Once upon a time, before I was the free-wheeling business technology crusader that I am now, I worked for a small business with about a 40 user network. The
dictator owner of that company was a real character. A somewhat odious character. Anyway, I remember something he told me once that has always stuck with me. It’s a very simple formula of what all businesses have to do to be successful.
- Get the work.
- Do the work.
- Collect for the work.
Obviously, if the business fails in any of these areas, the business will fail entirely. For some reason the crude simplicity made an impact on me and I think of it often as I talk to businesses about their technology needs. To follow this theme, I’ve chose three great free tools to accomplish these basic functions of a business.
ZohoCRM – This is but one of the tools in the Zoho lineup, all of which seem pretty solid. I especially like the free version of this CRM products as it allows 3 users and has a ton of great features. In addition to the “CRM basics” like account, contact and lead tracking, you get cool things like case management and nifty dashboards like this:
It’s very easy to sign up, less than a minute I’d say, and is fairly self-explanatory. If you’ve used other CRM tools in the past, you should have no problems at all. If you want some more features like sales forecasting and built-in email marketing, you can upgrade at any time to the Pro version for 12/month per user. You can also downgrade at any time, which I thought was interesting.
EasyProjects.net – This is a pretty nice package for managing projects, consulting time, and activities. It takes a bit longer to get started than ZohoCRM, but it wasn’t too bad. It has a very cool Interactive Gantt Chart done in Silverlight that I liked a lot, as well as reports, dashboards and pretty nice search. The free version only comes with a single user license, but you can have an unlimited number of customers login and collaborate with you on your projects. There are a couple of times when I thought the site itself was a little clumsy, but there are a ton of great features. When you’re ready for more users, you can get 5 for $75/month.
Office Accounting Express 2009 – I never set out to pimp Microsoft products with this blog and frankly, I am shocked at how many of their free products are good enough for me to recommend. (I know that people will call me a fan boy regardless. ::sigh::) This is a solid product though. Obviously they have stolen heavily from Quickbooks to make the familiar interface, but you can customize most of the screens, which I think is handy.
You can’t manage inventory with this version, but you can do all sorts of other neat stuff like take PayPal payments directly within the software. Also, you can set up a quick and easy E-Commerce site from the “Online Sales” menu. You can even set this up to have multiple users accessing your company info. You can’t beat the price for all of this accounting goodness!