small business tools

3 Free Tools to Streamline Your Back Office

3 Free Tools to Streamline Your Back Office

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says: “To say is to forget. To write is to remember…”

3 Simple Strategies for Employee Accountability

3 Simple Strategies for Employee Accountability

It’s that time of year again! The days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder, and the in-laws are hunting for bargains on airfare. The holidays are upon us and that means it’s retail’s time to shine! - or at least brace. Here are a few stocking-stuffers to help you maintain firm control even during the busiest times...

Why Managing Your Inventory Can Be Romantic

Why Managing Your Inventory Can Be Romantic

Ok, hear me out. I know counting shelves upon shelves of items isn’t super romantic. Even over here at Shopventory, as much as we love good inventory management, we don’t think it makes the world go round. But we do know that less time and money wrapped up in inventory means more time and money for other things ...

The Myths of Small Business Growth

The Myths of Small Business Growth

Here at Shopventory, we work with thousands of merchants all over the globe, so we figured it's about time to address the myths about small-business growth and offer some of our own insights into the best ways to grow. 

You're Being Reviewed

You're Being Reviewed

The advent of sites like Yelp, Angie's ListHundredX, Facebook, Google Reviews, and scores of others has absolutely changed the game in retail, especially for the food service industry. This means Customers will be drawn to— or driven from— your business before they even leave the house...

Blogger's Digest

The Internet has brought us all a treasure trove of content. From a good Netflix binge to the free courses offered by Stanford University, there's a lot online to consume, more than one could in a lifetime. Much of it is indeed cat videos and pointless arguments, but the small business owner can find reliable gold mines if they know where to look...

Inside Job: 5 Steps to Detecting (and Preventing) Employee Theft

One of the sad realities of human life is that people do bad things. What leads to that fact and its various philosophical implications is something we'll leave to better minds to analyze. But for the thousands of merchants using Shopventory, this means having to deal with the unpleasant subject of both Customer and Employee theft...

5 Free Productivity Apps For Small Businesses

5 Productivity Apps for Small BusinessesThe app store can be an overwhelming place. In the world of time-saving, life-hacking, productivity apps, it's easy to get lost among those little icons that promise so much. To help you suss out the tools worthy of your screen's real estate, we rounded up a few of our favorite small business productivity apps at the low-low price of free.wunderlist

Wunderlist (Free) iPhone, iPad, Mac Desktop, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire Wunderlist is a cloud-based productivity tool that can do pretty much anything list-related. You can use it from multiple devices, so you can jot down your to do list on your work laptop and then revise it on your morning bus ride the next day. You can set deadlines, make notes, turn on reminders, set recurring tasks and even use your email and browser to send tasks directly to Wunderlist. It's collaborative as well, so you can share  lists and work with your team on projects. The app is free on all platforms, but they also offer paid options with additional features: Wunderlist Pro and Wunderlist for Business.

apple clock 2

Timer (Free) iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. Yes, we really do mean the timer that comes standard on your phone. Or—screw apps—even your kitchen timer. We humans do our best work in spurts with frequent breaks—it's science. One of the most common techniques is to work in 90-minute spurts with a 15 minute breaks in between, in order to follow our natural ultradian rhythms. The other is called the Pomodoro Technique, in which you break down your tasks into 25-minute blocks and focus solely on that task during that block. As you get comfortable with one of these techniques, it may help your day run more smoothly and efficiently because you'll be able to identify projects that take up too much of your time, as well as distractions that may've been keeping you from completing things faster. Bonus hack: Use Siri as a shortcut on your iPhone by asking her, "Wake me up in 25 minutes." This will automatically set a new alarm for you to let you know when to wake up from your work and take a short break!

mailbox

Mailbox (Free) iPhone, iPad Clean inboxes, here we come. If you're anything like us (big David Allen fans), inbox zero is tough but necessary. Mailbox is a new way to deal with your email. It connects with Gmail and provides an intuitive labeling and archiving system. With the most simple of swipes, you can "snooze" emails, delete them, set reminders and more. It syncs that system up with your Gmail account so everything is easy to find whenever you're dealing with your email on your laptop too.

evernote

Evernote (Free) iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac Desktop, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Windows Desktop There's a reason this app is typically near the top of the best of lists, no matter the category. It's kind of a catch-all and we had to include it on our list too. Send Evernote anything and it'll help you catalog it and find it later. Use it to keep track of documents, research, travel information, inspiration, project notes, photos, business cards or anything you'd like to collect from the web. Evernote also offers an array of other products like a Peek (a study tool), Clearly (a reader) and a collaborative set of business tools for $10/user/month.

asana

Asana (Free for up to 15 team members) iPhone, Android, Desktop Asana's mantra is teamwork without email. It is robust collaboration tool, great (and free) for small teams juggling multiple tasks at a time. It not only helps you organize and assign tasks and deadlines to your staff in a clear way, but it integrates with all kinds of other software like Wordpress, Google Drive, MailChimp, etc. If your business outgrows 15 team members, they have a paid service available.

6 Sanity-Saving Tips for Year-End Inventory

You survived the holiday rush. PHEW. But if you’re in retail, your work is just beginning. Before you settle in for your long winter’s nap, you  still have to count the things. All the things.Here are our six favorite year-end inventory tips to help you get through the process without a breaking into the New Year’s Eve champagne early. We’ll drink to that.

1. Dedicate time to the task. Take the day off or use a series of slow afternoons to dedicate solely to inventory. Focus and keep distractions at bay.

2. Enlist help. Two sets of eyeballs are better than one even with a small shop. Depending on the size of your business, this might involve simply asking a trusted pal to come in for an afternoon. For larger businesses, split your staff into small teams to count (and recount) together.

3. Reward yourself and your staff. Motivation can come in many forms. Order lunch for everybody or bring in a masseuse to give your crew back rubs during their breaks. Give yourself something when you’re done too—you know what you like best.

4. Keep notes upon notes upon notes. After you’ve combed through your products, you might’ve discovered you need a better way to organize them. Or you might’ve uncovered a huge box of plastic dinosaurs that didn’t sell very well this year but will be perfect for your legendary window displays. Make sure you’re not just counting, but making detailed notes that’ll help you be more successful in the coming year.

5. Clean house. Do you have products that have been collecting dust for years, decades even? Even a clearance sticker can’t work miracles. Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of outdated or ridiculously unpopular merchandise. All it’s doing is weighing you down and taking up important space.

6. Use technology to save time and money. Yes, we’re slightly biased. Truly though, the right tools and software can help make taking inventory much less of a drag. A system like Shopventory keeps track of your inventory and sales automatically throughout the year, so it makes those year-end reports and accuracy checks that much easier come tax time. Even if you’re not using a program this year, it’s a perfect time to start since you’ll have all the right information and spreadsheets on hand to upload. You’ll thank yourself next year.

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4 Powerful Tools for Small Business Branding

Branding is about the warm-fuzzies. It's about creating excuses for your company to always be associated on the positive end of a customer's emotional barometer. It's about story telling and giving other people the tools to tell stories on your behalf.And that's why it's not enough for a company to think that branding ends at just a logo.

Small businesses should consistently be giving "tools" which can help customers promote a company. Although there are many, we've narrowed it down to the 4 most powerful tools for small business branding.

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MailChimp + TinyLetter 

If you don't have an email newsletter, get on it! MailChimp recently acquired TinyLetter to serve the needs of small business owners when it comes to email marketing.

"Basically, TinyLetter is for people what MailChimp is for business; we help you have engaging converstations with your followers."

MailChimp is geared toward the business side of things. You can automate your newsletters, manage customer databases, track analytics/reports, and integrate with survey tools to see what your customers' opinions are. MailChimp possesses several other features, easily accessible to its users. As your customer base grows, you won't be hindered by email limits like some email providers; MailChimp will help you get the word out.

TinyLetter adds the personal touch customers need to keep coming back. Returning to the basics of letters and conversation, TinyLetter keeps things simple and sweet. If you want to engage with your audience, as time permits, you can make the bonds between business and customer stronger by paying direct attention to their questions and comments.

With a two-in-one package, you have the freedom to choose a more personal approach versus an all-encompassing one. 

smoreSmore 

When you promote to your customers through email, you want to avoid two things: making your promos  appear to be spam and making them absolutely dull. This is where Smore comes in.

Smore is a service that allows you to create beautiful online flyers easily and quickly. There are templates, designs, and color options to play with according to your promotional needs--Events, Promotions, Businesses, and more. When you start, the template guides you and offers suggestions for content placement. You can keep everything clean and simple, while visually appealing and informative. View their Featured Flyers section to spark your creativity and come up with your own for your business--and personal--needs.

While it's called Smore, it is (sadly) not edible. 

moocardsMOO Cards

No matter what, business cards will always be a valuable investment, especially quality cards. You never know who you meet, and MOO Cards can give you memorable cards to keep them coming back for more.

MOO Cards provides a few options for business owners small and large. In general, MOO Cards allows you to use your own artwork or photography in designing your cards. You can also use their free designs and add your logo. With the variety in design and card types they have, you'll feel like a kid in a candy--business card--shop.

Additionally, they have an option for business with more than 10 employees and typically order to scale, which is called MOO for Business. As your business grows, this could be a helpful option.

Another idea for your business is Printify. Printify is a feature that allows you to print different photos on multiple cards. You could put pictures of your most photogenic products on your business cards and become a walking catalogue. Share you business in conversation and let them take a piece to remember. 

buffappfeedlyBuffer App + Feedly 

Dabbling in social media takes so much time, and you need that time for your business. Buffer App solves this issue by consolidating your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and sharing your content automatically.

Buffer App lets you to schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts easily; your posts stack and Buffer App sends them according to the times you set. Rather than huge URL links taking up characters in your Twitter posts, Buffer App shortens them so you can add relevant hashtags and comments. And, if you are having trouble keeping up with this on your own, you can add team members to join your social media brigade.

Recently, Buffer App partnered with Feedly. If you don't know what Feedly is, it's an app and browser extension that pulls current news and content of interest to one place. Visually, it's like a sleek online magazine. You can also customize what types of news you get by following particular websites--fresh articles your way.

But how does this help your social media presence as a business?

Buffer App has integrated with Feedly, so you can easily Buffer and share the articles you come across. By following websites that create content related to your business, you can share what you believe your followers will find helpful. Plus, if you're short on time and don't have blog posts churning out constantly, these articles act as useful filler.

The more you share, the more your customers feel an active presence on your end. Providing cool content keeps your customers awake to your business.

These are just four of many useful tools for small business branding. Building your brand online and offline has become imperative for businesses of all kinds. We hope these help save you time and serve your needs well.

Have any other suggestions for branding or want to share your small business story? Share in the comments or tweet us (@Shopventory)!