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20 Smart Tools And Apps Every Entrepreneur Should Use

20 Smart Tools And Apps Every Entrepreneur Should Use

Running a successful business is hard, especially if you don’t have the right tools at hand. Razor sharp time management skills and keeping your productivity levels high are essential when you have a lot on the plate. Don’t forget: Time is Money. If there’s a tool or an app that can help you do things faster, it’s worth paying for. Here are 20 killer tools recommended by entrepreneurs to cater all your needs – from effective social media marketing to sales and networking.

1. Streak (For managing emails)

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    Streak will power up your gmail and turn it into an actual CRM that will channel all your discussions into actions. There are different gmail add-ons available like Streak Sales to track your leads and close the deals faster or Streak Support to deal with urgent customer queries. It’s graphical, intuitive and comes with a free plan for up to 5 users.

    2. Casual (For managing projects)

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      A neat new app, re-inventing the way how you manage your projects. Organize all your tasks in a visual flowchart where you can easily track their dependencies, urgency and keep all comments in one place. Casual is extremely easy-to-use, graphically appealing and works great both for personal projects and small team collaborations. You can start using it for free and choose a relevant pricing plan afterwards.

      3. Rapportive (For smart networking)

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        An excellent browser add-on for outreach and networking. Rapportive pulls out all the data associated with a certain email address including all the information from your Linkedin profile, photo and other publicly available contacts like Skype, Twitter and other social media. Start sending better outreach letters today with all the information at hand. And did I mention this browser extension costs nothing?

        4. Slack (For better communication)

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          Slack brings team communication on the next level. With Slack you can create open channels for specific projects with different groups and topics everyone on the team can see and contribute to. You can upload files, add comments, inline images and video, reach link summaries within the discussion and Slack will make sure everything’s neatly organized. All  the data is conveniently searchable, so you won’t miss out on anything important again. The service is free and folks from Buzzfeed and About.me have already been raving about it.

          5. Strikingly (For a quick new website)

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            Yes that’s another new website builder. Yet what makes Strikingly stand out of the crowd is that it’s the best solution for non-coders. You can create a gorgeous mobile-friendly, multi page website in less than an hour. The platform also comes with a simple text editor, page analytics, beautiful site templates and a custom form builder. You can create a website on Strikingly domain for free, yet you’ll need to switch to a paid plan if you’d like to use your personal domain.

            6. Conspire (For fast network expansion)

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              Ever struggled with finding the right way of connect with someone from a higher-league or a well-known company? Conspire has you covered! Set up an account and let the service analyze your network and suggest you the best way to connect with any person or company. You don’t need to search for people who could introduce you or waste time sending emails to the wrong folks at the wrong time. Consipre is free to use. Just sign up and see how you can elevate your network connections.

              7. ZenPayroll (For effective payments)

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                Make sure your team gets paid on time and you don’t need to spend a gazillion of hours for that. ZenPayroll automatically calculates all the taxes, schedules payments and provides your employees with a beautiful paystub where they can see all their bonuses, reimbursements, vacation hours and much more. Moreover, Zen Payroll with generate all the contractor forms at no time and help you create a flexible payment schedule. You can test it for free and purchase a basic plan for just 29$.

                8. Fiverr (For micro-jobs)

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                  Fiverr is like a box of wonders – you can find a huge variety of fun, creative and useful services all sold for just 5$. From banner design to professional voice overs and social media promotion, Fiverr can have you covered at nearly any occasion, so you could have more time to focus on urgent matters. Can’t find a gig you need? You can always request it from the community and someone will show up to do it for you. Fiverr is an essential service for solopreneurs and small businesses with limited budget.

                  9. Zapier (For managing apps)

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                    Zapier is a cool new service to save you loads of time and sanity on organizing and transferring data between all your apps. It’s a powerful app integration service that will sync data sharing between all the apps you use and store it in one place. Currently Zapier supports over 300 apps and you can start using it for free or opt for a paid membership plan that suits your needs.

                    10. Clarity.fm (For professional advice)

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                      Feeling stuck on a certain problem and need an advice from a professional in the same field? That’s pretty much what Clarify is about. It’s a new marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with industry experts who are ready to share their experience and walk you through the problem for a fixed fee. Currently, there are over 30.000 members with some big names like Mark Cuban and Eric Ries who are ready to land you a help hand. Create an account, find an expert, schedule a call at the convenient time and talk everything over for as long as you need.

                      11. Quora (For answers to any question)

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                        What is the formula of a successful product launch? How can I expand my customer base? Where should I look for angel investors? Folks at Quora know it all. The community there is awesome and full of incredible professionals in various areas who are ready to share their experience and advice for free. Before asking your question, make sure you’ve searched the existing ones as Quora has already a ton of valuable knowledge published. Seriously, it’s one of the best sources of business advice you can get for free.

                        12. PeoplePerHour (For amazing freelance workforce)

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                          A smaller freelance marketplace compared to well-known Odesk and Elance, PeoplePerHour, however, has a higher concentration of talents and rock-start professionals. All of them pass a serious verification process before they can join, so there are low chances of running into con artists. PPH also has a huge marketplace of ready-to-buy fixed offers (hourlies) that vary from an hour of accounting work to a full scale online marketing campaign. Hiring and managing a freelance team goes extremely easy with their invoice system and customer protection policy.

                          13. Product Hunt (For hawking on new trends)

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                            Discover cool new products daily and keep an eye on the competition in your niche at the same time. Product Hunt will help you find new productive solutions for your niche, discover possible partners and get instant community feedback on your new product.

                            14. Unroll.me (For keeping Inbox Zero)

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                              As an entrepreneur you just have to stay in pace with all the industry news and posts from the influencers. However, don’t let your subscriptions flood your inbox. Unroll.me will help you with cleaning your inbox from unnecessary subscriptions. Instead of 20 emails, you’ll receive just one containing organized brief summaries from all the newsletters you read. It will be send at the time you specify just once a day.

                              15. Typeform (For beautiful surveys and forms)

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                                Customers’ feedback is one of the defining factors of your business success. With Typeform you can create appealing survey forms in just a few clicks. Include as many fields as you like, add multiple answers questions and receive detailed reporting and analysis after the forms are filled. Typeform has free and paid plans to choose from depending on your business needs.

                                16. Square (For easy credit card processing)

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                                  If your business is both online and offline, Square is your go-to app for processing credit card payments. It turns your device into an instant credit card terminal to conduct all the payments. The app is free, but you do pay a 2.75 percent fee for processing with every transaction. Square works with cards issued by most US, Canada and Japanese banks. Currently available for iOS only.

                                  17. MailChimp (For crafting newsletters)

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                                    Email marketing is among the most powerful techniques nowadays to drive sales and traffic for an online business. With Malchimp you can create customized subscribe forms, beautiful newsletters to funnel your sales or announce special deals, plus track opens, click rates and conversions. The service is free to use with paid plans available for advanced features.

                                    18. Mention (For monitoring your brand)

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                                      Never miss another mention of you brand on the web with Mention. It’s a simple tool that will send you alerts each time someone publishes a few good words about your company or talks about it on social media. Interacting and responding to your customers is the best strategy to turn them into lifelong fans and your brand promoters. Help the buzz grow and reply on time! The service offers a free 14 days trial and an array of paid plans to suit your needs.

                                      19. LucidCharts (For creating visual components)

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                                        Create appealing diagrams to illustrate your points and cater project management needs. LucidCharts are easy-to-use, comparable with most programs including Google apps and available in numerous formats for exporting. Besides, with this service you can create website and app mock-ups, flowcharts, org charts and much more. All the visuals you create can be shared instantly via email or social media, printed out as high-quality PDF or JPEG images. You can test it out for free and sign up for a paid plan afterwards.

                                        20. Hootsuite (For effective social media management)

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                                          Hootsuite is the ultimate helper for busy entrepreneurs who still want to stay active on social media. Link all your accounts, schedule all updates, track brand mentions and interact with your audience without spending the whole day for that. Hootsuite also offers detailed analytics insights and social marketing assistance from their professionals. You can opt for a free or pro plan depending on how much traffic and sales you drive through social channels.

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                                          Elena Prokopets

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                                          Last Updated on October 21, 2019

                                          How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

                                          How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

                                          U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

                                          Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

                                          Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

                                          But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

                                          To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

                                          What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

                                          You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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                                          You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

                                          If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

                                          1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

                                          Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

                                          Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

                                          While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

                                          2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

                                          It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

                                          “While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

                                          In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

                                          Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

                                          3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

                                          Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

                                          For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

                                          4. Good leaders are students.

                                          In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

                                          I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

                                          Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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                                          As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

                                          5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

                                          It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

                                          “As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

                                          This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

                                          6. Good leaders understand themselves.

                                          I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

                                          Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

                                          Final Thoughts

                                          Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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                                          Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

                                          After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

                                          Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

                                          If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

                                          More About Effective Leadership

                                          Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

                                          [1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
                                          [2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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