When you run a dynamic and growing startup, finding flexible tools to coordinate your startup team is essential. Most startups have limited funds available to invest in software and other productivity tools. Fortunately, there’s a broad and diverse range of tools available to keep teams running smoothly and connect with your clients no matter where they are located.
The following five key tools to coordinate your startup team are all free, or at least free to use with a limited license. Some have paid add-ons that allow your tools to grow with you as your company grows. For most startup businesses, a basic license is fine to help you get started.
Five Key Tools to Coordinate Your Startup Team
We’ve grouped the tools into the following categories:
- Office Software
- Project Management
- Sales and Marketing
- Time Tracking
- Communications: Email vs Slack
Is email dead? People have been predicting the death of email for years now, but it’s probably just wishful thinking on the part of email haters. Still, there are a few software companies working towards a more streamlined approach, at least for internal communications. Chief among them is Slack, a web-based communications tool that provides teams with instant messaging, chat features and other communications tools. All communications are kept in one place, making it easy to find and reference past comments.
Google has already incorporated many of these features in Gmail, which has long been a popular email service among businesses and consumers. Not that you can’t use both – Slack excels at internal communications, but isn’t really designed for communication outside of your team. That’s where email comes in. You can set up a business email address and plug it directly into Gmail and you’re good to go.
This also gives you access to Google Hangouts, a key communication tool for virtual meetings. Hangouts offer video and audio connections so that you can host meetings and share documents all in one place. It’s a great tool for virtual team meetings or times when you need to brainstorm or share ideas.
- Office Software: Google Docs
Google also offers startup companies the equivalent of a complete office software package in Google Docs…free. This online tool provides quality word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software all in one online package. You can share documents with one team member or share the link with clients. Comment, edit and track changes with ease, too.
Like Google Hangouts, Google Docs requires you to have a basic, free Gmail or Google account.
- Project Management: Trello
Google Docs can be used for basic project management and tracking, but if you need a slightly more detailed and powerful project management system for your team, try Trello. If you’re familiar with Pinterest, you’ll love Trello. It uses a simple “picture card” system to move tasks from one area to another to indicate tasks assigned, completed or pending. You can track a project from start to finish, see open and completed tasks and assign team members portions of a task.
Trello’s intuitive interface shortens the learning curve for most startup teams, and it is free to use. You can also use a CRM or other software as project management, as we’ll go into in the next section.
- Sales and Marketing: Insightly (CRM) and MailChimp (Email Marketing)
What is “customer relation management (CRM)?” It sounds like a mouthful if you’re unfamiliar with it, but here’s the short and simple: CRM helps you track sales so you can measure your efforts and prevent your leads from falling through the cracks.
Salesforce is the brand name here, but their offerings are more robust – and more expensive – than what most small businesses need. If you’re looking for a powerful yet simple sales tool, Fit Small Business recommends Insightly. This CRM is free for up to two users, and reasonably priced as you scale the number of users accessing the system. Track contacts and sales along the sales pipeline and use this tool to communicate with your team members. You can also create and track specific projects,
Many startups want to initiate email marketing campaigns, but email marketing systems can be expensive. MailChimp offers a good introductory email system at no cost for under 2,000 subscribers on your list or under 12,000 emails sent each month, whichever comes first. A free basic package from MailChimp provides templates for your email newsletters, a CAN-SPAM compliant opt-in email list signup system and much more. You can customize your templates, store previous templates, and for an additional fee each month, create auto responders and email marketing nurturing sequences to improve response rates and much more. MailChimp packs a lot into a free service and offers add-ons for a very reasonable fee.
- Time Management
Whether you need to track employee hours or time spent on a client’s project, having a free time tracking tool helps your team coordinate and centralize their reports. Startups with five or fewer employees can use Toggl’s time tracking system free, and as you grow, you can add more employees for a nominal monthly fee. Toggl tracks hours and includes a reporting system to make rolling up hours into monthly or weekly bills easier. It’s a great free package to coordinate your team’s time sheets and time reports.You can read an awesome Toggl review from Time Doctor here!
Keep Costs Low and Productivity High
Successful startups know they have to keep costs low and productivity high. What better way to achieve this goal than to use free software to coordinate your team’s efforts? With these startup tools, you’re well on your way to streamlining communications throughout your business.