3 Essential Tools for Your Small Business

Janet Paterson
7 min readAug 24, 2023


Back in 2017, a study outlined that small businesses and startups use an average of 37 tools or software platforms if you will. For large organisations, the number was as high as 90. If that doesn’t sound tedious and overwhelming enough, imagine maintaining their logistics and actually paying for all those month in and month out.

Fast forward to 2021, and an analysis claimed that an average company leverages about 254 SaaS applications. Again, that’s a lot when you consider that all of those cost money and entail regular maintenance, even if it’s just a matter of keeping them updated and running. The research further revealed that every department houses about 40 to 60 tools, even though most of them are underutilised.

But why such excessive usage? One of the major reasons is the varying moving parts of managing a small or mid-size business. Complex and important tasks like marketing, advertising, and sales all require several platforms and tools to ensure they’re being handled efficiently and effectively.

Then there’s sophistication across departmental functions that needs to be taken into consideration. This comes to light with Forrester’s findings that suggest that 25% of organisations leverage 10+ platforms just for Business Intelligence (BI) operations.

But here, the question about data silos and overall departmental fragmentation becomes pertinent. Why adopt so many tools when they’ll eventually result in greater operational costs and more complexity?

In fact, research also claims that less than 50% of employees regularly use apps available to them. Either way, it leaves you with a bloated toolkit.

Would just managing the basics be sufficient? No, not really. Small businesses have a lot on their plate. They’re constantly juggling their day-to-day operations and need to make strategic decisions based on actual data.

So, what should they do? For one, they should definitely narrow down their selection of platforms and tools. The primary purpose is to use them in a manner that can actually enhance the overall operations and the underlying frameworks.

Our analysis has found that small businesses can survive and thrive by being highly tactical, and that involves rationalising your portfolio of solutions. To that end, here are the top three essential tools every small business owner should have on their toolbelt:

1. A Robust Employee Monitoring Solution

After the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the demand for employee monitoring solutions shot up by 54%. A Capterra-led survey revealed that the use of an employee surveillance solution is directly associated with:

  • Increased insight into daily operations (as per 39% of the respondents)
  • Preventing staff from getting underpaid (38%)
  • Curbing mistakes before they escalate (37%)
  • Holistic visibility into high- and low-work performers (35%)
  • Improving the workforce efficiency (34%)

Such benefits are likely to be welcomed by employers and employees alike, and rightly so. At the end of the day, productivity means profitability, and that’s the bottom line for every business. Besides, with the proliferation of hybrid working models, where employees work both remotely and from the office, having a robust employee monitoring solution is a must for a number of reasons.

One of them is the transparency it can provide across all departments. This means that you’ll be able to easily identify areas for improvement and make decisions that are based on real-life data. Plus, with the ability to assume a proactive stance, you’ll be able to resolve issues before they escalate.

In fact, our own study affirmed how insights delivered by a monitoring solution like CleverControl can help unearth areas for improvement across a wide number of operational facets. We found that an extra day off can amplify employee productivity by more than 5%. This research was in response to the experimentation around the 4-day work week, which has been all the rage this year, and understandably so.

That said, one of the solutions that clearly stands out is CleverControl Local for Small Business. The solution is designed to give small businesses the ability to monitor their employees and tackle performance issues proactively. How?

A Local Solution That Strengthens Data Control & Compliance

CleverControl Local for Small Business is a turnkey, all-in-one solution that allows small businesses to establish a strong, unified data governance and compliance framework. With local data storage and on-premises operations, it ensures that all data stays in-house and is accessed and managed per the defined company policies.

This has a massive influence on how companies manage their regulatory compliance. Data privacy is a critical concern when it comes to employee monitoring, and understandably so. Different regions have different rules and regulations, which means that you need to be doing your best to stay in line. With CleverControl Local for Small Business, small businesses can be confident about their data compliance since they have a stronghold on all the data at their disposal, which is also accessible without the Internet — owing to on-premises storage.

Features Galore with Screenshots, Recordings, Keystrokes, & More

This on-premises solution allows you to track and monitor your employees in real-time, so you can be sure that the data gathered is accurate, live, and relevant. From continuous screen recording to webcam snapshots and website tracking to recording keystrokes, the solution gives you full visibility and control over all aspects of employees’ activity, CleverControl Local for Small Business gives you the ability to:

  • Shine a light on idle employees and manage your workforce more effectively.
  • Oversee your employees’ browsing habits to ensure that they’re not spending too much time on any unproductive websites.
  • Track productivity metrics and understand how high-performers are contributing to your bottom line.
  • Empower your employees by giving them a voice and acting on suggestions.
  • Discover who’s off-task and where there are bottlenecks in the workflow processes.
  • Identify threats and vulnerabilities to protect against cyber-attacks
  • Establish an actionable set of goals and parameters through which employees can enhance their workflow without getting overwhelmed.

2. An All-Encompassing Accounting Solution

SMB Group recently carried out a survey to understand the small business financial management landscape, and the results were quite intriguing. About 51% of business owners with less than 19 employees claimed that they didn’t use an accounting solution. 30% affirmed the use of spreadsheets.

But previously, a study established how around 60% of small business owners don’t feel confident or knowledgeable when it comes to handling accounting tasks. And that’s understandable when we consider the variety of accounting tasks that need to be undertaken in a business setting.

Just managing the books and accounting information can consume a significant portion of your time, and this is why it’s best to invest in an all-encompassing solution that will make managing your finances easier. Our bet is on QuickBooks Online — a small business accounting package by Intuit.

QuickBooks Online comes at a rather affordable price ($15/month), is super user-friendly, and helps manage literally all the accounting tasks you can think of, including:

  • Tracking income and expenses
  • Managing invoices and payments
  • Managing tax deductions
  • Generating accounting reports
  • Facilitating receipt capturing
  • Facilitating mileage tracking
  • Defining cash flow
  • Helping with estimates, contractors, bill management, inventory, etc.
  • Ensuring project profitability

It takes a few minutes to set up a QuickBooks Online account and start managing your business finances in a better way. With more than 5 million users worldwide, this is one of the most popular accounting solutions on the market and certainly the one that you should get your hands on.

3. An Easy-to-Use Project Management Solution

A 2020 study carried out by the Project Management Institute stressed that businesses waste 11.4% of their investments as a result of poor project performance. The study further emphasised how organisations that undervalue project management or do not regard it as a strategic competency suffer from 67% of their projects failing outright.

These are rather dire statistics and one that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of. This is why it’s crucial to invest in a project management tool that provides you with a set of benefits and capabilities that can enhance your ability to manage projects effectively.

While a number of project management tools are available out there, Trello is a solution that can bring you a lot of tangible value. It stands out as one of the most intuitive, visually appealing, and easy-to-use project management tools on the market. It also happens to be extremely reliable and cost-effective.

Trello follows the Kanban methodology, which allows you to view, comment on, and prioritise tasks and deliverables easily. It includes features such as checklists for projects, workflow automation, dark mode, team directory, Unsplash Gallery integration, etc.

It’s noteworthy that Trello might not be the best-fit solution for utterly sophisticated projects. That said, it does make a good pick for teams who are starting out and for those looking to get their project management strategies right. There’s a reason why Trello is used by 50 million registered users worldwide (as per data released in 2021).

So, there you have it! Instead of wasting time trying to find and make sense of myriad software solutions, you now know what you should be investing in to get the most out of your business.



Janet Paterson

Professional copywriter. Interested in tech, coding, HR management.