Allen Baler: The 5 Best Collaboration Tools for Small Business

Allen Baler on collaboration tools

In one word, it’s all about leverage. How can you make the most out of your time, team, and dollars spent?


To achieve profitability, you’ve got to be thinking “in the black”. Lean isn’t just good for your physical life, it makes sense in business, too. Old rules that no one questioned as little as 5 years ago are now a burning ember on the ash heap of entrepreneurial history. Biz owners are using technology to level the playing field so that even five and six figure operations can play with the big boys.


Collaborating with your key players in real time, as well as the ability to make business decisions on the fly with relevant data, all point toward tools that have only come of age in the last few years.


So, what are the 5 top tools to collaborate with your team members?


CRM – customer relationship management software. Even if your database is relatively small, choosing a CRM tool that can keep track of all your customers and their communication with your business is beyond crucial.  Some CRMs are so sophisticated they seamlessly integrate with your marketing efforts, as well. CRMs are important for reporting, spotting trends, and understanding your target demographic at a granular level.


Project Management Software. There is a plethora of these platforms to choose from, such as Basecamp, Asana, and Trello, to name a few. A common denominator among all three is a user-friendly interface. Each one carries its own plusses and minuses, depending on what your goals are and how different departments will use it. All have varying capabilities as far as integration with other programs you currently use.


Cloud-Based File Sharing Software. It’s likely you’re already using one right now such as DropBox, Rackspace, or the aptly named, Box. Storing your data in the cloud is a must, as you’d quickly run out of space on a traditional server or wired network. Using a service like this will allow your team to quickly access needed documents in one convenient place, and you control the permissions.


Gmail. What can we say? Google continues to innovate and dominate. Gmail’s conversation-tracking style email shows all parties in a thread, and isn’t siloed from its own collaboration and storage platform, Drive. Plus, Gmail integrates easily with so many applications, companies switching from Outlook to Gmail climbs every day.


Video Meeting/Conferencing. Both pioneers in virtual workspaces, Skype and GoToMeeting inspire greater team cohesion regardless of location. Having the ability to hire freelancers and employees unencumbered by geography will allow your business to focus on talent, not zip code.


All of the above programs will vary not only in function, but in prices, plan, and scope. Choosing each one should be based not only on your current business needs, but also your projected growth. You want tools that can adapt, not hinder. If it makes sense, you may even want to bring in a business growth consultant that can help you in the vetting process.


It’s never been a more level playing field for startups. The key from jumping from good to great lies in your ability to accurately ascertain which tools to invest in to keep your operations lean and liabilities small.

Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.