The economy depends on smart, driven entrepreneurs who are willing to take on the risks of starting a new business. It’s good to know that Britain is a great place for entrepreneurs who use online tools, with annual start-up rates increasing from 440,600 in 2011 to a record-breaking 581,173 in 2014, and then going even higher in 2015 with 608,110. That being said, The RBS Enterprise Tracker has found that while a third of UK adults surveyed said they wanted to start their own business, just 6% are actually doing it.
Perhaps the increasing number of British start-ups can be attributed in part to the wealth of resources now available to entrepreneurs online. In the past, any obstacle an entrepreneur might encounter had to be overcome either by learning how to solve it or by paying a professional to do it for them. It is now more prudent to check for online resources whenever possible, because the simplest solution might be just a click away.
Business owners should already be using social media as a free resource for promotion and outreach, but there are so many other aspects of business that can now be conducted using online tools. We’ve compiled a list of five of the most essential online tools for entrepreneurs.
Online Tools – SWOT Analysis Template
This is a one page template for SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”. Breaking down these variables helps an entrepreneur to see the bigger picture and assess risks in relation to opportunities.
Apply the SWOT analysis to any major decision relating to your business. It should be a matter of routine because it keeps your business dynamic and prevents bad habits from becoming ingrained.
Online Tools – Document Template Gallery
Bureaucracy is an unfortunate but necessary part of doing business. But you can save a lot of time by using these business plan document templates compiled by Entrepreneur.com. The gallery, powered by SeamlessDocs, includes an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), an executive summary, a marketing plan and a business plan overview.
Online Tools – Email Tracking
Keeping track of emails, responses and unpaid invoices can be confusing. This software lets you track emails and informs you when recipients open them so that you know whether to send a follow up if they haven’t responded. You only need to click a button to track a message, and the tool integrates with Gmail, Google Apps, or Outlook.
Online Tools – Cloud Storage
Whether you need to access files from multiple devices, share them with colleagues or just back them up, you should be using cloud storage. The three most obvious solutions are Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. Google Drive is integrated with Gmail, which is convenient if you use that service, but OneDrive is integrated with Windows 10, so you can save documents directly to the cloud from the Office suite. This can be a real life saver if your computer breaks or is stolen, because you can still access important files from any location or device.
Online Tools – Finance Management
Managing finances can be made simpler with this software. QuickBooks is a finance management system that comes in a desktop version or as a cloud based solution. It not only helps you manage payroll, monitor expenses, inventory, and pay bills but is also an organisational tool to increase productivity. Think of it as a personal assistant and accountant in one.
For more information on what else you need when starting a new business, visit the “My First Year” area in the Small Business Centre.