The Only Five Apps Small Business Owners Need for a More Productive 2014

With so many free and inexpensive tools at our fingertips, business owners can forget that careful curation is the key to staying organized.

While it is true that technology can help to streamline how you run your business, sometimes too much e-clutter can complicate what you're trying to accomplish on a daily basis. To put our obsession with all things digital in perspective, research from Gartner estimates that approximately 102 billion apps were downloaded in 2013.‬ With so many free and inexpensive, tiny tools at our fingertips, on tablets and smartphones, small business owners can forget that careful curation is the key to staying organized.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

To kick-start your new year with some simple day-to-day software solutions, consider consolidating your business apps to the hard-working five listed below.

Make quick-and-easy notes - Evernote (iOS / Windows / Android)
Evernote is the grandfather of note-taking apps. This product works seamlessly as you move from your mobile device to your desktop, something business professionals increasingly do throughout the day. Whether you want to keep track of an upcoming business trip, save your favorite web pages while you're researching online, or simply share notes with colleagues, Evernote makes it a cinch. The company is so committed to satisfying all types of business users, that they've moved beyond the app world to offer physical products. For example, Evernote-enabled Moleskine journals are a great way to enhance your note-taking experience, so you have the simplicity of pen and paper with the searchability of the Evernote app.

Create and sync lists - Any.do / Cal (iOS / Android)
For most small business owners, each day starts with a long list of tasks. There are a number of apps that will help to organize your daily responsibilities, but award-winning Any.do is starting to rise above the rest. The app lets you quickly and easily add daily to-dos. Select "done" to scratch an item off your list, or defer it to another day. This allows you to play around with your tasks, so you can get them done even if it means moving them a few hours ahead to fit your schedule. The company also offers up an app called Cal, which makes it simple to create tasks within events that can be synced with Any.Do.

Collaborate with colleagues - Quip(iOS / Android)
Quip enables you to collaborate with others on documents. The app is a dream for business users who need to work on drafts and edits in real time, and keep in touch with constant updates. As the company says, Quip makes it easy to cut down on email because work groups can be notified on mobile devices as projects change and evolve. The app also works with attachments, and allows you to create and work on documents—even when you're offline.

Connect with industry news - LinkedIn Pulse (iOS / Android)
Approximately 22% of online adults use LinkedIn, according to recent findings from the Pew Research Center. The popular social network has evolved from a place to find a new job to a place to connect to the latest news from thought leaders and influencers. With the company's Pulse app you can personalize your reading experience to get down to the exact type of content you need to help you run a better business. If you're away from the Internet, you can load up your stories beforehand so you can read them when you're offline. What's more, you can share the articles you find to network with other professionals and grow your own LinkedIn community—all within one streamlined download.

Communicate in real time – HipChat (iOS / Android / desktop)
In a world where business professionals struggle on a daily basis to keep up with their email messages, HipChat comes to the rescue. This cross-platform tool makes it a cinch for your entire team to message one-on-one or in groups. Unlike other private messaging services, there is no server technology to maintain. Moreover, the price is right (free for teams of five or less, $2/user every month beyond that). With the company's desktop, mobile, and web apps, everyone in your business can readily be available to participate in a chat. Not only can HipChat help to decrease email messages among your team, it can also help team members communicate more effectively. After all, too many email messages go unanswered—and if they are answered it's often hours or days later, leading to a decrease in overall productivity.

Amber Mac is the President and Co-Founder of Konnekt Digital Engagement.

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