Productivity tools for the Entrepreneur

Today, I would like to talk regarding the Productivity tools available for Entrepreneurs. Most of them are free. However, some of them are paid ones.

Please find below different Productivity tools as per classification:

1. Office Tools:

The following Office tools will definitely increase productivity & save time of the Entrepreneur:

• Password Manager: KeePass, RoboForm, KeyWallet
• Time Tracking: LazyMeter, Focus booster
• Accounting: Expensify, TradeShift
• Human Resources: Odesk, Freelancer
• CRM : Sales Force, Zoho

2. Web Tools:

Now, check various Web tools available:

• Survey Builder: Survey Monkey, Kwiksurveys
• Bug Tracking Tool: 16 Bugs
• Enquiry Form Builder: Wufoo, Formsite
• Data Storage: Dropbox, Box
• Create Landing Pages: InstaPage, Unbounce
• Spell Checker for Websites: CheckDog, TextTrust
• Live Chat: Chatango, BoldChat
• Webinars : GoToMeeting, Webex
• Video Conferencing: Skype, Freeconference, GoToMeeting
• Social Book Marking Button: Add This, ShareThis
• Resize Images: PicResize, ResizeYourImage
• Customer Support Tool: ZenDesk, UserVoice
• Project Management Tool: Basecamp, Jira
• Web Analytics: Google Analytics, Clicky
• Online Reputation Management: Radian6, Simplify360
• Language Translation Tools: Google Translation, Yahoo ! Babel Fish
• Share Images and videos: Jing
• URL Shortener: goo.gl , bit.ly

3. Document Management:

Read some tools available for managing your documents:

• PDF to Word Converter: PDFtoWord, PDFonline
• Word to PDF Converter: Doc2PDF, WordtoPDF
• Online Document Collaboration : Live Documents , Google Docs, Confluence, SlideShare
• Plagiarism Checker : Plagium

4. Social Networking:

Please find some tools for Social Networking below:

• Build your Social Network: Ning, Grouply
• Enterprise Social Community: Yammer
• Tweet Scheduler: Social Oomph, Future Tweets

5. Email Manager: Manage your Emails

• Mass Mailer : Mail Chimp, Constant Contact
• Send Future mail: Fumes.me
Google Apps for Business

6. SEO: Useful tools for SEO
SEOCentro
SEOMoz
Tynt

7. Hardware:
• Smart Phones
• IP Phone

Are you ready to start a new business ?

One of the common mistakes made by entrepreneurs is assuming they have just come up with a unique idea that is going to save the world from a common problem. They get so passionate about the idea that they often forget to validate this with their target audience. This results in them building something that already exists or offering something that doesn’t have a value proposition. And as expected most of those businesses end-up in the cold shelf and the entrepreneurs after burning what little they had will get back to work trying to get over the sour episode of their life.

So If you have just been hit with a great idea and before you get on the surfing board, do a self-assessment by answering the questions below.

1. Why should I spend my hard-earned money on a product without validating it first?
2. Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?
3. What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me here?
4. How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

I will touch very briefly on the above and will tell you why they are important.

Why should I spend my hard-earned money without validating my idea?

You have to be passionate about what you are building but at the same time you have ensure that there are others around you who are also having this same problem as you.

So does your solution solve it and how big is your target market?

Once you have answered these questions honestly then go to the validation part.

So how do I validate my business idea?

There are several ways you can do this and I am going to list a few that worked well for us.

  • Talk to your friends and tell them what you are going to build and then be a patient listener.
  • Create a survey with very few questions (5 or less would be my safe bet) and invite your friends and relatives to answer it.
  • Create a facebook advertising campaign and specify the target audience and send them to the survey page.
  • Create a homepage for your product and mention what you are going to build (don’t reveal everything) and put an email box asking visitors to share their email address so that you can notify them when you launch the service.

Collect the feedback and compare them with your own answers. Are you convinced there is a need?

Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?

This is where most of the businesses fail as they wait to put the ‘bells and whistles’ and misses the feedback from early-adopters. A rule of thumb for startups is to enter the market as quickly as possible and then integrate the fancy stuff by doing quick time-boxed iterations.

Imagine where Mark Zuckerberg would have got to if he waited 7 years to launch facebook with all the fancy features it has now.

So the idea is to build a Minimum Viable Product that lets you get to the market rather quickly and then fit yourself before you run out of money.

If I were to build facebook, my MVP user stories would be

  • As a user I should be able to create an account so that I use the service.
  • As a user I should be able to login so that I can see my friends activities.
  • As a user I should be able to post my updates on the wall so that I can share it with my friends.
  • As a user I should be able to invite my friends so that I can build a network.
  • As an administrator I should be able to pull up user reports so that I can do some analytics.

And I could get someone to build this MVP in 8 weeks for less than 8000$. And If my business doesn’t get the expected traction and even if I quit, I loose only a few thousand dollars and can still survive the trauma. So build an MVP to further validate the concept and enter the market before you run out of money.

What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me?

It’s such a broad question but you should have some answers before you start. If you are planning to rely on facebook and twitter to send traffic to your website, then I suggest you revisit your decision as social media markets are very crowded and you might even go unnoticed.

So what else can you do to bring customers to your website?

Again facebook advertising campaigns can bring users to your website but that alone should not be your primary marketing technique.

I suggest you checkout the presentation ‘From Zero to a Million Users’ by Adam Smith who is the founder of Xobni. He passionately talks about lot of techniques that applies to all the market segments. So be sure to adopt a few of those.

How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

This is definitely the most significant question that decides the fate of your business. If you have a financial model that largely depends on advertising revenue then your chances of raising investment is 1 in 100. There are a few exceptions like Quora that raised $14 million and valued at $90 million and their revenue model is still a mystery. But don’t be over-joyed; we don’t get to hear too many stories like that every year.

Fundamentally you need to understand your target market and then realign your business model to plan for growth, investment and revenue. This is easier said than done but that’s why you chose to be an entrepreneur.

My advice to startup entrepreneurs – Startups are never cheap or easier to build and don’t trust people who say so because they have never built one. To succeed, you need a good idea, excellent planning, awesome implementation, right timing, perseverance and lot of passion.

Myths about Project management

One of my earlier blog was around project management, but some of my friends after reading it suggested that it was too good to be true. They were of the thought that the points mentioned in the blog will not work exactly in the same manner in the real world.

I asked them why not??

Opportunities are plenty and we are taught to think positively and if there are any flaws in the system, it is our responsibility to see to it that we find a solution around the problem.

If these are some of the concerns that you have in mind:

• You’re in a fast changing world
• Your requirements are unclear
• Value feedback from beta users very seriously
• Value frequent scrutiny and adaptation
• Value self-management through leadership and teamwork

Solving the problem may seem distant reality but there is always a beginning (Journey of thousand miles begin with a single step) and agile would be the answer to such an issue.

Xminds Infotech Pvt. Ltd. | www.xminds.com
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Project Management-KISS (Keeping it straight and simple)

What are the necessary steps that a team needs to keep in mind while working on a project.

You could find plenty of articles written about Project Management.

One needs to understand what exactly does project management mean, you would find terms like Architecture, prototypes, agile methodologies, scrum and what not.

But some of the important things that needs to be mentioned what I thought important are mentioned below.

1.Getting a grasp of the requirements– Basically understanding the requirements is imperative for any project. This can be termed as the vital ingredient that the team of developers needs to keep in mind. This is the foundation in which the code could be build upon. As the general rule if the foundation is strong then what you build would also be strong.

2. Making sure your team understand what needs to be done In the usual process the after the requirements are written and discussed with the client it would be taken to the architecture board defining the architecture, database and the platform in which the development will take place. Equally important is the fact is to include and involve all your team members so that all are on the same page and would know what exactly is needed to be done.

3. The Team Being a Project Lead or a Project Manager does not mean that all that needs to be taken care of is to meet the deadline set by the team. It is important that as a PL/PM to understand and allocate tasks to each and every team member according to their strength and weaknesses. One would be good iphone apps and some would be very good at social media apps, as a leader one should understand were to fit in the right resources. How successful can be one in analyzing the members would directly provide the end results.

4. Helping the team to have more fun at workIf fun can be injected to the whole development process you would be astonished by the positive results that the team would be bring in. If the team understands that you are always there to support them rather than bossing around and if they feel that it is always good to have you around get ready for a plenty of kudos and congrats.

5. No hard and fast rule It all depends on how one can see things let it be positive or negative. Inject positive attitude to your team members. Teach them that a positive frame of mind can bring in great results.

a. Teach them the “Can do” spirit.
b. Teach them to be team player.
c. Teach them to be proactive.

This would create a healthy environment amongst the team members.

6. Do your homework and be very well prepared – The most important thing being a PM/PL be prepared for anything, expect the unexpected, expect the worst. But then take it easy, be proactive since life will throw challenges, meet them with your heart and success is yours.

Xminds Infotech Pvt. Ltd. | www.xminds.com
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