|The Multi-Tool of Tools for Startups. (Let's hope I don't get in trouble for copyright infringement.)|
Okay, you already know starting and running a business is tough. When it comes to what kept myself and my co-founders up at night (many nights) included specifically sales and product development. That makes sense, though, as a technology startup. However, there are obviously many other parts of running a company like the boring administrative tasks, office, etc.
Luckily, there are a number of tools available to companies of all sizes to help handle things like marketing, setting up the business, and to even virtual team meetings. So what were some of the cool tools we used that helped us get set up quick?
Information Technology – the core of our business, right?
- Ruby on Rails (RoR). This programming language was easy to learn and get set-up quickly. Further, there’s a highly collaborative community behind RoR wanting to help.
- Heroku/ Amazon Web Services (AWS). Bundled with RoR (to my non-programming knowledge) is Heroku, a backend easily integrated with RoR that helps you set up your Production and Staging servers. Brilliant move so you don’t push broken code live willy nilly.
- GitHub. Version control. Need I say more?
- Pivotal Tracker (PT). This was used for tracking tasks and assignments. We largely used PT for development-related tasks/ projects, rather than business assignments. This was great, but you have to really be diligent in working and closing Stories (mini-projects within the larger Project), else it’ll just keep growing and getting out of hand.
- New Relic. New Relic was our performance dashboard for our server. Was great to quickly see where our bottlenecks were, and be alerted when the server went down. Oh, and it’s bundled with Heroku!
- SendGrid. Gave us the ability to automate sending emails including sign-up emails, invites to join a team, forgot password, etc. This, too, was bundled with Heroku. You can upgrade and downgrade as needed.
- Google Analytics. Pretty much the defacto tool for any web business these days to track your web traffic. It does an okay job of tracking, but there are certainly other tools out there that can give you a little more power and insight. But Analytics is free. (Win.)
- TestFlight. Apple is very stringent on what apps pass through their App Store. Add that to your basic needs to test your product anyways, TestFlight allows you to distribute your iOS app to other devices without needed to push direct or through the App Store.
- Mockingbird. Our preferred choice for wireframes. I liked using PowerPoint originally, and I’ve used Balsamiq, but Mockingbird was the preferred solution of the team.
- Tumblr. Used Tumblr for blogging. Andrew did a great job re-skinning the blog to match Body Boss’ theme. I, personally, use Google’s Blogger. Both are fine, but I think, actually, Wordpress offers more customization. I’m already on the Blogger platform, though, with lots of posts, so I won’t be changing anytime soon. Hopefully, Blogger catches up in themes and customization.
- MailChimp. MailChimp is an awesome, easy-to-use newsletter tool based here in ATL! Simple to import and export lists of subscribers and design your newsletters. The costs are very reasonable, but if you’re a startup, you likely won’t have that many people to distribute to for a while (read: it’ll be free for a while).
- Social media. Pick one. We learned that Body Boss’s audience wasn’t really on Facebook or LinkedIn, but a few were on Twitter. It was obvious that social media wasn’t going to be the best to reach all coaches, but those who were on the platforms were probably more open to technology than otherwise.
- Pipedrive. Okay, this is one tool that we actually didn’t use. However, I saw this later, and saw it was a really slick tool to help manage the sales pipeline. By the time I saw it, Body Boss was becoming a zombie, so I didn’t try it out. However, I did refer a few people to it, and they’ve loved it.
- Excel. Yup. Body Boss was in the business of killing spreadsheets within the workout tracking setting, but when it came to sales, I used Excel to track my leads, who signed up, and then manually performed drip marketing and Tips & Tricks emails post-sign-up. Not sexy, but when you’re bootstrapped, you make it work.
- Google Hangouts. We didn’t always meet in-person. We didn’t have an office, and if we did meet, it’d likely be at a local Starbucks. So when it came down to regrouping as a team, Google Hangouts let all of us in on the call at one time with also the webcam functionality. That was great just to break out the monotony and put on funny Google Effects like beards, glasses, and cat faces.
- Gmail. I mean… do I need to say anything here? It’s just too easy to use, and it’s just powerful with features including the calendar, Gchat, Google docs... yeah. One trick you should know that helps if you’re testing things: if you add a “+” at the end of your email username but before the “@gmail.com”, you almost have “infinite” aliases. So email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com are all aliases and go to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you didn’t know, though, Gmail for businesses now costs money for everyone ($5 per person per month).
- Starbucks. Not really a tool, but it’s nice to have a place to work from outside of home. There are coworking spaces popping up everywhere, but some are hard to get to or cost $$. With Starbucks, you get some ambient noise (sometimes too much for phone meetings), people watching, and the occasional entrepreneur next to you who you can confide in.
- Vistaprint. You’re probably well aware of Vistaprint, and you might think they’re great for business cards… they’re okay. Instead, they’re great for rack cards – one-pagers to hand out and leave behind. Great color and quality.
- Moo.com. THE SICKEST business cards. I’ve gotten business cards from Moo.com for Body Boss (two types) and for Beachscape.com before. Each card has impressed anyone I’ve given it to.
- Swaghound.com. When it comes to swag, we were often told we had the best swag around at conferences – we gave whistles. We would run into coaches months after the conferences, and they’d have the whistle on their lanyards or on the key chains. Also, the conference show organizers would take a couple, and would use the whistles to grab the attentions of large crowds – free marketing not just for the whistles, but to stop by our booth.
- Team shirts. No, that’s not really a tool, but I think it was good to have – you can find plenty of shirt designers out there on the web. I would wear my Body Boss shirt with our Trademark “What gets measured gets improved” with our website, and people would ask me about Body Boss. I would have trainers, coaches, players, etc. just walk up and ask me about the company. Pretty cool. I started purposefully wearing the shirt everywhere, too, as a sign of pride.
- LegalZoom. Not really sure all the different steps to set up a company, but that’s why we used LegalZoom. We ended incorporating in Delaware, as a foreign entity in Georgia. I learned that it’s a bit more paperwork, and I don’t think you get many benefits from this set-up unless you get real big. If I were to do it over, I would incorporate in Georgia (small biz friendly!), and then move later if we get big enough.
- USPTO. For our Trademarks (we have two), doing it straight on the USPTO website was easy. It’s really not that daunting that you would need to file with a lawyer or LegalZoom for most cases. Heck, if you need help, tweet me, and I’ll help. For patents, that’s a bit more complicated so I’d defer to my patent attorney bud Jay.