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Work smarter not harder

Top ten productivity tools for small businesses

One of the challenges of running a small business is that everyone has to do more. A small business is a microcosm of a larger business, with all the same organisational functions albeit on a much smaller scale. But it still means that as a business you need to cover areas such as finance, marketing, human resources and employment law, health and safety, legal compliance, technology, purchasing… that’s on top of your core business of course. Even if there are only two of you!

Recent research by Infusionsoft found that 55% of small businesses cite one of their greatest challenges as getting everything done. So as 2017 approaches why not make “work smarter not harder” your mantra for the year? Don’t kid yourself that you will have any more time next year than this: as we all know, life just seems to get busier. So you need to find more efficient ways of doing the things that need to be done.

There are various productivity tools available that aim to help you maximise your time. They range from helping you stop wasting time on unproductive activities such as surfing the net, to automating some of the basic business functions for you. Some are free, some are via paid subscription but all are good value.

We’ve scouted around and found Ten Top Tools to help you be more productive in 2017:

  1. Sage One Accounts and Payroll: clear and simple cloud-based services for managing accounting - including invoices and VAT - and payroll. The payroll service is RTI-ready which means that you can submit your PAYE and National Insurance data to HMRC in just a click, therefore making it easy to keep compliant.

  2. SMB HR software: cloud-based HR services especially for businesses between 2 and 200 people. SMB streamlines the way you manage every aspect of your workforce including recruitment, employee data, sick leave, holiday, and absence management. It enables you to put all your HR information in one place accessible 24/7 from anywhere convenient.

  3. Online software: such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs provide familiar applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint (or the Google equivalent) via the cloud, so that businesses can access them from any device virtually anywhere. Your staff can create, edit and share key documents wherever they are working from.

  4. Receipt Bank: enables your staff to scan receipts and invoices directly from their smartphone or tablet enabling them then to be stored and processed as needed. This is invaluable for keeping track of bills, invoices and receipts that can be a real hassle for small businesses.

  5. Legal Manager: enables you to create legal documents for your business - such as sales agreements, property contracts and terms and conditions for websites - from templates supplemented by a straightforward question and answer process. It ensures that you comply with Health & Safety legislation by performing risk assessments and more. Legal Manager will also keep you up to date via email with changes in legislation.

  6. Google Adwords & Google Analytics: Google has a wide range of tools to help you maximise the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing. The tools will help you to reach the right people at the right time and also to analyse where you need to make changes to your marketing strategy. The tools are a must to ensure that your business gets found by people on Google precisely when they're searching for the things that you offer.

  7. WebEx Mobile: This enables your staff to use their mobiles or tablets to host and attend meetings online, join other online events, attend online training sessions. It facilitates collaboration with colleagues and customers wherever they are.

  8. Rescue Time: There never seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything but Rescue Time does what it says on the tin! It is a web-based service that uses a desktop client to track exactly what you're doing with your computer time. It helps you to identify if time is being wasted procrastinating or surfing social media, and enables you to set goals and classify tasks based on how productive you think those tasks are.

  9. Nozbe: an intuitive Get Things Done (GTD) project management tool that enables you to produce task lists that can then be view by project or by context. It has an easy-to-use web interface which works on any screen size via an app for your computer, smartphone or tablet. It is also fully compatible with Evernote notes, Google or Microsoft Office documents, Dropbox or Box files.

  10. WorkFlowy: a notebook for lists that you can use to be more creative and productive. Workflowy functions as a simple notepad but with additional features for navigation, hierarchy, search and sharing. It is simple to use and you design and adapt its use based on how you think and work. It then offers you a neat working space in which to organise yourself via browsers or Android, iPhone and iPad apps. It also integrates with DropBox.

We hope that you find at least some of the above tools helpful and that you and your business have a happy and productive 2017!

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