Guide

Small-business owners: Step it up with these apps

Run a business from your phone
Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images

Being a small-business owner can mean being your own IT department — and for entrepreneurs on the go, your phone is your workhorse.

Mobile phones are a huge expense for growing businesses, with 50 to 70 percent of small and medium enterprises in major economies paying for some portion of their employees' mobile phones, according to a January report by The Boston Consulting Group and Qualcomm.

But a commitment to mobile can pay off big time, too: Closing the gap of mobile adoption among small enterprises could decrease national unemployment by more than 10 percent, the study found, using samples from the U.S., Germany, South Korea, Brazil, China and India.

"The app ecosystem is an incredible opportunity to level the playing field for small business," said Sara Oberst, vice president of marketing at Manta. "It allows great customer experiences and lets owners streamline their day and gives them time to grow their business."

Small-business experts shared their must-have apps with CNBC.

— By CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan
Posted 15 March 2016

Marketing: Yelp for business owners
Yelp for Business Owners
Source: Yelp.

Want to make eight grand? That's the average annual passive income that small businesses get from Yelp referrals, according to a Boston Consulting Group study of 4,800 enterprises. The annual benefit jumps to $23,000 for business that advertised on Yelp, BCG estimates.

There's a special version of the app for business owners, found here.

Scheduling: Amy (x.ai)
Amy x.ai app.
Source: Amy x.ai

While not technically a mobile app, robot assistant Amy can step in where mobile equivalent Siri leaves off, and ease the endless time-suck of emailing and scheduling.

"Until now, I've resisted hiring an assistant as one more measure to keep my company's burn rate low, so Amy has been a great resource for scheduling appointments offline," said Ajay Yadav, founder of Roomi, a social network-like marketplace for finding roommates.

(Found at the Web address x.ai)

Hiring: Fiverr
Fiverr app.
Source: Fiverr

Staying lean? Fiverr's a marketplace for freelance talent.

"[It's] good for hiring low-cost help in the marketing and technology area," said Diane Drey, chairperson of the New York City Chapter of SCORE, a free mentoring service for entrepreneurs affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

(For Apple and Android)


Social media: Hootsuite
Hootsuite
Source: Hootsuite

Forty-five percent of small businesses use social media to sell potential customers, according to the 2016 State of Small Business survey from Wasp Barcode Technologies. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are the top apps for businesses managing their social media accounts, according to marketing and app firm Clutch.

(Find Hootsuite for Apple and Android here)

Selling: QuickBooks GoPayments
Quickbooks GoPayment
Soure: Quickbooks Intuit

Intuit's QuickBooks GoPayment lets you plug a free card reader into your phone and book sales directly to QuickBooks.

"I would say most small business these days use QuickBooks for their accounting," said Ron Braithwaite, vice president of technology services at SMB Technologies in Portland, Oregon. "If you were in a situation where you need to take a credit card and your Internet connection is down for the store, or you're out in the field, you can scan a card."

(For Apple and Android)

Planning: Wunderlist
Wunderlist
Source: Wunderlist

Planning software is an essential tool for competitive small-business owners, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Braithwaite recommends Wunderlist — enthusiastically, in fact. "It's the best," he said.

(Wunderlist is for Apple and Android)

Calling: Flyp
Flyp app.
Source: Flyp

Who needs a landline when you have Flyp? It allows you to have multiple extensions that all route to your mobile device, and lets you organize how those calls are received and go to voicemail. It's one of the most popular apps that's been featured on Manta, an online community for small-business owners, according to Oberst.

(For Apple and Android.)

Networking: CamCard
CamCard app reads business cards instantly.
Source: CamCard.

New contacts are worth their weight in gold for growing businesses — but business cards aren't worth much at the bottom of a drawer, where they often end up. Enter CamCard, the digital way to scan and exchange business cards, and actually use the contact info on them.

Also recommended by Oberst, it's available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

Signing: Scanner Pro and GoodReader
ScannerPro
Source: ScannerPro

The boss has to sign off on everything. Luckily, Scanner Pro is "like having a desktop scanner in your phone" said Braithwaite. Once you've scanned a PDF of the document to your phone, you can mark it up to your hearts' desire on Good Reader, which opens documents across a variety of formats.

(Scanner Pro for is Apple; as is GoodReader)

Printing: PrintCentral Pro
PrintCentral Pro app.
Source: PrintCentral Pro

If you don't have an AirPrint-enabled printer, Brathwaite suggests this app to let you mix modern technology with that giant Canon copier at work — and print wirelessly from your mobile device.

(For Apple)

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