5 Great Online Tools to Streamline Your Business

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In today’s challenging environment, small business owners seeking to expand must walk a narrow line to achieve and maintain profitability.

With each step forward they need to find new ways to leverage their time and resources. Fortunately, there are now a number of online tools which can readily be put to use without having to buy expensive software.

Here’s a look at five promising and practical tools you can use to help streamline your business:

1. Grasshopper Virtual Phone System

As your business expands you need a phone system that can grow, adapt, and stay affordable. The beauty of Grasshopper is that it gives you the features you need without having to buy expensive hardware. In fact, you use your existing equipment and manage everything online. From setting up multiple extensions to customizing voicemail greetings that reflect the time of day, you are always in control of the phone experience your customers and clients will receive. Grasshopper can even transcribe your voicemail and e-mail it back to you.

2. Outright (Finance Manager)

With all the demands of a growing business the ability to automate needed tasks becomes more and more essential. Outright, a convenient cloud-based service, allows you to automate all of your accounting tasks by centralizing and organizing them in a user-friendly format. With Outright there’ll be no more wading through a sea of data to try to get an accurate picture of how your business is really doing. Outright’s finance managing software gathers relevant data, then reduces it down to easily understood charts and graphs that give you an accurate and visual picture of what’s really happening with revenues and expenses. And since Outright’s software is designed to automatically categorize and organize all business transactions—in keeping with accepted IRS guidelines—you can rest easy, knowing that your tax records are both current and accurate. As an added benefit, Outright can also give you accurate projections for future taxes your business may end up owing the IRS.

3. SpeakWrite (Voice-to-Document Service)

With a growing business everything seems to accelerate, especially the flow of ideas through that entrepreneurial brain of yours. Naturally, not all of those ideas are going to be brilliant, but having a way to capture them instantly on your phone and transcribe them into written words is. That’s where SpeakWrite comes in. And best of all it’s a breeze to operate. When you have an idea just pull out your phone and let SpeakWrite take the dictation, automatically forwarding your voice message to a secure system. Once in the system, your message is routed to trained professional typists who will type up your submission according to criteria which you establish in advance. Once completed, your document will be delivered to your designated email account in the form of a word processing attachment to be edited, printed and otherwise manipulated, as if you had created it on your own computer. Although the service is not free, SpeakWrite charges a flat fee of 1.25 pennies per word. When you consider what your time is worth and that SpeakWrite gives you a virtual staff at any time, day or night, the cost of the service is a bargain.

4. Doodle (Polling/Scheduling)

Face it. Although business meetings are a necessary and often effective means of communicating and getting things done, scheduling all those meetings can take up a ton of time. Thanks to Doodle, a cloud-based scheduling service utilizing tools such as My Doodle and Meet Me, you can schedule meetings in a prompt professional way by posting your calendar, along with dates and times of availability for others to consult and coordinate with at their convenience. Then, using Calendar Connect, you can sync Doodle with your Google or Outlook Calendar. Another service, Doodle Mobile, allows you to effectively schedule even last minute meetings on the run.

5. Mindmeister (Mindmapping Tool)

One of the truly daunting challenges that accompany business growth is being able to effectively manage those elements of your business that are essential to success. Mindmeister gives you the ability to visually organize complex things in a way that makes them easier to understand, delegate, and accomplish. Whether you’re setting up complex marketing campaigns, formulating to-do lists, mapping out websites or attempting to team- manage client accounts, Mindmeister gives you the tools to do it all in a streamlined cost-effective manner. At a cost of only $9 per month, and with benefits that are giving Google docs, Google wave, Basecamp, Manymoon and other tools a run for their money, you won’t mind using Mindmeister.

About the Author: Carla Sanchez is a freelance writer for Omniture, a leader at cms website software and marketing automation.

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