No matter what size of your business is, as long as you are running a business, these 2 aspects are the most important: time and money. Without them, you won’t be able to grow your business to the next level. As much as you want to get more sales, it is also important to streamline your work processes to improve the team’s efficiency. As the managing director of a small business, you are the minion in every department: Human Resource, Accounting, Project Management, Account Management, etc. Having the right business tools will really save you a lot of time when managing the team.
In our team, we have always been exploring new ways to improve our work productivity so we can take on more projects and, at the same time, enjoy a work-life balance. We’ve been through many trials and errors these years and eventually found the business tools we enjoy using the most and stick with them. During this process, we had to do a lot of math calculations and keep signing up for free trials to make sure the tools fit our workflow. The team had to keep adapting to new business tools until we found the right ones.
Now that we have a more streamlined process, we would like to share the fruits of labour with you, so you don’t have to go through the hassle again! Of course, these business tools are more specific to Malaysian businesses, but if you are from overseas, some of these business tools will also be helpful to you.
1. Business Tools for Human Resource – HR.MY
This is a free Human Resource tool we have been using since we expanded the team. It can generate payslips and automatically calculate statutory contributions such as EPF, SOCSO, EIS & PCB, manage leaves and time-off, and manage expense claims! It is very comprehensive and has many more features that we don’t need but might be helpful for other businesses, such as document sharing, team announcements and attendance. In addition, it also has an easy to use UI so you can easily navigate around without any training. Employees can download their mobile app to apply for leaves easily on their phones. It can also generate different reports, but some documents like the EA form will only be available if you offer a monthly donation.
Backstory: We were only using Excel to generate Pay slips manually every month and calculate the leaves manually. After the Excel sheet was developed, we had to keep checking to ensure all the calculations were accurate and all the numbers to date.
- Unlimited employees with role-based user access control
- Expense Claim Management
- Leave Management
- Attendance Management System & Time Clock
- Payroll Processing
- Team Collaboration & Knowledge Management
- Document & Form Sharing
- Announcement & Notice Board
- Mobile App Available
Pricing: Free forever; certain features require a donation
2. Business Tools for Holistic Google Features – G Suite
As the name suggests, G stands for Google! Undeniably, Google is the most widely used tool for personal and businesses. Almost everyone in Malaysia has a Gmail account, so we thought, why don’t we just spend some money every month to enjoy the benefits of G Suite?
We have been paying RM20 per user per month for a few years now, and we can proudly say that it is the best investment ever. We use our own domain for the emails, but it’s using Gmail’s server. So we can send and receive our emails using the Gmail website or mobile app without worrying our emails will go into the recipients’ spam. On a side note, if you are using the cPanel email server, there will be a chance your email will go to the recipient’s junk.
Other than that, we upload all our projects files to Google Drive to share with the team and clients. We have seen people using WeTransfer to share files, but there is a size and time limit. With Google Drive, we don’t have to worry about all those. We can make the folders accessible to anyone with the link so the clients can just sign in with their Gmail and download all the necessary files. The files stay in the Drive forever unless we move or delete them ourselves. However, we only have 30GB of cloud storage per user with the Business Starter plan. It will not be enough if you are a heavy user. You can upgrade the storage for individual accounts from only RM8 per month.
Adapt the Pandemic with G Suite
Scheduling our meetings is also easy with Google Calendar. During the pandemic, most meetings have to be online. With Google Calendar, we just need to set the schedule of the forum and invite the guests, and it will automatically create the Google Meet link and email the guests. Google Meet is free to use for G Suite members. Depending on your plan, it has a 24-hour time limit and can host up to 500 participants.
G Suite is a subscription plan, you just need to key in your payment details, and it will automatically deduct the subscription fee from your account every month and email you the invoice.
- Custom and secure business emails
- Video meetings
- Cloud storage
- Team messaging
- Collaborative content creation
- Security and management controls
- Desktop & Mobile Apps available
Pricing: From RM20 per user per month
3. Business Tools for Time Management – Clockify
When doing sales, we need to measure the time spent on each project to ensure that we quote accurately in the next project. In addition, some of the costs of our projects are fixed, whereas we will bill ad hoc tasks at the end of the job. Clockify is very useful in tracking the time spent on each project and task and generating reports based on the billable status. If you forget to start the timer, you can also change the date and time later. We can also invite multiple teammates to join the team to get an idea of who worked on which tasks.
- Time tracking with unlimited users and projects
- Reporting system
- Desktop & Mobile App Available
Pricing: Free forever
4. Business Tools for Tasks Management – Jira
Project management tools are essential when working in a team environment. We have worked with different types of project management tools before, including Trello by Atlassian, but we decided to stick with Jira because of the complexity and ease of use. Our team has less than 10 users, for now, so we are still on Jira’s free plan. We are able to create unlimited projects and tasks, then set the assignee and due date for each task. The assignee, watcher, reporter and the person tagged will receive app and/or email notifications for the tasks. However, in the free plan, a maximum number of email notifications will be sent. I personally think that it is easier to download the Desktop or Mobile app, so you can get notified without checking your email.
Another benefit of Jira is that it can integrate with different apps. For example, we integrate with Google Calendar and Clockify for free. The integration is very quick and straightforward. We don’t have to log onto many websites to do different things anymore. With Jira, before we start working on each task, we just need to go to the Jira task and turn on the Clockify timer on the specific task. It will automatically sync the data with Clockify, so you can still generate reports through your Clockify account. Better yet, it will help you create the projects and tasks automatically on Clockify, so you don’t have to manage both places. Suppose you need to sync any tasks with your calendar as a reminder. In that case, you can also link your Google Calendar account, and it will automatically create the calendar event in Google.
- Scrum/Kanban boards
- Agile reporting
- App Integration
- Desktop & Mobile App Available
Pricing: Free plan available
5. Business Tools for Communication – Whatsapp
You may be wondering, why do we need a messaging app if we have already subscribed to Google? Most Malaysians use Whatsapp for work. Therefore, it is essential for us to use messaging apps for immediate response or ask for the team’s opinions. Emailing is just a formality to keep everyone in the loop.
We find messaging apps especially useful if we need to provide feedback on a design. Once we receive the first draft, we can forward the image, add your doodle to the design and send it back to the designer. If we were to do it through email, we need to first edit the photo editing software’s design before sending it back.
Secondly, we may need an immediate response from the client to proceed with our work. For example, the client may have 20 more emails to read before getting to our email. We can ‘cut the queue’ by PM-ing them for direct response.
- Voice & Video Call
- Encrypted Messages
6. Social Media Tools for Meta Businesses – Meta Messenger
We let new prospects connect with us via email, website contact form and Meta messenger. I have seen many companies using different chatbots and live chatting apps. However, I still find Meta messenger particularly useful because Meta is widely used in Malaysia, and as a digital marketing agency, we check Meta every day. We have the Meta live chat snippet on every page of our website, so anybody who lands on our website can immediately contact us through the chat bubble at the bottom right corner of the website. In the backend of Meta messenger, we can track which web page the user is contacting us from.
Recruiting can be a headache for some businesses. You may have a job opening, but you don’t know where to find the right talent. We have tried different job platforms before, such as Job Street and Wobb Jobs, but with these platforms, the fees they charge is too massive for a small business like us, and it is not guaranteed that we can find the right talent for the position. On the other hand, Headhunting companies are more reliable for the price because they will be able to help you find the right talent with your requirements, and you only pay them when the recruitment is successful.
As a small business, we would like to minimize the cost as much as possible, and we are thankful that we found a few free job platforms like Indeed and Jora. They will keep your job active for a certain period of time, and you can choose to continue the career if you haven’t found ‘the one’. All information of the candidates is visible to you without any additional cost. When the candidates apply, they can answer a few predefined questions first to filter the candidates before scheduling an interview. You can choose to pay a small fee to get your job listings more visible.
However, different job posting platforms are suitable for various industries such as design agencies, education institutions and accounting firms. There are also other free job posting platforms available that might be more suitable for your business, such as MyFutureJobs, Ricebowl and Meta.
- Job Management
Pricing: Free plan available
8. Business Tools for Sales Activities – Hubspot
Lastly, sales are an essential part of the business. Sales tools can cost a fortune sometimes, but in my opinion, if you are clear about what you want to track, you will be able to find the cheapest tool. We use Hubspot to keep track of all sales activities, from prospecting to sales closed. We can invite multiple team members so all of us can see the sales within the company. The dashboard of Hubspot is very comprehensive, and we can see all the necessary details of the sales at every stage. We can also filter the sales by status and year to see and analyse the numbers more clearly. We can also generate reports to determine who made the most sales in the team this year and reflect on how we can do better next year.
- Contact & Company Management
- Deals, Tasks & Activities Management
- Gmail and Outlook integration
- App Marketplace integrations
- Ad management
- Shared inbox
- Reporting dashboard
- Email tracking & notifications
- Email templates
- Meeting scheduling
- Meta Messenger integration
- Custom properties
Pricing: Free plan available
9. Business Tools for Invoices – Sliced Invoices
After the sales are closed, we need to invoice the clients. As the team grew, we needed a more systematic way to generate and track the invoices, and then we discovered Sliced Invoices. Sliced Invoices is a WordPress plugin that we can install on our WP website. In the backend, we just need to create an account for the prospect or client with their name, company name and email address, and then we can create multiple quotations and invoices to be sent to them. We can track who has already viewed, accepted or rejected the quotes. Once the clients have paid, we can mark the invoices as delivered to know who our debtors are. We can also create scheduled invoices for our monthly retainer clients to automatically send out the invoices every month on the billing date. We can also connect the plugin with Stripe, so clients who prefer to pay via Credit card can also make payment easily.
- Customisable invoice & quote design and templates
- Filter & Reporting
- Pre-defined line items
- Customisable labels
- Multiple currencies
- Payment Gateway Integration
- Mobile responsive
- Client management
- Translation ready
- Tax per line item and global tax settings
- Scheduled invoices
Pricing: Free & Paid
Free or Premium Plans?
You may not need big investments to get the best business tools for your brand or company. If you are able to make full use of the free business tools available, you are also able to do wonders. For ourselves, we are only paying for G Suite over the past few years. If you are a decision-maker in the business, you should always communicate with the team members and get their opinion on what is best to maximize efficiency.
If you have any suggestions regarding business tools, or any enquiries about business tools that enhance your online business, feel free to share them with us at the chat bubble below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.