Business tools of the trade

October 21, 2011
Business tools of the trade

We all depend on tools to do our jobs. We recently talked about the tools we use on our Macs and PCs. Today, we wanted to talk about the tools we use as a business. They are not perfect, but I've used many competing products and I'm happy with the tools we use. In no particular order, here are a few of the tools we use as a business.

Collaboration

  • Google Docs: We use Google Docs as our tool to create documents and spreadsheets. Most of us don't even have an Office suite installed on our machines. We have folders galore on GoogleDocs and we depend on it every day.
  • JungleDisk is a great tool that allows us to have a team-shared drive without the hassle of a file server. We use JungleDisk to store design files, client assets, and more.
  • We use Beanstalk as our SVN and GIT repository. I'm a big fan of Beanstalk because it makes the whole process effortless. With Beanstalk, we can keep every bit of a client's website in the repository and it is ready to edit at a moments notice. This is an invaluable tool to allow multiple developers to work on the same website without stepping on each others toes. It has also saved us a few times when something has gone wrong and we can quickly jump back to a previous version of a file.

Communication

  • Hipchat - We use Google Talk, but we wanted a group chat for the team. Using Hipchat we can make quick decisions, share jokes, and—most importantly—plan lunch. I like having a group chat where the team is hanging out, it makes you feel connected whether you are working in the office or remotely.
  • We also use a private Drupal site to store all our procedures in book content. We try to keep it continually updated. If a process changes, or if a new process begins, we document it in our Handbook.

Time-logging and invoicing

  • Freshbooks - I have used Quickbooks in several forms (online and offline) over the years and I have always wished for a tool that works better for our business. Freshbooks to the rescue! It's wonderful for time tracking, invoicing and more. My favorite feature is the dashboard view where I can see quick budget indicators for all my active projects — a quick scan and I know if a project is getting close to the end of the budget. My only wish for Freshbook is that it could have more robust permissions. There isn't a level between admin and employee. As an employee, I cannot see time entries for the rest of the team. If I'm managing a project, I can't run the reports I need to properly track the budget.

What tools do you use in your business? I am always listening for new tools to help us improve our process.