The Best Small Business Tools of 2013 4

Best of 2013

Here at Palo Alto Software, we spend all day every day building software and writing advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Some of us on staff are entrepreneurs ourselves. And that means we have a lot of favorite small business tools and resources to share.

This is our list of favorite things from 2013. Some are truly “from 2013″ and were introduced this year, and some have been around for awhile but saw pretty significant updates in 2013. Others are “oldies but goodies” that we’ve just been using a lot of this year. All of them are great ways to improve your business.

So without further ado…

Palo Alto Software’s Best Small Business Tools of 2013

For Operations

Trello“We use this on the dev team to manage and organize our projects. I like the Kanban board design for project management, which makes it easy to organize tasks by what stage of completion they’re in. And the basic service—which is all most small businesses would need—is completely free.” -Mike Wheeler, Lead Web Developer

HipChat: ”The dev team uses HipChat pretty extensively for chatting, both one-on-one and group. I like that the conversations are logged and searchable so I can go back and review something we talked about six months ago.” -Evan Coonrod, LivePlan Developer

LivePlan Scoreboard: “The Scoreboard is the best LivePlan feature yet. So many small business owners requested a dashboard for their financial information, so they easily keep track of where they were with their business compared to where they’d hoped to be, and where they were last year. This is our answer.” -Sabrina Parsons, Chief Executive Officer

For Marketing

99designs Logo DesignFor about the same cost of hiring one local or freelance designer to create a logo for you, you can use 99designs to run a contest that will bring in dozens of logo options from dozens of different designers. Simply choose your favorite and start using it!

MediumOne of our favorite publishing platforms, Medium, recently opened its (previously invitation-only) doors to all writers—all you need is an email address and a Twitter account, and you can sign up and blog on the site. The quality of your writing and promotion will determine whether you make it onto Medium’s “Reading List”, but if you do, you’ll reach a huge audience.

Pinterest’s Article Pins: I <3 the ability to pin articles. It was such a smart decision by Pinterest to find a visual way to incorporate great content, not to mention it opens the marketing door for a lot more companies.” -Bailey Koharchick, Marketing Manager

HAROHelp A Reporter Out is a great PR and marketing tool for businesses large and small. By responding to a reporter’s inquiry for an interview subject with expertise on a specific industry or topic, you can get yourself (and your business) in the news.

SquarespaceFor an image-driven, interactive, easy-to-create website that isn’t built like it’s a blog, this is the most promising platform out there.

For Sales

Square: It’s been around for a couple of years and it’s only getting better. Accept credit and debit card payments on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a traditional credit card system—just download Square’s free app to get started, and then pay-per-transaction as you use the service.

Zoho: ”My favorite thing is It’s the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool we use on our biz dev/sales team and it helps us be more efficient with tracking prospects and partners. And the price is right! It’s free for the first 3 users for the basic version.” -Caroline Cummings, VP of Sales and Business Development

For Security

LastPass“If you’re like us and use a lot of online resources, you need secure passwords to protect your personal information. That means using really complicated passwords, and a different password for every site. That’s way too much for most people to remember and keep track of, but if you use LastPass, you only have to remember one password—your LastPass password—and they’ll securely store every other password for you.” -Curt Barnes, System Administrator 

Good Reads

Feedly“With this year’s death of Google Reader, us die-hard RSS fans needed a replacement and Feedly surfaced as not only a viable alternative, but as a truly better RSS solution. While Flipboard can also serve as a solid RSS reader, Feedly excels at skimming through tons of content and surfacing interesting content quickly.” -Noah Parsons, Chief Operating Officer

The Mixergy Interview DatabaseWatch video or listen to audio interviews with nearly 1,000 prominent entrepreneurs, including the founders of Y Combinator, Kiva, and Wikipedia. They’re informative, inspirational, and easy to search through if you’re only interested in interviews about specific industries or companies.

New Laws

The Affordable Care ActBy allowing entrepreneurs to strike out on their own with confidence that they will be able to find affordable health insurance options for themselves and their families, the Affordable Care Act may just solve one of the problems that keeps Americans from starting their own businesses.

The JOBS ActOne major provision of the JOBS Act went into effect this September, and it may be the beginning of major changes to the way businesses find funding.

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  • Mike Poynton

    This is a nice list. But I disagree with the 99designs Logo Design inclusion. Their least expensive package is at least 33% more expensive than teams of very talented freelancers out there on the internet who will bend over backwards for you and get you the logo design you want. It’s a nice idea. But in my opinion, they’re pricing is skewed. One would think that with a bullpen full of designers, their prices would be more economical.

    • Noah Parsons

      Good point, Mike. Where do you find your design teams? I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle to find good and inexpensive talent to help them out, and 99designs helps by centralizing some of that talent. But, your right, you can find less expensive designers out there.

      Can you share where you look for good designers?

      • Mike Poynton

        Hi, Noah. The reality is, they find me! I’m working with one now who reached out to me through an email. It was professional and compelling and I am enjoying working with his company. In his case, he’s in India. Otherwise, I would recommend searching LinkedIn. I’ve had great luck with too.

  • Robert Macklyn

    2013 being a flagship year for many businesses, has given the world a new trend to look out for. For me its some thing like that, even if I am not aware of other business owners literally. Basically the deployment of tools does make a better sense in the business to run in a smooth and strategic fashion, there are a sort of tools that makes a great difference in the segment for better growth. There are a lots of tools that I came across in the list and I have practically used those. But still I miss some more which were there with me in 2013 and I am sure they will be with me for even more time to come ahead with. The tools that I am talking about is task management software form Replicon, accounts management tool from Certify, google tasks for small task management and many more as such.