27 essential tools to kick-start your business (Part 2)

Tool #8: An email address

There are two schools of thought here. Get your own domain name so your email reads me@mysite.com. Or, get a gmail email address which is well known and accessible anywhere.

You might like to have multiple email addresses. For example, one address for you personally, another for inquiries and yet another for your website administrator, or “webmaster”.

Tool #9: A multi-functional Printer

I can highly recommend an all-in-one printer. Mine has a fax, printer, scanner and copier all built into one convenient, space saving device. I don’t need printing speed, just ease of use.

These multi-function devices are your most cost-effective bet if you are small business. They are dirt cheap nowadays, the quality is great and most do color or black-and-white.

Tool #10: Training material

Since your time is so valuable, it pays to have training and reference material at your fingertips.  Every minute you waste hunting for information is a minute you cannot bill at your high rates. Take it from me, time seems to slip through your fingers at every opportunity. Five minutes spent researching how to eliminate an annoying bug on your system turns into a whole afternoon. Don’t let it happen.

Get manuals that relate to the area in which you specialise. If you train, for example, get some decent manuals on Word, Excel and Access. It is also wise to get something on using Windows, whichever version you currently run. You do not have to buy them all at once. Purchase the most useful material first and buy the rest as your needs grow and your time becomes increasingly valuable.

Store them in Evernote for easy access at any time.

Tool #11: Collapsible training pointer

Ever seen one of these? They look like a pen but you can pull out the telescopic end and it becomes a 3-foot pointing device. It’s a bit like an old-fashioned car aerial.

These are excellent for training. If you don’t get one you are forever leaning over at awkward angles trying to point to the screen with your finger to demonstrate things. A lot of the time it’s no good saying, “Click on Tools on the Menu Bar” because the client may say “What’s a Menu Bar?” or “Where? I can’t see Tools.”

Clients love them to. They think you will “discipline” them with it and it then becomes a point of fun that breaks the ice.

You should be able to pick one up for very little money.

I personally much prefer these type of pointers compared to the laser pens. You don’t want a lawsuit on your hands after blinding your favorite client!

Tool #12: Marketing books

It’s no good being a techie with all those wonderful computer skills if nobody can understand what you can offer. This area is so important and critical to your success that you simply must study marketing and study it hard.

The person who said, “Build a better mousetrap and they’ll come beating a path to your door” probably went bankrupt days after they said such a stupid thing. Don’t believe such nonsense unless you want to forever be struggling at the bottom of the heap.

When I placed my first advert – 1 year before starting my business properly – I got zero response so I gave up. After all, who wants to waste money on advertising when clearly it wasn’t working. Then, during that year, I read copious amounts of marketing material.

One year later, when I started to advertise again I was armed with my word “cannon” and wrote adverts that sold and sold well. I’m no genius on the English language – it took me three attempts to scrape a pass at my English language exam at school. But marketing uses simple words that a 10-year-old can understand. It is easy to learn and anyone can master it.

Look at the chapter on “10 Hot books every IT entrepreneur simply must read” for recommendations.

Tool #13: Looking the part with a Smart Suite & Briefcase

A dark blue navy suit is considered the most authoritative suit according to researchers. People perceived you to have higher status and more in control when dressed this way. This applies to men and I’m afraid I don’t know about women – sorry!

Get some smart good quality shoes. Keep them highly polished and make sure the back of the heels haven’t got the polish worn off them. This often happens if you start clocking up the miles in your car as the heel is constantly being rested upon.

Follow this dressing advice and you will turn up looking the part. When you get to know your clients, some will say come more casually dressed as this may fit their culture more. But never do it the other way around. It’s never a problem to be overdressed, always a problem to be underdressed. I’ve made both mistakes and have been told to not turn up so casually dressed in future. It is highly embarrassing when it happens.

A decent briefcase is great for storing your sales literature along with CD’s, pens, reference manuals and training literature.

Get something smart and avoid plastic. Don’t get one of those ultra thin ones. I did, but it kept falling over which was a real pain.

When you get yourself a laptop, you might find it fits nicely inside the briefcase, although be careful if you are a bit gung ho with it.

Tool #14: Dual Monitor setup

One of the best things I ever did was to create a dual monitor setup on my PC. Currently, I have two 24″ monitors side-by-side.

You end up with having more screen real estate within which to work. For example, if you were creating websites, you can design the website on one screen and having the browser version viewable on the other screen. One screen could have a higher screen resolution so that it is easier to work in. The other can have a resolution most surfers will be using, so you can quickly check for correct sizing of website tables. Or, do your programming on the right screen while referring to your favorite programming websites on the left screen. Get the idea?

It really does save you time and once you make the change, you will not want to go back.

27 essential tools to kick-start your business (Part 3)