of which there are many in a day, we use Slack. Think of Slack as texting on steroids. You can sync many other apps to Slack: Dropbox and Drive, for example. Try /giphy for some fun. Decrease unnecessary meetings and emails. Free up time to focus on higher-value leadership actions.

Click Here To Learn More

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