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Mr. Ploppy’s Monday Morning Tool List Volume XIV – Open Source Small Business Tools

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 16 years and 3 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

SEO and web design had always had a very low barrier to entry for folks interested in the field. The best option is not to go to college and become a well-rounded person (as well as spend a bunch of money), but rather to learn all a person can about this specialized craft and plug away at it. This leaves the problem of a technical person running a business. It is really a “trial by fire” situation because the web designer/ SEO going into business for themself (or worse, hiring employees), has never dealt with the issues of small business management like accounting, staffing, sales forecasting, and the multitudes of other problems that can arise from these areas. Since many SEO / web design small businesses are just learning about these things, I figured it would be worth putting together a tool list to help them out.

On top of understanding the issues, a small business owner realizes that they have to PAY for a solution, and then learn how to use it. But WAIT! We live in an age where truly altruistic folks can spread their good karma with a wonderful thing called Open Source. Open Source is really a testament to those who are willing to give freely for a community. I did a bit of digging on the types of business software. Many business owners are just jumping into learning about software like this. I know personally, in retrospect, I would have rather have spent my time learning the finer details of Open Office, than M$ Office, which I will now pay for for the rest of my office job life. I wonder if the same could hold true for all the other areas a small business owner has to deal with.

Reading about SEO’s having no business acumen a while back, made me think about The E-myth, a great book My last boss gave me to read. It went into detail about how most business owners develop from the desire to do something that they are good at independantly. When the new business owner realizes all of the other issues that come along with a small business it is a bit of culture shock, and they have to develop a system for more effective time management or they will work themselves into the ground. The E-myth site has a nice variety of articles on business issues, that you can read by signing up for a free account. Well worth a bit of reading.

Open Source (and a few other) Tools for Dealing with Small Business Issues

Try a demo test of open source software before you install it on your own system before you choose on a solution. Great site!

Office Software

Project management software

Sales and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools

Open Source Accounting Tools

Top 5 Tips for Running a Successful Small Business

I decided to add five of the things I would consider most important if a business is to succeed. Having been a part of several smaller startup type companies, I would consider most problems to stem from these issues. Have these in the back of your mind at all times.

  • Cashflow and credit score – Keeping a strong cashflow is one of the big things I learned from business school, as well as being a part of small businesses. Even if you aren’t necessarily profitable, you can keep going. You obviously don’t want this forever, but it helps build to a point where you may be profitable. Always pay the bills on time. This is where the cashflow comes in handy. It helps build a strong credit score if you ever get the earthshattering idea, or are in a bind.
  • Time and stress management – Overall efficiency in general is important to profitablity, but personal time management gets harder with company growth. As a small business owner, you will be pulled in 50 different directions everyday. You will have 100 things that should get done and you will have time for
  • Learn WHICH 10 are the most important and stick to those. Learn to delegate effictively for the other
  • Giving up control, and learning not to get overly stressed are critical to the success of a business owner.
  • Exceed client expectations – This one’s simple. Always go above and beyond. If the contract says 10 widgets…give
  • Be remarkable for word of mouth referrals. It is the cheapest advertising you will ever receive. If a client sucks, don’t take them on or fire them, but don’t mismanage their expectations. I repeat (looking in the direction of web developersManage Your Clients’ Expectations!
  • Network – Meet people. Enjoy people. Find others in the business community that are a positive influence to you and help you work out problems. Find those that are a complimentary fit to your business. Try to be friendly to everyone, you never know when you might be asking them or their friend for a favor. Surround yourself with successful people that you like.
  • Enjoy yourself – As the old adage goes, “If you enjoy what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life”. Do what you like, and find ways to reinvent that excitement for what you do. Maintain a postive attitude, because hey, “I’m going to do a terrific show today! And I’m gonna help people! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”

A couple “real” business management books worth considering:
Seth Godin – “The Bootstrapper’s Bible”
Guy Kawasaki – “The Art of Start”

If you know of some other great open source tools that should be added to this list, please e-mail them to me.

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Mr. Ploppy description / bio goes here/

  • Ken Dryden

    eWEEK Labs often hears IT managers express a desire to loosen Microsoft Corp.’s grip on the office productivity market by deploying alternative office suites. The continuing maturation of open-source office applications, along with the fact that these applications have no licensing fees, makes such a move increasingly attractive–but not for all companies.