There are some things we all use. If I wrote an article about Slack, Squarespace, Starbucks and more alliteration that wouldn't be insightful, that would just be everyday life. But there are plenty of tools that I use--without even thinking about them--that help me save time, cut costs and do the work of 20 people with a team of three in different locations.

And we don't lie to Fortune 100 brands about the size of our team or try and appear bigger, we celebrate it. Being able to be lean and use technology is a selling point for any business or startup. So here's what I use to get through the day. 

1. Design

Even if you're not in a design business, design is part of what you do. Social posts are universal for any business. And visuals and infographics go a long way in pitches. Instead of hiring a design team or bringing someone on staff we use Canva for all the day-to-day visuals.

Adobe Spark is another good option if you already subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud. But Canva is free and simple with a bunch of templates. Primarily we use it for decks and presentations but occasionally it's great to create a unified theme of social posts. Although I still like to be less produced and more organic on social whenever possible. 

If you're not a designer, don't pretend to be one. These tools will shave hours off creating presentations. 

2. Assistance

With a team of three we're not able to handle large lead generation. Normally that would be a problem and hold us back. But there are a couple automated tools we use once we guide people to our site. 

Appcues allows us to create simple guides that direct people through our site. This cuts down on friction, confusion and makes sure people get to the information they need.

Once we get past the initial interest phase we use Typeform for onboarding a project. All the sample questions we would ask in a call can be automated. This saves us time and let's us work more on the project itself. Again, it's all designed to save time but still build the relationship and provide value. 

3. Communication

I mentioned Slack and it's great internally or for large project teams. But for actual project management we use Trello, another free tool. It works with Slack and allows us to see all the details about one project on one screen. Again, it's another time-saver that allows us to be lean and work remotely. 

For video conferencing don't overthink that. Surprisingly Google Hangouts still work and work well. Skype is always good in a pinch. But for new clients or contacts join.me creates a quick link for video chat on your phone that you can send and there's no setup. 

4. Contracts

This is another necessary evil when it comes to doing business. NDAs, SOWs, there are a lot of acronyms and if you can't tell that's not why I got in to business. But just like creating presentations, I realize it's important. 

Dochub has a good Chrome plugin for editing and signing things on the fly. But I use PandaDoc because it creates the contract, sends it to get signed and let's all parties make quick edits and suggestions. Any way I can eliminate back-and-forth conversations about contracts, I do it. And I've learned that sometimes a good deal can fall apart if there is too much friction in the process.

Those are some--not all--of the tools we use. There are also great tools out there for accounting and hiring and lead management but that's not our specialty. My best advice is automate everywhere you're not an expert. I find almost all of these tools through free trials. Just stop and think about all the unnecessary things your company is doing, find a tool and focus on the areas where you're great. 

Published on: Feb 9, 2018