The question: ‘What do you need to start a business?’ is not meant to be a catch-all question about the personal qualities and skills that will help you succeed.
You have a plan, and you believe it will succeed as a business – so go for it.
Instead, the focus of the question: ‘What do you need to start a business?’ Is a practical matter of what software will help you with the realisation of your vision.
Any advice at the beginning of a business is essential, as starting a business is an exciting but complicated business.
The software is particularly bamboozling, with thousands of products aimed at solving a load of problems you didn’t even know you had.
There is a lot to think about, and it might seem that using a spreadsheet and basic communication tools should be enough to begin.
However, the point is to plan for growth, to understand how you can scale the services you offer once you establish yourself as a company.
Therefore, part of your planning for starting a business should be to investigate the software packages that will best support your success.
To save you the effort of researching, we have gathered together some software packages that would be useful at the beginning of a company.
It might not be necessary to buy all this software in the first instance, so you need to ask yourself three questions: does it meet the needs of your company? Does it save time and money? Does it make it easier for you and your employees to do the job?
There is every chance you could get lulled into buying tools for tool’s sake – for you need to be strategic – only buying those at the time when it will add value and be useful for your team.
Business Needs That Might Need a Solution
The first step in designing your software purchase log is considering your needs.
These could fall into categories, such as publishing tools; project and product management tools; customer relationship management platforms; traffic acquisition and analytics and HR management.
Publishing tools go beyond necessary productivity software that might be served by a word processor or spreadsheet.
You are likely to need a website to either sell your product/ service or act as a marketing tool.
There are a lot of hosting websites that offer easy-to-use webpage creation wizards.
Most financing companies and banks will require you to have an online presence; therefore this would be a high priority in the starting of a new business.
Traffic Acquisition and Analytics
Having a website is crucial, but it is only useful if the site is driven to your business and you can monitor its effectiveness.
You may need an SEO keyword search tool and/ or online analytics platform.
In the world of social media, you also need a platform that integrates all your channels and monitors where your customers are making contact.
This might not feel like an immediate priority, but any real growth of your business is unlikely to happen until you have access to your customers and the messages they are communicating through their online presence.
Project and Product Management Tools
Communication, planning, scheduling and risk management is a vital part of managing a business.
Some packages can draw together separate functions into one place that will save you time in the long run.
It will solve simple problems you don’t know you have yet, like trying to track through threads of emails to find the communication about an event you need to follow up or visualising the workflow and seeing what task is dependent on another.
Read more in our review of the ten best project management software for startups.
Managing the details of your customers or clients include issues of compliance but also reputation.
You need to be able to track and manage the customer relationship in a consistent manner.
Even ten clients could quickly become unmanageable for a single individual to keep in mind, so software that can maintain a log of relevant details and contacts made is crucial.
It is sometimes possible to get a project management tool that includes CRM functionality, but if you need more details, read our guide to the best CRM platforms for startups.
If you are a company of one, then you are not going to need HR management software in the beginning.
However, once you start employing staff, then the compliance and communication issues alone are worth investing in HR software.
This might not be your first purchase when starting a company, but it will soon become a priority as you grow.
Fortunately, there are a lot of SaaS (software as a service) options online that are cheap and compliant with security issues involved in holding staff records.
We covered some of the most popular HR management software in our guide to the best HR management software for small businesses.
Some First Priorities
Here are some tools that should be high on your list of software to purchase when starting a business:
WordPress is one of the best-known website platforms. The site will be relatively easy to build, and there are plenty of add-ons that can help as your business grows.
You can set up a blog for free, which may be enough in the beginning to introduce your business.
It is also easy to employ freelancer help to expand your website from this basic core.
It’s a simple way of getting information about your customers and from your customers.
This is particularly important if you are developing a new product or service… and it’s free. If you are not ready for detailed analytics, then this might be a great starting point.
This is a CRM that is free if you don’t employ more than three people – so great for starting a company.
After you employ more than three people, it is still quite reasonable.
As well as means of managing customer details and contact, Zoho offers email, accounting, an app builder and more.
In short, Zoho is a useful starting point for a number of needs of a small business.
Let’s face it, to start with your sophisticated marketing campaign is likely to involve social media posts.
Why? Well, social media posting is free, to begin with, and can reach about 2 billion people, if you are smart enough.
HootSuite is the best FREE social media management tool – or so a lot of people say.
You get three social profiles, the opportunity to track these profiles with analytics and option to set up automated posting.
It can save you a ton of time – which when you are starting a business is gold.
Slack is a free communication tool that helps you set up channels that track communication on a set topic.
It is better than email because it can be viewed by a lot of employees – based on your set up of access rights – and because it stops messages getting lost in one person’s space.
This might not seem important until you look at the attrition rate of employees in new businesses.
This is free productivity software and online storage of documents.
This is fine, but the primary benefit of Google Docs is that it is collaborative, as the document, spreadsheet, a presentation can be worked on by whomever you share it with.
People can offer suggestions or edits or just make comments. You are limited to 15GB in the free version – but this is a lot of documents and excellent for most small businesses.
Trello is a free project management tool, which can integrate with Google Drive and Slack and together can solve most of your communication, project planning and productivity needs.
The visual workflow is simple to manipulate using drag and drop lists and cards.
There are to-do lists, scheduler, instant messaging facility, document sharing and more.
Wave is a free invoicing, expense and income tracking program – in short, it is a great way to start accounting for your new business.
It is easy to set up, and there are options to have weekly reports emailed to you so that you can keep a close eye on finances.
This is an employee management software, which is free.
If you want to upgrade to payroll features and more advance employee management tools will cost you a small subscription fee, but it might be worth it!
Maybe the first investment should be in a business plan writing platform that can help you go through all the important details needed to understand if you will be successful.
It will guide you through the financials and the risks and more, so you know if you are heading out on the right path.
The software is not going to make your business success, you are.
However, there are a lot of tools out there that can help save you time and money and therefore make your business success.
Some of these tools are free, which might seem appealing, but as you select which means you use think into the future when you are more prominent and need a platform that can scale with you.
Is the migration of data and the pain of working with a new platform going to overwhelm any benefit you got from the free period?
And if you’re still not sure what do you need to start a business, read our guide on how to develop a business plan.