Hiring and Growth

These Are the Best Productivity Tools, According to 250+ Small Business Owners

Kira Deutch Content Marketer, Gusto 
The Best Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners in 2018

We asked over 250 small business owners about the tech tools they swear by. Based on 500-plus hours of research, here is our curated list of the best apps and software for tiny companies—as told to us by real small business owners.


Yes, Google Drive is the obvious tool small business owners use to streamline their work.

In fact, 38 percent of entrepreneurs use Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Google Slides (or some combination thereof). That’s why we asked owners to tell us about the productivity tools they use beyond the Google universe.

Here are the secret gems business owners use to make their small teams more efficient at work.

Best for business owners who want to stop micromanaging: Monday

Monday _ Best Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners

“Monday helps you see everything you’re working on in a bigger scale,” says Kenny Tjay, the owner of Las Vegas-based video production agency, Indiemarch Film. He uses Monday to delegate tasks to employees and freelancers and track how projects are going through its single, all-encompassing board.

Why business owners recommend it

  • It curbs micromanaging tendencies. “It’s a good visual representation of what everyone’s doing. I can see what everyone is working on without standing over their shoulder,” says Tjay.
  • It’s easy for business owners to give direction—and for employees to take it. Tjay assigns a task to his team, and it gets listed in an Excel Sheet. His employee or freelancer gets a notification about the task, they can check it off as done, and then Tjay gets a notification that it’s completed.
  • It’s good for visual businesses. Companies that deal with a lot of assets—like creative agencies, photography companies, or event planners—will appreciate the ability to add a document to each task. “The cool thing is that you can attach graphics or whatever else you work with to the task,” Tjay says. “It keeps it all in one place.”

Things to keep in mind

  • It might not be the best bang for your buck. “It’s a little pricey—$25 a month feels like a lot for that kind of tool,” says Tjay.
  • It’s not 100 percent mobile-friendly. One respondent mentioned that larger project boards are harder to manipulate on mobile because the zoom feature can feel clunky while trying to get to the right size.
  • You can’t connect boards to each other. Right now, “pulses,” or visual lists of what your team is working on, can’t be connected, which can be annoying for folks who do similar tasks on a variety of projects.

Price

  • Monday starts at $25 a month for the basic plan, which covers five users. If you pay for the year upfront you can save 18 percent, while two years upfront will save you 32 percent.
Plan for five usersPrice if billed annuallyPrice if billed monthly
Basic$25 per user, per month$29 per user, per month
Standard$39 per user, per month$48 per user, per month
Pro$59 per user, per month$72 per user, per month
Enterprise$118 per user, per month$144 per user, per month

Best for business owners who send way too many emails: Mixmax

Mixmax _ Best Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners

According to Sim Thadani, the talent acquisition lead at Springboard, Mixmax is the unsung hero of email badassery. It’s a Chrome extension that sits on top of Google Calendar and is basically like a crystal ball for email senders—it shows you things you couldn’t see before.

Why business owners recommend it

  • You can get a better read on the people you’re emailing. Let’s say you’re emailing clients, employees, or potential candidates. Mixmax lets you see who read your emails, who clicked links, and more. This can give business owners a better handle on their prospects’ interest and context level.
  • It makes scheduling meetings a breeze. Mixmax lets contacts book time with you directly in the email instead of going to another website. It then automatically sets up an invite for the both of you. This is a killer feature, especially for people doing a lot of interviewing.
  • It’s as powerful as a CRM tool. “It’s almost a CRM-ish tool,” Thadani explains. “It builds on the basic email tools and gives you more functionality with the dashboard. I use it on my personal email, too.”

Things to keep in mind

  • It can feel creepy. You might feel like you’re “knowing too much” about the people you’re emailing, says Thadani, since it exposes you to actions (like opens and clicks) that you typically don’t get to see when sending emails.
  • The free version is limited. You can only send 100 emails and schedule 10 events a month. The email templates are also limited to 10. Given all that, it makes sense to upgrade to the paid version if you really want to take advantage of it.
  • It can slow down your Gmail. Some respondents reported experienced a lag when using their Gmail accounts because of the Mixmax extension.

Price

  • Mixmax offers a 14-day free trial along with a 25 percent discount if you decide to get billed annually.
PlanPrice if billed annuallyPrice if billed monthly
Starter$9 per user, per month$12 per user, per month
Small Business$24 per user, per month$29 per user, per month
Growth$49 per user, per month$65 per user, per month
EnterpriseContact MixmaxContact Mixmax

Best for business owners who don’t have an assistant (but seriously need one): Superhuman

Superhuman is an email app designed to streamline every part of your email experience. “I’m obsessed with Superhuman,” says Maia Bittner, the CEO of Pinch. “I use it every day.”

Why business owners recommend it

  • You can snooze emails you don’t need to get to right away. “It has all the normal features plus some fancy ones,” explains Bittner. “You can snooze things and archive them. My favorite feature is the one on my phone where I can snooze an email for a week or until the next time I’m on my desktop, unless the person replies.”
  • The keyboard shortcuts are ridiculous. “It has great shortcuts for sophisticated things,” Bittner says. “If I get an email from someone saying, ‘I’d love to get coffee, are you free next Tuesday,’ it puts the calendar next to the email. As you begin typing, it highlights Tuesday at 2 and then changes your calendar so it includes that meeting.”

Things to consider

  • You need to join a waitlist to get access. Superhuman is only targeting a fraction of the email market: business users who will pay a subscription for a more powerful email program.

Get on the Superhuman waitlist here.

Best for business owners who get bogged down by employee scheduling: Sling

Sling _ Best Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners

Sling is a scheduling and communication platform for companies that have employees who work in shifts, like restaurants and retail stores.

Why business owners recommend it

  • It speeds up the scheduling process. “You can see a complete schedule,” says Suzanna Cameron, owner of Stems Brooklyn, a New York-based floral event company. “You can message staff members to ask if they want to switch schedules and send time-off requests to the manager. It makes scheduling a lot faster.”
  • It helps your team work through scheduling conflicts. You can chat with other team members through the app to smooth out any scheduling snafus. However, some respondents noted that the chat feature is more similar to an email than an actual chat program.
  • It’s useful for businesses with multiple locations. Respondents also mentioned that they appreciate how Sling supports businesses with more than one location. Employers are able to check if employees are signing into the correct location and give directions so they’re more likely to find the right stop. Sling fans also appreciate the reports that break down how different locations are performing—so they can make smarter business decisions.

Fall in love with modern payroll

Things to consider

  • You can’t block days when the office is closed. Right now, all days are considered open, which can be annoying for businesses that close on the weekends or want to block certain holidays.
  • Employees can’t designate the type of PTO they’re requesting. This can be inconvenient for small businesses that track different types of PTO.
  • You can only see published shifts. Some respondents dislike the fact that you can’t see each other’s unpublished shifts, which can be helpful while negotiating a schedule.

Price

  • The basic plan is free. The Premium plan costs $1.75 per user per month and includes cost management, reporting, and time tracking.
PlanPrice
Free$0 per user, per month
Premium$4 per user, per month
EnterpriseContact Sling

Productivity is such a personal thing, which is why it’s way more useful when the tools you use can cross over from work to the rest of your life.

Give the tools above a whirl and see which ones help you maximize your time—while cutting out that whole frazzled feeling.

Best Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners Pinterest Image

Updated: December 17, 2019

Kira Deutch
Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is on the content team at Gusto, where she focuses on telling stories that empower small businesses across the country. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.

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