Every day, new software pops up that blows our minds. There are countless cool apps and software companies changing how we live, communicate and get things done. From knowing who’s at the door with Ring or ordering food with Favor, technology pushes us further and faster.
For small teams and startups, there’s a variety of tools that transform an idea into the next groundbreaking company. Tesla, Facebook, and Instagram all started somewhere, right? Because there are so many amazing tools out there, it’s important to consider which are the most impactful, but also affordable – especially if you’re a smaller team or a startup.
Beginning with the obvious, Slack is the universal email killer. While there are a lot of great chat tools, Slack has become the ubiquitous go-to for team chat thanks to its privacy, file-sharing capabilities, and ability to plug in about a bazillion other apps including JIRA and Google files. Slack works well with collaborative teams because it allows for “rooms” based on projects, or one on one chats. Plus, you can send gifs, and everyone loves getting those.
For marketing teams, Canva is a low-cost plug and play tool that makes creating posters and graphics simple. Canva works great because everything is drag and drop, but also it’s free to use with graphics only costing $1 each. Creating a last-minute campaign or a timely web banner has never been easier.
MailChimp is an easy way to create and curate email lists for customer interactions. MailChimp takes out all of the work and offers ready-made or custom newsletter templates, allowing teams to drop in their information and ship it off to their lists.
When it comes to keeping track of invoices, PayPal has an easy to use system – if you’re working solo. If you’re a part of a team, Freshbooks features a much more nuanced ability to parse billing down to hours spent, client type and various other tax aspects. Put against other accounting tools, Freshbooks stands on its own because of simplicity and ease of use, which for most small teams, they aren’t looking to get in the financial weeds, but keep the doors open. Freshbooks is an easy way to keep track of accounts payable before growing enough to afford someone in charge of the money.
If the team is a little bigger and expense reports are the norm, there’s an easy way to keep track: snap a photo and forget it. Meet Expensify. Just grab a picture of that business lunch with the app, and you’re done. Everything you upload is tallied up and sent directly to the boss for approvals. After a long business trip, Expensify is a game changer.
If you need to collaborate with a variety of people, there are two options that define ease of use: Confluence or Google Docs. Google Docs is a stable platform because it allows for easy-peasy collaboration between anyone, regardless of who they work for or where they’re at. With simple inline commenting and link sharing, teams around the globe can jump on a project with one another in seconds.
With Confluence, collaborating is just a little different. Instead of a simple link share, Confluence is a team ecosystem that allows for discussion at the bottom of the document, past revision authority, as well as being extremely easy to use. The big difference between the two is easy: Google Docs is a free, primary application that gets the job done if you’re working on a document that won’t require more than inline comments. Confluence is a much more in-depth, detail-oriented tool that’s behind the firewall and set up directly for a team’s needs.
If you’re a constant note-taker and need to access ideas and thoughts on the fly, Evernote is tried and true. It’s a simple enough idea: scribble down a quick idea onto your phone and expand on it when you sit down at your computer. It seems simple enough but coupled with some of Evernote’s internal sharing capabilities; there’s a lot to like with the senior citizen of the app world.
Competing for the coveted role of “easiest to use website” is big business. Wix and Joomla go back and forth with trying to improve their platforms, but no one comes remotely close to the king of website hosting and platform: WordPress. Just about most websites and blogs are variations on WordPress templates and for a good reason: WordPress is intuitive and affordable. Most people can figure the language and backend out in a day or so. And because it’s so cheap, teams can put together a great looking site for well under $200 and a day’s worth of elbow grease.
Instead of putting clients and potential employees through paperwork hell, an easy way to move signing any documents is by adopting DocuSign. Once someone’s loaded their information into DocuSign once, the account is verified and works everywhere, thus saving them time.
If you’re a team that’s struggling with productivity, adopting agile methodology will change the game around the office. Initially implemented as a way for software teams to get work done by establishing smaller goals and marking their weekly successes instead of relying on just the big project rocks, agile celebrate a week’s worth of work, even if it’s the mundane smaller stuff. Born from this methodology came kanban boards, and with kanban, team members move their work along a path signaling work that’s done via three tracks:
Trello is a free tool that helps teams track their work, but also view analytics in regards to how much work is getting done. If the boss wants to see more tasks managed and how they’re moving out of the door on a weekly basis, Trello does just that. Plus, it’s nice to see the work stack up over time, painting a picture of what the team can accomplish.
If you’re thinking about joining a startup, Github is as essential as it gets. Used as a repository, Github offers version control, branching and merging code into one or many places, just depending on what your needs are. Github crushes because it keeps track of the often messy versioning of overwrites and misplaced updates. Another tool to consider is Pingdom to keep track of downtime and performance monitoring, as well as gain insights into what actual users are doing and more importantly, what they’re trying to do.
There are a lot of social media sharing tools that work across platforms. HootSuite seems to be the most reliable, but also malleable, too. Most Fortune 1000 companies trust Hootsuite and for a good reason: it’s rock solid. Because of simplicity in scheduling and the ability to monitor analytics, the marketing team will know who are reacting to what and what your audience is sharing.
We’d be remiss to not mention Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM. Salesforce is as mainstream as a Justin Bieber record at this point, but for sales teams, it’s mandatory. While other teams will try to adopt other CRM tools to nurture leads and develop new business, Salesforce somehow creeps back into the conversation because of its market dominance. If you’re trying to nail down a stronger sales plan, Salesforce is the way to go. No question.
That’s all for now. If we can think of more, we’ll do a follow-up. What about your team? Is there a SaaS tool that blows your mind? Let us know. We’re always on the hunt for the next incredible way to save five minutes.
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There’s a common saying when interviewing, “Act like the job needs you, not like you need the job.” For the most part, this quote is pretty accurate. When you walk into the conference room, waiting for the lineup of potential bosses and coworkers to meet you and assess if you’d be good for the team, you need to keep a cool head and pull a left turn: flip the tables on them. Make them want you.
You need to become the one asking the hard questions, to make them fall in love with you.
By flipping the script and interviewing your would-be peers, you’re letting everyone know that you mean business. Answering questions with thought out replies is a significant part of the interview process, but by keeping a few questions in mind to ask when feeling out how the team and company moves shows you’re thoughtful and that you care about the position.
Confidence and composure are what the team is looking for, not how your resume reads. By creating conversation, or bouncing ideas off one another in an admittedly awkward environment relieves some of the tension but also shows that you can assume control of a situation that you’re not entirely comfortable with. People enjoy being engaged, it’s not Pavlovian, but we react in kind when an interviewee volleys the questions back and thus creates an honest dialogue vs. a rehearsed call and response.
We asked some folks who’ve been on the hiring side of the interviewing table what they’d love to hear when looking for their next great teammate, what makes them raise an eyebrow or catches them off guard. In the world of the job hunt, it’s all about impact and standing out, not just answering what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
“The interviewee should have made time to conduct strong research on the company, role, market, and form ideas about how they will add value. The most compelling candidates do their research and ask relevant questions.” – Brian, CFO/COO
It’s important to come to your interview prepared and know the company, their space and what you think they’re trying to accomplish. By asking about how the company is positioning itself against natural industry evolution, it shows you’re trying to plan the next move and instead of trying to come from behind and jump in mid-stream. Granted, no one expects greatness overnight, but it helps to feign commitment to developing the future instead of relying on status quo.
Others are all about goals and successes, finding out ahead of time where you could fit in and what is expected of your role. By asking what metrics can be hit for the most effectiveness or how you can be a major contributor to the team makes a case for an objective-minded person:
“I want them to ask about team dynamic. If they aren’t asking about what level of autonomy they’ll have, what the feedback process looks like, and how we typically communicate, then they likely aren’t looking to be engaged in the way we need them to be.”
– Beki, Project Manager
“What are the KPIs for the position, how are they measured (if not obvious), and is there a bonus in exceeding them?” – Victorio, CEO
“I also now ask what success looks like for the role. And add a time frame, like six months. It makes the interviewer distill the real aim/purpose of the job. What they say first is very telling about what they care about, e.g., You have met all your performance targets, or you’re successful in your team, or you’re taking the initiative on new projects.”
– Claire, Technical Writer
Other questions are straight ahead and get down to the brass tacks, looking to strip away any fluff. It’s important to keep the smaller, more direct questions at the forefront, too. Every question doesn’t have to be a big picture narrative, there’s plenty of room for the inquiry that strikes to the heart of why would I want to be on this team?
Can I meet some of the people that I will be working with, or managing? – Heather, Writer
What surprised you most about joining this team? – Elena, Product Marketing Manager
Heading into your interview with a few questions about the position will only help drive the point home that you’re the person for the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re trading stocks, cleaning toilets, or writing blogs, the important lesson here is to drive engagement between you and the people interviewing. You want them to see you as effective, informed, and ready to be an impact player on the team. You made it all the way to the in-person round; they like you, it’s up to you to seal the deal with some extra pizazz.
And if all else fails you can be weird and ask something like “Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 100 duck sized horses?” We don’t recommend it, but Michael, a quirky CEO went there. Don’t blame us. We’re just trying to help.
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