9 Essential Business Tools We Use Every Day for our Remote Company
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
As a remote team of work from home moms we've had to figure out tricks to make our work flow easy, dialed in - so we feel like we're connected even though we're often far apart - and most importantly, super efficient.
Running a business from home (while what feels like dozens of incredibly loud and very needy children are running around your feet wreaking havoc and destroying all your nice things) requires not only a saintly amount of patience and fortitude, but also extreme discipline and a LOT of organization. And no matter if you consider yourself to be a solo entrepreneur, or you're working remote for someone else, or your on the C team for The Next Big Thing, you're gonna need a suite of incredibly efficient tools to get the job done.
Our team at Band of Mothers Media has "worked from home" for the past 8 years, and we span across all of the USA. The founders are based in Denver, but the rest of our crew is in Florida, California, New York, Illinois and England. With 6 different time zones and kiddos to raise ages 2-21, our group of awesome moms has churned through loads of apps and platforms over the years in search of tools to help us keep it all together.
At long last (and after large learning curves that made us all bang our heads against our kid's play kitchens) we're finally in a groove that allows us to maintain a traceable work flow and easy communication, no matter when anyone might be online doing their tasks. In many ways we admit there's just nothing like getting together in person to get the job done, but from another perspective we are all so grateful that we're able to be home with our kids, drop off and pick them up from school, shuttle them around to all their activities, run errands when we need to and generally drive ourselves bat shit insane trying to balance it all. But seriously! We're grateful!
So, after much testing and head-banging, here are our most utilized efficiency tools that we wholeheartedly recommend to anyone working from home in this digital age:
1. Zoom. Obvi.
Not to toot our own horns, but we've been using zoom for team meetings and person to person calls for YEARS. A lot of the time people used to tell us we were crazy and roll their eyes when we requested that a meeting take place over video call but it's been one of our core values to be as wholehearted as possible, and you just can't do that if you can't see someone else's face. We're so glad COVID made everyone realize video calls aren't the enemy, and you can be darn sure we'll be logging on in PJs with greasy hair and no makeup to plan for World Domination long after the pandemic is over.
2. Voxer. The bain of our existence.
We'll be honest. We have a real love/hate relationship with Voxer. If you're not familiar, think of Voxer as a walkie-talkie app combined with a more elevated use of voicemail that also has text and photo/video capabilities. So, if you have a thought, comment or idea that you know won't translate via email or text (or you just don't have the strength to type it all out) and you're not sure if the person you need to speak with is available for a phone call exactly when you want to talk, you can simply Vox that person (or a bunch of peeps on a thread) your message and they can listen to it at their earliest convenience. You can also type out a text and send photos and videos and thankfully they also have gif options because what is 21st century communication without a clever gif.
We moved everyone over to Vox so that our personal text messages weren't getting consumed with work stuff, and so we could "speak" to each other without interrupting someone's meeting, school pick up, dinner or work out. The problem however is this:
The Voxer notification alert is possibly the most irritating noise ever created and we all + everyone in our families literally cringe when we hear it. Most of us have the notifications turned off, but sometimes you need it on and it SUCKS.
Often if we get too busy and everyone is wearing 27 hats, we'll inadvertently use Voxer as a conversation tool and instead of just picking up the phone and quickly calling a teammate, we'll spend hours voxing back and forth and listening to all the messages can get really overwhelming.
Voxer's updates are notoriously bad, and we've yet to endure an app update that didn't take two steps back somehow. Basically, it's not very stable tech, and you may not even get any notification that someone left you a Vox, or you may leave a 2:30 message and the recipient can't play it, or the whole thing just crashes out on you. That said, we haven't found anything better.
We can't state enough that it sometimes gets overused where a simple phone call, or clearly written email would work better.
That being said, it's a nifty tool, and if you can come to terms with how to use it responsibly we highly recommend it.
3. Monday.com. Our central hub for the Brain Trust.
We love Google Docs, and our Director of Operations really REALLY loves spreadsheets, but sometimes remembering and finding access to dozens of shared docs gets really overwhelming. We needed something that could manage everyone's tasks at a glance, keep us on track for product launches and big roll-outs, house sensitive information we all need access to, and give us a space to really see our work flow unfold with details and accountability. We looked at Slack, we tried Basecamp, we test ran lots of other efficiency apps but ultimately Monday felt like it offered the most robust set of organizational and informational options, and we love the customer service, their constant check-ins with their customers asking for what can be improved and their almost irritating devotion to helping companies get better organized. Monday.com offers way too many attributes to write here, but do check it out if you're in need of a launching pad to really start making passive income from home.
4. A Shared Google Calendar. Because we busy. Really, REALLY busy.
We're ashamed to admit it took many years to figure this one out, but eventually everyone was so busy, traveling so much and had so many kids in so many schools with so many appointments we reached a breaking point in understanding each other's schedules. A shared Google Calendar isn't quite as intuitive as it should be for being run by the world's larges tech overlords, but once you get everyone set up and reprogrammed to always ALWAYS add their conflicts, meetings, and out of office days to the cal, scheduling meetings (and even knowing when you can call someone) will become much easier. Some of use iCal for our personal stuff, and while you can import what you add to iCal into Google Calendar, it isn't automatic, which is annoying. That said, we hate HATE Outlook and will never EVER use it, and so this seems to be the best option. Plus, it's free or part of the G Suite bundle of products and you can access it via desktop or an app.
5. Dropbox. Our filing cabinet in the sky.
Even more than we use Google Docs (which is daily), our entire "office" is (gulp) stored in the cloud of Dropbox. If you don't use Dropbox as a team, do it now. You won't find an easier way to collectively access files of every kind from word docs to keynotes to massive videos. It's affordable, and offers lots of flexibility if you need to just share a few things with an outside team member or consultant. Plus, you can sync your iPhone to automatically upload every photo you ever take forever which means no matter what you'll never lose your pics which is pretty cool and works way better than iCloud.
6. Acuity Scheduling. Makes us look like we know what we're doing.
To schedule our Band of Mothers podcast, and to ease the tedious back and forth of "which times are you available" we set up an account with Acuity scheduler so people we need to meet with or record and simply access a calendar of available meeting times and choose the one that works best. Acuity is really great if you have a business requiring lots of appointments like personal training, a salon, tutoring etc. The interface is clean and classy and you can even brand it a little with your own logos and colors.
7. Wix. REALLY makes us look like we know what we're doing.
For us, Wix websites are where it's at. Wix's drag and drop designer really is the absolutely easiest way to build a new website quickly and beautifully. Other website platforms say you don't need experience building websites to create one, but from where we sit Wix is the only website building platform where it's true. You can literally whip up a gorgeous website in minutes with zero experience. And if you have a basic knowledge of coding and website design? The sky's the limit. Every site withing the Band of Mothers Media brand is a Wix site and we won't be leaving anytime soon.
8. Docusign. Because scanning is so 2016.
Do the words "please print, sign and rescan" cause the hairs on the back of your neck to raise? Us too. We hate HATE having to print out documents to sign (mainly because we're always running out of printer ink) and who has the time to rescan, save, and then email someone back? Blech! Docusign is a slick program that allows you to upload any legal docs and contracts you need signed, email them securely and get them back quickly with electronic signatures. Love it.
9. Southwest Airlines. Four words: Two. Free. Checked. Bags.
Five more words: They. Send. You. Drink. Tickets.
When The Pump and Dump Show is on the road, at any given time we have between 3 to 8 people flying somewhere in America. Most of the population is aware of the greatness of Southwest, but for a small business that needs to budget travel and also have extremely dependable travel, Southwest is just the best. Their customer service is unparalleled, as is the perks that come with their tickets (like two free checked bags and super easy flight changes without penalties) and we will we Southwest Airline groupies forever for this reason.
We hope some of these tools helps you in your own business! Go get 'em!