Why stay chained to your desk when you have a powerful computer right in your pocket?
If you built your business from the ground up, it's time to let your iPhone do some of the heavy lifting. You probably already use your desktop computer to balance the books, take notes or update your calendar. But why stay chained to your desk when you have a powerful computer right in your pocket?
Read on for 11 of the best apps to help you run a better small business.
Field Manage by Locqus (Free)
Managing your team in the office is difficult enough. But tracking progress and scheduling tasks for employees out in the field is even tougher. Field Manage by Locqus is an app to help business owners track jobs for truck- and vehicle-based employees, as well as remote workers. Here's how it works: First, all of your employees will install the app on their smartphones, tablets or laptop computers. After that, you can use the app’s management portal to schedule and supervise tasks, and track individual progress using geolocation. It also keeps customers in the loop by sending out mobile alerts to let them know the status and estimated arrival time of a worker scheduled to meet them. The result could be happier, more satisfied customers. Additionally, the app lets employees create quotes, send invoices and even take credit card payments straight from a smartphone or tablet using a card reader attachment.
HanDBase is a handy — albeit relatively pricey — database-management app that helps you store, track and search through all kinds of information relevant to your small business, from billing records to client lists to product inventory. Creating a database is as simple as selecting a template and then inputting — or importing — the correct information. HanDBase comes with a free desktop application that syncs your databases between your computer and your iPhone, and allows you to import information from spreadsheet programs like Excel.
Let your iPhone be your automated customer support team. The Desk.com app is a nifty app that lets you see and engage with all your customers in one spot. It monitors social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as email, to discover new messages from customers as they arrive. It also has customizable alerts and features to help you reply to messages on the fly.
No small business is too small to accept credit cards, and you don't need a lot of special equipment to do it. Once you download the Square Register app, you can sign up to receive a credit card reader dongle free in the mail. Just plug the dongle into the headphone jack on your iPhone, and swipe a credit card to start processing payments on the go. The app also allows you to enter credit card information manually. Square takes a cut of every payment, but face it: If your business doesn't accept credit cards, you are losing out on business.
iWork ($10/app, free on new iPhones)
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better office suite for iPhone than the newly revamped iWork, which includes the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet editor and Keynote presentation maker. The updated apps are fully integrated with Apple's iCloud online storage platform, so you can access and edit your documents from any Web-connected device. The new iWork comes preinstalled on all new iPhones; if you have an older iPhone, you'll have to shell out $10 for each app.
Evernote isn't just a robust note-taking app; it's a tool to help you organize your life as well as your business. The free app lets you dictate or manually enter notes, snap photos, create to-do-lists and more. Evernote automatically indexes your notes and makes them searchable from any device, so you can capture — and recall — your next great business idea from wherever you are.
Mint isn't just a personal finance app. It's also a great tool for entrepreneurs and very small businesses to track spending and tweak budgets. Add bank accounts and credit cards, and the app automatically pulls in and categorizes your transactions, and then organizes them in easy-to-read graphs to show you where your money is going. In other words, Mint will keep your finances organized so you can focus on business operations.
Using Dropbox means never leaving an important document or file behind. Using the Dropbox app for iPhone means having access to those files and documents from anywhere, at any time. It takes just a few seconds to install the app on both your desktop work machine and your iPhone. Once you do that, your files will stay synced across all your devices. Dropbox also functions as a reliable cloud backup service, allowing you to recover deleted files and revert to previously saved versions.
Swapping business cards is a time-tested networking strategy for entrepreneurs, but cards are easy to lose, and manually inputting all that contact information into your address book is a chore. CamCard is an all-in-one solution that automates the process for you. Just point your iPhone camera at a business card, and snap a photo. The app's text-recognition software will pull out the key details and update your address book automatically.
Skype, the service that's synonymous with video chat, is good for more than calling home to Mom; it's also a robust videoconferencing platform for business users. The Skype iPhone app lets you make video calls using the front-facing camera on your handset. The platform is flexible, so you can connect with users on nearly any device. And if you're away from the office, it can let you virtually drop into a staff meeting.
The MightyMeeting app for iPhone lets you store and share business presentations from anywhere. Once your presentation is uploaded, you can play it from your iPhone, or connect your handset to a bigger screen. You can even beam your presentation to an employee's smartphone for a remote meeting. The app also features a whiteboard mode that lets you draw and share charts and graphs in real time.