The below organizations, sites, and other resources deserve definite mention to anyone starting or building a business.
Non-Profit & Government Resources
Aviatra Accelerators – We went through their venture cap competition in 2012, and they gave us the boost we needed to keep going when things were tough as a scrappy startup. They are mainly available in Ohio (we lived in Kentucky and went through the Cincinnati program).
Small Business Administration – Guides for a lot of the challenges imaginable, and lots of great resources around funding and other challenges.
SCORE – Service Core of Retired Executives – To learn from the best, learn from those who have built their own careers over the course of a lifetime. My Score counselors (you are helped by several, all with a specialty) helped me fine tune my original business plan, complete SWOT analyses over the course of several years, and get the brain help I needed as a young entrepreneur. They are a free service run by volunteers.
Apps & Paid Tools
We don’t keep tools on our website that we don’t stand behind, but if you are just starting out, then there are a few low cost tools that will help organize your thoughts and plans.
Seriously, though. Call me and I’ll talk you through a lot of this and we can get a plan together.
Asana – Absolutely critical app for my day. Helps with mind-mapping, project management, lists, time management…the works. One of the few that can merge my personal and work life to dos in one place effectively.
Constant Contact – For newsletter aficionados, CC is the best out there. They have an amazing reputation, great features, and are relatively easy to learn. And we have a Constant Contact pro on our team, as well, so if you need help or a trial we can get you moving.
LivePlan – Arguably not required when you are completely brand new, but it is low cost and can help build out your thoughts into actionable plans. I’m in the middle of moving our paper business plan to LivePlan, and expect to write more about them in the future. From first experiences, I think it is a critical tool for any business that is serious about planned growth.
Nutshell – I’ve tested literally dozens of CRMS, and I have a few personal favorites. For ease of use combined with just the right amount of customization, you can’t beat Nutshell. I do have thoughts on the best fit for different industries, needs, etc, so if you think you may need help let me know and we will set up a consult.
QuickBooks – I would be silly to not mention the main program I started my business with (and that we implement/train on). I started out in Premier way back in 2005, and we currently use Online. I’m on the Enterprise Council, and find that QBES has tools for manufacturing and more complex businesses that just aren’t available anywhere else in the price range. I’m a stickler for value, and you can’t beat QuickBooks. Email me and I’ll get you a great discount.
Slack – Don’t start the habit of using SMS or email to keep virtual teams in communication. Slack is a great way to keep everyone in the same virtual office, and you have more control over the communication flow. It has eliminated a lot of the need for weekly check ins here, because I can check a thread to see the latest. Also, integrates with Nutshell, QuickBooks, Asana and a million other apps.
WordPress – I didn’t start out as a graphic designer and most small businesses don’t either. It is almost impossible to start and maintain a business without knowing some form of web design or being able to use a content manager for your website. WordPress.com is amazing, and I find that if you are pushing content (and we all should be nowadays), it provides a tool to do so that is second to none. WordPress.org is a total other animal, and is also amazing (we used to be on .Org), but over the years it has become a little more difficult to use than it used to be, so for that reason I recommend .Com. It doesn’t have as many plugins as org, but it’s easier to use and still offers a very substantial amount of resources for the small business. It’s cost effective, and when you are ready for web design help, 99% of designers in the marketplace (yes, I made that up, but you get the gist) use and prefer WordPress. There are exceptions, of course, if you are heavy e-commerce or need complex features, and I’m happy to talk about them with you!