Joe Silverman, the owner of tech repair company New York Computer Help, knows what it's like to run a small business without the benefit of mobile apps. He launched his New York City-based company in 2000, seven years before the first iPhone debuted.
"I remember starting out when everything was sticky notes and pieces of paper," he says. When his workers went to businesses to provide services on site, they had to fax in reports. But the 25 employees of New York Computer Help don't have to worry about using fax machines anymore. "Nothing is on paper now," Silverman says. "I love it."
Ashvin Prakash, director of product development at small business savings solutions firm Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, says business apps are ideal for small firms that have limited resources. Apps can reduce costs and provide affordable solutions for payroll, time management, expense tracking and other needs.
So, if you're looking to give your business a boost in productivity, download these small business apps.
[Read: Best Budget Apps.]
Business Apps for Cash Flow
Every small business needs a way to develop a budget and track its cash flow. The following are among the best business apps specializing in those services:
-- Concur Invoice
For cash flow, Silverman uses QuickBooks. While he worried the robust software would be clunky on a mobile device, he's found it to be an invaluable resource for managing money on the go. The best benefit of the tool: a payment feature allows his workers to send electronic invoices and collect money at the time of service. "The return on that is obvious," Silverman says. "We get paid right away. We don't have to chase (clients) for payment."
Pricing for QuickBooks starts at $12.50 per month for the Simple Start plan.
Offering features such as invoicing, accounting and payments, FreshBooks is another convenient way to manage your business's cash flow. The service can also handle expenses, time tracking and project estimates. Meanwhile, its mobile app makes it easy to stay on top of finances across multiple devices and when working remotely.
A Lite version of FreshBooks, which includes five billable clients, costs $13.50 a month. The more popular Plus option runs $22.50 a month and supports up to 50 billable clients. All plans can be tried for free.
Offered by business solutions firm SAP Concur, Budget syncs expense, invoice and travel data in one place. Unlike other apps that may stand alone, Budget integrates its features with other SAP Concur products.
One of the benefits of Budget is the chance to proactively manage spending. "With many adopting e-commerce and digital payments, (owners) need a budget solution that can complement existing business tools and digitally control spend in the moment," says Val Blatt, business head and general manager of global SMB at SAP Concur.
Pricing for Budget varies depending on the business size and needs, but a free trial is available.
Small business owners who like Budget may find Concur Invoice is the right solution to integrate and automate paper and electronic invoice management. The app, also offered by SAP Concur, uses machine learning to collect and pay invoices. "Not only does it help companies manage spending in near real time, it also builds supplier relationships when both parties can receive, approve and pay invoices within payment terms," Blatt says.
There are two editions of Concur Invoice available to small businesses, and pricing can vary. However, business owners can request a free trial before making a purchase.
Square is probably best known for pioneering the ability to accept credit card payments using a mobile device though its Point of Sale app. Since then, the company has expanded its services to offer an app for payroll and other business functions.
"They are moving beyond accepting payments," Prakash says. Square for Retail offers tools to manage inventory, track profitability, set up employee time cards and issue invoices. There are processing fees for accepting payments with Square and costs associated with its other services. For instance, the Square Payroll app charges $29 per month, plus $5 per person to handle employee and contractor payments.
Business Apps for Finances
While cash flow and budgeting apps can help companies track money, they may not be designed to process documentation, store receipts or take care of other human resources tasks. "Traditionally, you've had to do these expense reports and upload (everything) to a PDF document," Prakash says. Now, with the following small business apps, workers can seamlessly store and send information electronically:
-- Concur Expense
-- Zoho Expense
As another app within the SAP Concur suite of business tools, Concur Expense can work in tandem with the Budget and Invoice apps. "Small businesses are adopting hybrid models that enable remote work and offer employees flexibility," Blatt says. Concur Expense works with that in mind. It can capture data from uploaded receipts, import numbers to expense reports and allow managers to approve those reports remotely.
Concur Expense allows both workers and supervisors to complete expense reports from anywhere, rather than waiting until they get back to the office. Pricing for Concur Expense varies, but businesses can request a free trial.
With Expensify, after scanning receipts, the app will automatically read and transcribe them into expense reports. It can even be configured to automatically submit the reports for approval. In the event a worker loses a receipt, Expensify can pull transactions from synced credit cards.
Expensify is free for up to 25 scans a month for personal users, but team pricing starts at $5 per active user per month.
With Zoho Expense, workers can scan receipts in multiple languages and managers can approve expenses in real time. The robust program makes it possible for employers to easily audit spending and monitor for compliance to company policies. Meanwhile, employees benefit with electronic reimbursements that can be received as soon as the day after an expense is approved.
Zoho Expense offers a free version for tracking expenses and mileage claims, but its more popular premium service runs $5 per month per active user.
If you're looking for a finance app that does more than track expenses, consider Gusto for payroll, time tracking, onboarding and more. While Gusto doesn't have an app for these services, it's mobile-friendly website can be used from your phone, tablet or other device. However, there is a Gusto Wallet app which business owners can provide free to workers to help them spend and save smartly.
Core pricing for Gusto starts at $39 per month plus $6 per person per month. These plans offer direct deposit for payroll, employee onboarding tools and workers' compensation and health insurance administration. More comprehensive plans are available at a higher price point.
Xero is a comprehensive app that can handle a wide range of business financial needs. It tracks bills, simplifies employee expense claims, records data and generates reports. It can be used as an online filing system and has inventory management and invoicing capabilities as well.
Pricing starts at $11 a month for the Early plan which is suitable for freelancers and new businesses. For full capabilities, businesses will need the Established plan, which costs $62 per month. All plans are 50% off for the first two months, and a 30-day free trial is available.
[Read: 13 Small Business Ideas.]
Business Apps for Time Management
Small business apps provide solutions for a number of time-management issues, including worker scheduling and workflow collaboration. The following are among the best small business management apps:
-- When I Work
When I Work
When I Work is Silverman's app of choice for scheduling employees. "What's great is that everyone sees everyone else's shift," he says.
Employees can ask for time off or swap hours with another worker via the app. That means Silverman doesn't have to handle these requests directly, freeing up time to work on other tasks. Plus, the app will remind users of their work schedule, and it can use GPS to confirm whether someone arrived for their shift on time.
For businesses with up to 100 employees, When I Work costs $2 per user per month. Custom pricing is available for larger enterprises. There is also a 14-day free trial for those who want to try the app before they commit to the service.
Trello is a popular app for teams that need to collaborate on projects. It allows businesses to create boards and checklists and assign team members to specific tasks. When those jobs are done, everyone else assigned to the project can be notified that it's time to move on to the next step or task.
Trello offers a free version, but its more robust options, a Business Class plan (for $10 per month when billed annually) and its Enterprise plan (custom priced), provide greater security, the ability to attach larger files and dedicated customer support services.
With KanbanFlow, teams can quickly see the status and progress on shared projects. Tasks can be assigned to workers and then moved from boards to indicate items that are upcoming or in progress. The app integrates a Pomodoro timer which is designed to boost productivity by prompting workers to take short breaks for every 25 minutes of work time.
A basic version of KanbanFlow is available for free. However, to access features such as a calendar, reports and integration with other apps, you'll need the premium service which costs $5 per user per month.
When it comes to organizing his personal to-do list, Silverman relies on the Todoist app. He can color-code tasks to categorize them, and the app also measures progress and sends reminders. There is a free version of Todoist as well as a premium version (for $3 per month) that comes with automatic data backups and features like customizable tags.
This is another app Silverman uses for his business. It allows users to set up actions to be implemented automatically when certain triggers occur. "For instance, if you want your (customer relationship management) system or Outlook calendar to automatically send contacts to an Excel sheet, Zapier can tie (them) together," Silverman says. The result is automated tasks that free up time for business owners to focus on more important matters.
Zapier offers a free plan that will complete up to 100 tasks per month. Paid plans start at $19.99 per month when billed annually, and the starter plan will complete up to 750 tasks per month.
Business Apps for Organization
To keep everything organized, business owners may find the following apps helpful:
-- Google One
-- Scanner Pro
-- Acrobat Pro DC
Silverman says Google Drive plays an integral role in his business. The cloud storage service is where documents are stored and organized into folders. Files can be shared with employees who can then access them remotely via an app.
Google One accounts offer access to Drive storage and are inexpensive with 15 gigabytes of space offered free. The cost for 100 gigabytes of storage is $1.99 a month; 200 gigabytes of storage cost $2.99 per month.
While there are many business apps that will scan receipts and documents, Scanner Pro is the one that led Silverman to ditch the fax machine. "What I love is that it stores everything," he says.
Using optical character recognition technology, the app can scan documents and turn them into PDF files which can then be organized in the app or sent to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive. Scanner Pro can be downloaded and used for free on iOS devices. Advanced features such as auto-uploads to the cloud require a subscription to Scanner Pro Plus, which costs $19.99 per year.
Acrobat Pro DC
Businesses that need to capture and store electronic signatures may find that Acrobat Pro DC meets their needs. In addition to offering e-sign tools, the app lets users create, convert, edit and share PDF documents.
"Our research revealed that more than half of small business owners still struggle with physical paperwork every day, which means days of lost time shuffling paper," says Todd Gerber, vice president of Adobe Document Cloud. "We want to give small businesses what they need to ditch the pen, paper and postage for good."
Acrobat Pro DC costs $14.99 per month with a one-year commitment. A seven-day free trial is available. There is also an Acrobat Standard DC option for Windows that costs $12.99 per month.
Evernote is one of the best apps for small business owners who want to capture and organize their thoughts and ideas. The app lets users scan documents, clip from the web and add their own ideas, audio and images to their notes. Then, that information can be shared across other apps such as Gmail, Microsoft Teams and Slack.
A basic version of Evernote is available for free, but those who want more features, such as access to notes offline and team management, will need to pay for a Premium ($7.99 per month) or Business ($14.99 per month) plan.
For inventory organization, Sortly offers an easy way to track items and monitor stock levels. It will generate custom bar codes and QR codes and allow business owners to access inventory information from any device.
The Advanced plan is the app's most popular option. It costs $39 per month when billed annually. There is also a free version with limited capability.
Business Apps for Communication
Good communication is essential to an efficient workplace. The following apps make it easy to keep everyone in the loop:
-- Google Workspace
-- Microsoft Teams
A popular option, Slack lets teams create channels that can support text, voice and video conversations. Participants can share files, search channel conversations and integrate other tools such as the customer service software Zendesk.
While there is a free basic version of Slack available, the standard version costs $8 per month per active user when billed monthly. The standard and plus versions come with added features such as external access to channels and added storage.
Voxer is a walkie-talkie app that lets you share messages and files with a group. It allows team members to communicate easily. While Voxer is available as a free app, the pro version ($3.99 per month per user) includes voice-to-text transcription, Dropbox integration and enhanced security. The business plan ($6 per month per user) allows a business to create a private communications network.
Businesses that prefer to use Google applications such as Drive, Docs and Sheets will find Google Workspace also includes convenient communication tools. Google Chat allows for one-to-one or group messaging while Google Meet is ideal for bringing remote workers together for face-to-face meetings.
The Business Starter plan for Google Workspace includes custom email, video meetings with up to 100 participants and 30 GB of cloud storage per user. The plan costs $6 per user per month. The Standard plan runs $12 per month per user and includes the option to record video meetings and have up to 150 participants.
If Microsoft is your preferred application provider, Microsoft Teams allows workers to chat, join video calls and share documents seamlessly. Sign-up is free, and there is no cost or commitment to use the basic service. However, calls are capped at 60 minutes and 100 participants, and they cannot be recorded. For advanced features, make a one-year commitment to Microsoft 365 Business Basic for $5 per month per user.
Discord got its start as a place where gamers could connect, and it continues to be a popular place for people to gather and chat about shared interests. While not created with businesses in mind, this free service provides a cost-effective way for business owners to create private servers where team members can chat, talk, video conference and share screens as they collaborate on projects.