A major benefit with using Streak is that it lives in your Gmail. If you’re already doing a lot of email exchanges via Gmail, it’s really nice to have an add-on that lives in your email program. I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts in Gmail, and Streak supports them too. It’s very easy to do things in Streak, such as snoozing emails. I rapidly parse through each e-mail in my inbox, and the ones that I want to be reminded about at a later time, I quickly snooze and then move on. Snooze is my favorite functionality with Streak, and I even like it even more than Boomerang. Being able to set up pipelines is also nice. For example, if you’re corresponding with prospective investors, it’s helpful to create a pipeline to track where in the process you are, and what the next steps are with the various prospective investors. You can quickly tie each e-mail with a particular investor to the relevant “Streak Box”, and you can also manually input phone call and in-person meeting minutes.
GroupMe is used a lot for personal communication, but it has been working well for us for business communication. In our area (Arlington, VA), it doesn’t seem many people are using GroupMe, so I’ve never gotten a message from outside the company. GroupMe is effective for us, and it’s great that I can use it on any device that has the app. I can even use it on a computer if I want to give my thumbs a rest from texting and type out longer responses. From what I hear, Slack may be an upgrade, but GroupMe is working very well for us. We have lots of different groups (e.g. roastery team, coffee shop team, brew lab team, multiple management teams, etc), and we’ll send out a message and ask people to “heart” it to show that they’ve received and read the message. If someone does not “heart” the message, we know to go and hunt them down to make sure they are informed! We’ve found this to be a great way to hold our team members accountable. We really believe in using what’s out there and making it meet your needs, even if it wasn’t built for your particular use case. One of the simple things we’ve done to make GroupMe work best for our company is set up custom pictures for all of the groups. This makes it really easy to see all of your different groups, and makes it even faster to find the channel you want to communicate in.
We use Square at our cash registers, and it has been very reliable. Square does so much more than payment processing, and it’s interesting to see how they start off as just your point of sale system, but then reel you in to buying customer engagement data, and more. All of the things they offer seem to be compelling and brilliant. We’re on the beta testers list for Square, so we hear about new things rolling out and get to try new hardware and software updates before they’re officially released. I have been intrigued by Square Capital that will give loans to businesses for a certain amount of credit card receivables, until you pay off what you’ve borrowed, with interest. And Square has a mobile app called Dashboard that allows me to see my sales at any moment. I can quickly dial in to see trends of sales at an aggregate level and snap shots of sales at a category, and even individual item, level. Within 10 seconds, I can quickly see how many cappuccinos we sold compared with cortados, or how many 12oz bags moved in the past hour. This is helpful for determining when we might need to roast more coffee that day to restock the shop. I’d give Square an A.
MailChimp’s software works well. I used to use Constant Contact, and MailChimp is more intuitive. It’s easy to create templates, quickly see how many people open your emails, and even see the number of times they open the emails, etc. They are great for helping your business identify and focus on your most engaged followers.
We’ve found Dropbox to be the superior file management system. We started off using Dropbox because a lot of our initial team had all referred it to people in the past and had earned many GB of free storage. But as we grew, we ran into issues with people running out of space. We didn’t want to pay for Dropbox, so we initially moved collaborative documents over to Google Drive, and kept static files on Dropbox. But we constantly had problems finding files in Google Drive, and anytime we wanted to print something, we had to download it as a PDF to our computers and then print it out. We found Google Drive to be quite frustrating and disappointing. We learned our lesson, and migrated everything back to Dropbox and now we’re paying for Dropbox Pro. I also love that with the Dropbox app, I have my entire business file management system in my pocket!
We use QuickBooks Online for keeping track of accounting. It seems to be the standard accounting solution, and it works well enough for us. QuickBooks is trying to extend into areas beyond accounting, like payroll and invoicing, but we have not used those features yet. What I really like about QuickBooks is the ability to automate rules for categorization. For example, I can create a rule that says, “Any time I order from this vendor, assign this as the cost of goods sold at this particular coffeeshop”. You can’t set up automated rules like this in FreshBooks, so if you don’t like manual rote categorization tasks, you’ll end up leaning towards QuickBooks. Also, as you’re growing your business and considering different funding vehicles, such as traditional term loans from banks or priced or debt rounds from angel investors, it’s likely they will want to some financial statements like a balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flow, or profit and loss statement. Assuming you are keeping up with reconciling your accounts on a monthly basis, you can very easily create these reports in QuickBooks.
We use FreshBooks for invoicing, and we think they’ve really nailed it in this area. We are particularly happy with the mobile app for invoicing. However, FreshBooks fell short as an accounting solution for us. For most accounting tasks, aside from invoicing, QuickBooks trumps FreshBooks. Reporting related to invoicing is good for FreshBooks, but accounting reports are lacking.
Gusto’s customer service has been great. We’ve been primarily using them for payroll, but we plan to explore their benefits offerings for more seasoned and top-performing employees.
Gusto’s payroll functionality is very intuitive. It’s so easy, it makes you wonder why you have to pay for it, but then you remember that’s the point! They have simplified what used to be a complicated process. We also love how easy it is to generate reports, as well as their pricing model that scales with your business. Other payroll companies that have approached us have been much more expensive from the beginning.
We like Asana, and we take it seriously because we value accountability and understand the importance of well-planned and effective execution. We create project teams, with a team leader assigned to each project, and use Asana to create work breakdown structures. We can create task dependencies and Gantt charts using Instagantt as well. The mobile app for Asana works well, and it’s all free (up to a point). Asana is very robust and flexible, and able to meet almost any company’s needs. But, beware that there is a learning curve, and you have to have a process in place to be able to get the most out of the system. New employees need to be trained on Asana, and it’s important to establish the expectations for your organization for how Asana will be used. For example, we have a weekly process where leadership looks at Asana to see how project plans compared with actuals for the previous week, and then we reprioritize and adjust our project plans for the coming week. We then meet with project team leaders to discuss the new plans. Asana helps us stay organized and cut down on e-mails, since conversations relevant to particular tasks and projects are maintained within Asana itself. It’s great for individual projects, but we find Asana falls short with tracking multiple, simultaneous projects of varying priorities, especially from a higher level view (like a startup COO view).
We have Asana integrated with Instagantt to create task dependencies and Gantt charts, and see timelines in a more visually intuitive way.
We have a Hootsuite account, but we don’t really use it. At one point, we had wanted to automate our posts, but then we decided that we wanted to only put up organic posts and tweets. We feel this allows us to be more authentic. So now we just use the dedicated platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) when we want to push out a message, rather than scheduling messages ahead of time in a platform like Hootsuite.