Tips & Tricks

The 5 Best Apps for Small Business Owners

There have to be at least a million apps for small businesses. What's the right one for you?

There have to be at least a million apps for small businesses.

Just counting iOS apps, there are:

  • 2,000,000 total apps
  • 1,000,000 iPad specific apps
  • 10,000 Apple Watch apps
  • 6,000 Apple TV apps

That was in June of 2016. It’s only continued to grow.

The overwhelming response to the iPhone 7 suggests we have not reached “peak iPhone.” 

Apps continue to be a huge driver of platform loyalty and ecosystem stickiness. People are not putting down their iPhones. And they are still buying apps.

With so many of those apps aimed at small business owners, it can be hard for an entrepreneur to know exactly what apps will be the most useful, and which will be a waste of time and money.

Even if I could narrow it down to the 5 best apps for small businesses, that would leave out a lot of really good apps that deserve your attention.

Instead, I will give you five great apps that represent categories of apps no small business owner should be without – starting with yours!

Your App

The first app every small business owner needs to get is their own. It used to be said that if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist.

It used to be said that if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. Pics, or it didn’t happen. Now, the same is even truer for apps. Not having a presence in the App Store is a little like not being listed in the Yellow Pages.

Take Starbucks: they figured out how to turn an app into a customer loyalty gold mine.

App Store success for small businesses is all about being creative. If you sell hardware, offer an app that presents instructions for DYI projects. If you have a convenience store, offer an app with time limited coupons and flash deals.

App Store real estate is practically unlimited. Get yours.

If you can’t build or commission an app, you need to at least have a custom-designed mobile website that can start simple, and grow with your business needs.

A good mobile website can be almost as effective as an app. It even has the advantage of being cross-platform.

Your website is not just about vanity. It is about driving traffic that make your business money. Having the right SEO team is the difference between getting visitors and making money.

Both major app stores have more apps than any one person can use. But until those stores have your app, they have one app too few.

Finance

No app is a substitute for a good accountant, bookkeeper, or broker. It takes a lot more than an app to equal the many years of education, training, and experience gained by someone who has devoted their professional life to the field.

But there are a great number of apps that can supplement your finance needs when you don’t have access to a professional, at least in the short-term.

FreshBooks is one of those apps that fills a particular need that every freelancer has several times a year.

It is the premier invoicing solution for freelancers, sole proprietors, and small business owners of every stripe. One of the hardest tasks for business owners to master is asking to be paid. By the time they do get around to invoicing, they are often late.

This is unprofessional and can create ill will. Using a service like FreshBooks is a way to ease those tensions, and get paid faster. There are many financing apps you can get. But few provide the immediate benefit of a good invoicing app.

Business IM

Email and telecommunications have at least two things in common: They are the most used business communications tools in the world. And no one likes to use them.

For a number of reasons, IM is better for collaboration than email. It is just a matter of choosing the right IM client for your team needs.

While Skype has been around for a long time, it shares the curse of email and telephone in that it is largely unloved. Like Windows, many people feel they have to use it for lack of viable alternatives.

But there is an alternative that has swept the world of forward-looking small businesses. That alternative is Slack. It works well for any sized team. For the people familiar with IM, it is pretty easy to use. And most of all, people love using it. Once your team goes Slack, there’s no going back.

Travel Apps for Small Business

Until transporters are invented in the real world, travel will always be something of a hassle for businesses. Some things must be done face to face. Handshakes cannot be exchanged over the Internet.

TripIt is the app and service of choice for the frequent business traveler.

You simply give TripIt your email messages containing travel information. And the app does the rest. It figures out your flights, itineraries, keeps track of delays, even the weather. There is a professional version that comes with a yearly fee. Though some of the services can be accessed for free.

Meetings

Sometimes you need to be there in person. But for all other occasions, you need a good meeting app that will allow you to get your business done, view and exchange documents, and give presentations. With the right webcam, you can even do videoconferencing in full HD.

GoToMeeting from Citrix still ranks high on the list after being around for many years. It has the benefit of being easy to use. Once you set up a meeting, others can join by just clicking a link. It is fast, stable, secure, and works on all of the platforms that matter.

File Sharing

There will come a time (probably today) when you will have to share a file or project you are working on with someone else. That does not include the times you will have to share a file with yourself over multiple devices.

For either situation, DropBox stands alone as the goto for remote file storage, syncing, and sharing. Apple’s iCloud is an excellent solution if you only want to share files with yourself across devices, and as long as those devices are made by Apple. That is where it works best.

But the moment you have to leave that ecosystem, DropBox is the only cross-platform solution worth recommending. Not only has it stood the test of time, it has the support of all of the big developers. That means that your favorite app will likely have DropBox integration.

Thanks to powerful apps in your pocket, doing business has never been easier. Make sure your app toolkit includes your own business app, a finance app, a travel app, a meeting app, and a file sharing app.

Like cameras, the very best app is the one you have with you at the time.

Business or not – which apps can’t you live without?

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