As much as business owners in this day and age are well aware of the importance of going digital and how technology is indeed one of the main drivers for business growth, many still find comfort in their tried-and-tested traditional methods. While traditional ways of running a business do come with their benefits, today's digitally-driven and fast-paced world necessitates the leveraging of all forms of opportunities to remain relevant in the competitive landscape. This is especially true for smaller businesses that understand the challenges associated with everything from budgeting to keeping up with the various demands. And one of these so-called “opportunities” that small businesses should tap into that align with the current technological space is that of effective, modern and cost-efficient business management tools and applications.
As most of the world is working towards complete digitalisation — a trend that has accelerated due to the pandemic — small businesses in Malaysia and around the world are at risk of being left behind. And with risks of such sorts, it is only natural for businesses to look for the best solutions to keep their business afloat.
In a survey conducted by the global professional accounting organisation CPA Australia, 42% of Malaysian small businesses stated that they saw positive returns from their technology investments. 60% and 55% of these surveyed small businesses also used social media to promote their brand and communicate with customers, respectively. Although these numbers are all a testament to how integral keeping up with digitalisation is to a company’s success, how do you then stay on top of everything, balance multiple to-do’s, and keep staff and customers happy simultaneously?
This is where small business software and tools come into the picture to help your company stay on top of the game. From organising schedules to managing projects and finances, these tools provide access to a range of functions that boost productivity, efficiency, and communication. With the right kind of software designed with small businesses in mind, and the appropriate combination of tools, an invaluable impact can be made on overall business performance, supporting your company to work smarter, not harder.
One of the main concerns amongst many Malaysian small businesses is their financing conditions — after all, just like any other business, running a small business can be an expensive endeavour. However, there are several free small business software, tools and apps in various categories, such as team and project management as well as accounting, that can be adapted to your brand’s unique environment to give you an edge against the competition without breaking the bank. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular free apps and tools to help you determine the ones that will keep your business thriving.
A project management tool, Asana brings your team together into one shared digital space. With over two hundred integrations including Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Drive, Canva, Wistia, and more, Asana allows you to bring together everything that your team needs to communicate, collaborate and coordinate with one another. This project management tool also functions as a range of specific workflow solutions such as planning software for teams to track their work. With their basic plan being free, manage unlimited tasks, projects, messages, activity logs, and file storage, and collaborate with up to 15 teammates as you do everything from automating routine work, organising and assigning tasks, to running workflows that work for you.
Made your start on social selling platforms? Engagement on social media platforms is crucial when building trust with potential customers and it is one of the best ways to promote your brand to a wider audience. And there’s no better way to keep track of your social media marketing efforts than with Hootsuite. Compatible with popular social media platforms such as TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, schedule an unlimited number of posts at once and connect with all your followers from a single dashboard. Boasting features like the Planner and Composer, you will be able to map out your social media campaigns and create high-performing on-brand content. Hootsuite also allows businesses to monitor and analyse performance on social media to better maximise engagement and grow their business. With a 30-day free trial available for all plans, get comfortable with the social media management tool before you invest in it.
Businesses are slowly coming to understand the importance of image optimisation for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). However, before you can transform your brand into a profitable e-commerce powerhouse by using SEO-friendly images, you’ll first need high-quality images. Canva, a graphic design platform, is the ideal tool for creatives — be it beginner-level designers to marketers. With a range of ready-made professional templates and images, creating stunning visual content will be a breeze. Small businesses looking to cut costs can sign up for the free Canva plan, which offers more than a quarter of a million free templates, over a million free photos and graphics, and even supports collaboration with others.
An award-winning accounting software designed for small businesses, Wave allows entrepreneurs to do everything from invoicing to accounting and banking all in one place. Ensuring that small businesses can “manage their money like a boss”, a free account with Wave means creating professional invoices quickly, accessing customer information conveniently, tracking income and expenses painlessly, and cutting down on bookkeeping. If the free Wave accounting, invoicing, and US-only banking software do not suffice, they also offer optional paid features with a 30-day free trial period.
A calendar app at face value, Google Calendar integrates with other Google products so that you can better organise your schedule and coordinate events with others. Integrated with a range of features such as the ability to share calendars with others, managing time and boosting efficiency will be easier between you and your team. A free tool that you can access upon signing up for a Google account, get started with Google Calendar and start creating tasks and reminders, updating events, and customising your calendar.
Whether it is because small businesses are ill-equipped to make quick transitions into the digital world or there is a lack of knowledge about existing technologies and financing, the truth of the matter is that there is a long list of handy tools and software available to give your business a significant advantage in the marketplace. Possibly one of the key ways for small businesses to navigate rising costs, tapping into the aforementioned free business management tools just might level the playing field against your competitors in Malaysia and globally.