Part 2: 29 Tools & Resources Your Startup Should Be Using to Scale in 2017

[Originally published on LinkedIn.com – December 11, 2016]

 

When you’re ready to scale your company, the power of selecting and implementing the right tools can’t be something you underestimate. Managing and reducing complexity is cardinal when you’re a leader guiding successful rapid growth.

In part one of this article, I outlined three key areas of that growth startups and small business owners should consider (strategy, infrastructure, and customer acquisition); I also shared my recommendations for growth-oriented tools, as well as tips on how to select the right solutions for your team.

I want to round out that discussion by covering three more important areas of business growth that every business leader should examine, along with 14 additional tools and resources that I’ve seen help several businesses reach lofty goals:

Growth Area #4: Web Presence

Building, maintaining, and making your company’s web presence standout is well worth the effort. Your business will not only benefit from the exposure and credibility a solid web presence delivers, it will also reap the added gravy of making the right impression on investors and other onlookers who can help you grow.

The good news is that you don’t need a development team or social media analyst to get started. All you need is a few user-friendly tools to create a reasonably slick website and promote the heck out of your message:

WordPress: Whilst there are many options out there to easily build your website —Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, the list goes on—I recommend going with the free WordPress CMS website builder – it takes less than a minute to install through your website host’s cPanel. In the long run it will give you greater flexibility and functionality as your business grows.

And when you do so, opt for the ThemeX WordPress theme. The team over at Themeco offers a stable, flexible theme built on clean code, and customer support known for being “just awesome.” This is an ideal choice if you’re not a coder and looking to design a site using an intuitive, easy to use framework.

GreenGeeks: Downtime, security risks, and unreliability for your customers are the consequences of choosing the wrong web hosting, and the last thing you want to deal with when scaling your business. GreenGeeks lives at the crosshairs of great service and fair pricing, and their all-inclusive WordPress hosting will compliment your ThemeX-based site perfectly.

Canva: Once you try Canva, it’ll be your new favorite way to create all kinds of graphics for your company. Designer or not, you’ll be able to make professional-looking social media images, banners, and other visuals using their templates and web app.

Hootesuite: If you’re like me, you love what social media can do for your business, but you don’t enjoy dedicating lots of time to it, Hootesuite is the answer to your prayers. Tweet while you sleep and schedule posts for Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn so that you can take a nearly “hands-off” approach to social media.

Growth Area #5: Collaboration & Team Building

If the story of startups tells us anything, it’s that having a market-shattering concept and all the resources in the world isn’t enough; you’ve got to enroll a team of talented and ambitious individuals in your vision, and engage them in some of the fiercest collaboration possible.

I’ve seen the following tools help young companies to do just that, while also allowing them to shift and adapt when the unpredictable hits:

Asana: Asana is an incredible project management app and especially helpful when members of your team are far-flung. It doesn’t just allow you to assign responsibilities, workflows, and tasks, it also makes it easy to enroll your team in your vision for success and track progress together.

15Five: When you’re scaling, it’s essential that your team works in active alignment. 15Five is the HR app that makes it happen. Trade ineffective quarterly performance reviews for ongoing feedback and recognition that’ll make your team want to stick around for the long haul.

Slack: Known for “killing email” Slack is the communication tool your team needs, whether it’s just three of you, or a team of 100+. Custom emojis, the ability to integrate a sea of other app, bots that deliver important reminders—I can’t go on enough about what you can do with this tool!

Looking for new talent to grow your team? Here are 2 great options:

ZipRecruiter: Picture how long it’d take you to post the same job ad to 100 job boards, websites and social networks. Now picture being able to do that using a single service! ZipRecruiter will save you time and ensure that you’re getting in front of as many qualified candidates as possible.

Entelo: You have a process for everything in your business, so why not introduce one to the way you attract top talent? Email tracking, social recruiting, and passive candidate targeting are just a few of the long list of options within Entelo’s outbound and inbound recruiting solutions. If there’s such a thing as one-stop recruiting, Entelo might be it.

Quick reminder: There’s nothing worse than adopting a tool and later having to go through the nightmare of migrating your data and team to something new when you outgrow it!

When you’re selecting tools, do it with a three- to five-year mindset, and choosing tools with growth plans built into them. Always carefully consider how a tool will solve your problems and fit in with your existing processes and solutions, as well as the vendor’s reputation for success, service, and ease of use.

Growth Area #6: Your Mind

While I created this article to share my favorite tools, it’s in no way comprehensive. To truly stay up to date with the rapidly expanding universe of options available to you, you’ll want to tap other sources as you scale your business.

Keeping an eye on directories like Startup Stash and StartupResources.io is a great start, but to remain on the bleeding edge, you’ll also want keep an ear to the ground of what’s happening in the worlds of business and marketing. A few great resources include:

HBR.org: Harvard Business Review covers smart management thinking all the way around, but my favorite feature is the publication’s ‘Management Tip of the Day’ newsletter.

Summaries.com: Think of this site as the “easy button” for all those business books you’d like to keep up with, but just don’t have the time for. The company offers eight-page executive summaries of the latest business books, reducing your time investment to next to nothing.

SUCCESS Newsletter: Not one, but three newsletters (your choice!) that’ll connect you with the stories of leadership and success experts. The most impressive thing about these newsletters is the buffet of topics they cover each week—you’ll receive so much more than just productivity tips and negotiation tactics.

And finally, the two books that you must read every year (yes every year; the full-length versions):

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: In search of motivational one-liners and quick pick me uppers? This isn’t the book for you! If you’re ready to closely evaluate your life/work/relationship events so that you can truly prioritize your energy, then make an audio edition of this book part of your morning commute.

Blue Ocean Strategy: Many young businesses to look at companies like Apple, Uber, Airbnb and feel that achieving the same level of success would require unlimited resources, but this book challenges that thinking. It breaks down the formula for creating a new market with logical steps and tools, and it’s the ideal companion read to “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Scaling your business isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about asking the right questions and laying the groundwork for your strategy, customer base, agility as a team, and the infrastructure behind it all. Paying attention to these essential areas of growth and nurturing your curiosity for the “next new thing” will ensure that you choose the right tools for growing your business in 2017 and for many years to come.