What Tools Do I Need to Operate My Small Business?

Not all small businesses, whether they’re a start-up or an established organization, have the funds to hire help for daily tasks that keep the business thriving. Yet, there are services and tools that are free or come at a small cost — if the business owner knows where to look.

RBFCU provides businesses the options they need to ensure their enterprises succeed. Through its partnership with the UTSA Small Business Development Center, RBFCU offers seminars on how to start and how to grow a small business. In addition, RBFCU offers business loans and is a leader among authorized Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.

According to Kabbage (an alternative to authorized SBA lenders), there are some amazingly useful free services with inexpensive add-ons that offer tremendous value to small business owners:

Small Business Administration — Described as “the top of the list of free services for small business owners,” assistance goes beyond loans to include free guides and other advice on its SBA website.

Service Corp of Retired Executives — Also known as SCORE, this is a nonprofit association that’s supported by the SBA and has a network of more than 11,000 volunteers who help businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals. SCORE volunteers are often retired business leaders who have had success in entrepreneurship and corporate positions. It includes free one-on-one counseling, business workshops, webinars and more than 300 local chapters with access to mentors.

Wide-reaching business services provider — This can come from a number of sources, including a credit union like RBFCU that offers low-cost, high-value products and services that make it easier for transactions, transfers of funds, receiving payments and more. The specific categories include merchant services (eCommerce, point of sale, terminals, etc.), payroll processing, Automated Clearing House, eDeposit, web and technology, and guest-user capability to allow trusted business associates to view business account details.

Email platforms — A free email service is truly a must for any business owner. Gmail is well-known as a free email provider that also provides access to a large suite of useful tools.

Media exposure — It’s great to make connections and to network, and services that connect you and your business ideas with media is included in that category. A service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) can help business owners get mentioned in a news story, article or book. You can connect with reporters, bloggers, editors and producers looking for insight from news sources such as small business owners.

File-hosting service — There are a surprising number of free file-hosting services that can help small businesses, including Dropbox. If you are often sending email attachments to employees, vendors or customers, you will probably find a file-hosting service to be a much easier solution for sharing files.

Conferencing — There are a number of video conferencing platforms available. If you frequently organize phone conferences, free services include FreeConferenceCall.com. It allows users to participate in teleconferencing with dozens of callers. These can be recorded, and the service enables access to the recordings for several weeks.

Social media — You can promote your small business by sharing links via Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. These links can often be long and complicated. In the case of Twitter, they can even be cut off if they exceed the character count for a tweet. URL link “shorteners” like Bitly and TinyURL offer free services.

Blogging — This is a great way for small businesses to connect with customers and prospects online. A popular platform is WordPress, which lets users create hosted blog sites and publish content without having to understand complicated programming languages. You can install themes to customize the look and functionality of the blog site. Plugins can be added to customize functions and to improve search engine optimization.

Email marketing — This is an effective way to stay in touch with your customers. A popular free service is MailChimp, which is a customer relationship management tool that enables you to send thousands of emails to subscribers each month. The tool is also integrated with Facebook and WordPress so that you can embed sign-up forms and collect subscribers on the customer relationship management platforms that you currently use.

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Please contact your own legal, tax or financial advisors regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based upon this information.

To open a business account, RBFCU personal accounts of all principal owners must be in good standing. Programs and fees subject to change.