The fact that roughly half of all small businesses fail within their first five years isn’t exactly a tidbit that founders struggle to fixate on as they work to grow their companies.
Understandable. But consider this: Keeping that stat in mind may help motivate founders to find the specific processes their businesses need to stay among the successful half.
After all, there are plenty of actionable steps small businesses can take to avoid common pitfalls and enhance the likelihood of their survival.
Many of those steps should involve keeping the business and its operations hyper-organized. Fortunately, an expanding array of web-based management tools makes it easier than ever to achieve the rigorous levels of organization necessary for a business to thrive.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of my top-five management tools for small businesses. Each one addresses a slightly different part of the company that you need to keep thoroughly well-oiled.
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When it comes to maintaining group-wide to-do lists, I’ve found that nothing beats Trello. The software’s straightforward visualization allows users to create boards with various categories or lists, and add “cards” with specific tasks. Cards can be color-coded, affixed with due dates, assigned to specific people, or moved between projects.
For example, a board might include three lists titled “Waiting for Feedback,” “In Progress,” and “Done,” and cards can be pushed from one list to the next as appropriate. We also use Trello for our editorial calendar, where we can view all upcoming events and time-sensitive pegs in a calendar view, which makes it easy to scan.
This group-chat app has caught on within offices at a striking rate since its launch in August 2013, and it’s not hard to see why. For one thing, it breaks down barriers within office communication by acting as a transparent alternative to email, inviting all employees to participate in company conversations, regardless of direct relevance.
I’ve found that this opening up of what were previously cloistered email conversations leads to surprising breakthroughs, on-the-spot collaborations, and a general sense of across-the-board engagement. Slack also helps support the all-important goal of better organization by documenting conversations in one easy-to-reference chain archived so that new employees or team members can jump right in.
Additionally, the internal reminder system allows individuals to set reminders not only for themselves, but for other team members or even entire channels. Rather than using another app or service to help keep tasks on track, Slack makes it easy to keep everything in one central location, which helps companies stay organized and efficient.
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This app is like a determinedly organized receptacle for digital post-it notes and interesting clippings. Notes are gathered into notebooks and can be easily shared, so that a whole team can, for example, contribute to a written spit-balling session.
It’s also easy to drag PDFs and other documents into Evernote notebooks, so that a team and its projects can keep all of its work in one easy-to-find place. A plug-in for Chrome allows users to save text or graphics from a webpage to an Evernote folder with one click a great feature for those I-don’t-want-to-stop-what-I’m-doing,-but-I-need-to-save-this moments.
When you’re at the point of talking about what needs to happen to get a project done, Basecamp is your app, especially if you’re thinking about going global. Basecamp allows users to create several projects, and threads within those projects, to keep the lines of communication in centralized places.
With the amount of data being generated within businesses, Basecamp is an important step to keeping everything on track. Specific team members can receive notifications every time someone posts in a given thread, to keep everyone in the loop, even in the most complicated early stages of project formation.
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5. Google Drive
Formerly known as Google Docs, Google Drive permits anyone with a Google account to create, edit, share, and collaborate on Microsoft Word-style documents (for word processing, spreadsheets, and more).
Thanks to Google Drive, co-writing that report or memo with a group of colleagues has never been so easy; each collaborator can drop in on his or her own time and easily see what’s been altered. With the easy availability of these tools, there’s no excuse for a small business that hasn’t achieved top-tier organizational systems.