The formative years of any company have more to do with whom you hire and how you manage them than just about any other factor. Nailing a sales pitch and successfully spreading the word about your product won't do you much good if you don't have the people in place to meet customer demand.
To help you manage essential HR and people-management tasks, I've rounded up a few handy Web tools that should be on your radar:
Do you really want to use physical time sheets in your new Web 2.0 company? Oddly, many start-ups go with that old-school approach. This time tracker lets your employees punch in their hours on a virtual card. One advantage is that you can see who is on the clock and who is out for the day. The site supports details like overtime pay and even works in multiple time zones. Pricing runs about $4.95 per employee per month.
For those starting a service company, Elance is a great find. You can search for contractors who have skills in graphic design or programming, and then hire them for short-term projects. You can post a job and receive bids. You even can invite candidates who look promising. There's a messaging feature in which you can exchange notes with potential workers and see their previous work.
Many sites purport to keep you organized and track your task list. Trello is a bit different. It looks like a collection of sticky notes, but the killer feature is the ability to add employees and contractors so that everyone can see the notes and track what is happening visually. In my own testing, I found the visual flair to be a major aid in tracking projects. Trello is a site you want to visit just because it looks different: There's a drag-and-drop interface, and it lets you assign tasks to your employees.
People management can be challenging for a small company, because many of the best human resources apps cost a bundle. TribeHR includes features for managing time off, performance evals, recruiting, org charts, and the all-important employee profile. Pricing starts at about $2 per user per month. The interface is a major selling point: Everything is easy to access and understand.
I'm a big fan of Do.com, a site owned by Salesforce.com. You can assign tasks to people as with many other tools (say, Basecamp). What I really like is the ability to chat about tasks. So, when you assign your accountant a task to run an expense report, there's more to it than just a checkbox. You can leave a note that you want the report to include outside contractors. I tested a private beta version that also includes a basic contact manager integrated with tasks, so you can, say, assign Bob in sales a task to contact a new vendor and then track those vendor contracts. It's a bit like CRM-lite.