Tools Tools Tools

Seven of my favorite softwares and resources that make small teams more effective.

January 17, 2020

It's rare that I would ever post something along these lines, but I've gotten asked about the tools I'm using as a one-man show to make my life easier. Without further adieu, here are my favorite seven.

G Suite by Google

A client of mine recently indicated that he had purchased G Suite but was not using it to its fullest potential. Since it's the base layer for all of my administrative and business responsibilities, it seemed like a great place to start. The core features that every startup should take advantage of are Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. By getting your whole team on these, the organizational integrity of your startup will get better. No more housing files on individual hard drives or trying to keep up with each other's schedules. It's all put right into a shared system. Apart from admin uses, services like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are suitable replacements for Microsoft Office. Think about all the burritos you could buy with an additional $7 per employee a month. That's a lot of frijoles.

Notion

As for tracking projects, posting work for clients, and documenting approval, Notion has been a gem. For starters, it's free software that combines the best elements of Trello, Evernote, and Google Docs into one, malleable software. Granted, the drawback is that there is a learning curve to really making this software work its magic for your team. Anyone working on product design, or long-term internal projects would get a kick out of Notion's visual layout for tracking progress.

Loom

Sometimes typing out a message just ain't enough and your collaborators need to hear your voice. What Loom allows me to do is send videos to clients to explain my thinking and giving in-depth walkthroughs of a particular project element. It's especially helpful when going over designs, website projects, and giving feedback on other items. The kicker is that it's free and since all of the videos are distributed via URL, it makes for an easy send on any communication or project management platform.

Zapier

You've got a lot of important shit to do and not a lot of time to do it. Any chance you get to automate a routine process is a chance to get back something invaluable: time. Because of Zapier's no-code principles, it allows users to connect independent web-apps based on a series of "if this, then that" operations. Whether you are looking to do simple things like automatically respond to a website form submission, or doing more complex stuff like webhooks, Zapier is the jam.

Unsplash

Good stock images are hard to come by, and it's even harder to find free images. Unspalsh has been a gem for finding high-resolution images to use on websites, within marketing collateral, or any other task where a good quality image is needed. There is a fault, in that since the images are free, it's easy for others to use the same ones. However, I've found that the workaround with this is to get creative and not be so literal with the images you're using. For example, if you're talking about a business crisis, don't use an image of a business person cringing at their desk. Find a picture of something on fire, or an earthquake to connote the idea of frantic chaos.

Calendly

Going back and forth trying to figure out a time to meet up with someone is a pain in the ass. Use Calendly instead.

Webflow

The no-code era is upon us. It's no longer necessary to bring in developers to build out custom websites or online applications. I have little to no code writing expertise, but I can build websites that include upvote features, sell tickets to events, and make it possible for marketing teams to work efficiently within a well-designed website. All without writing code. From a business perspective, this cuts out major bottlenecks like passing designs back and forth between a designer and a developer. Give developers the freedom they need to do heavy lifting on your startup team, let designers make the damn thing beautiful, and allow your marketing team to fire off content without worrying about how it will affect the site.

Links to each of the tools below:

GSuite

Notion

Loom

Zapier

Unsplash

Calendly

Webflow

More you say?

Rebellion is Contextual

Why you cannot simply focus on your startup to stand out.

4.17.2020

There's a two-fold mission to this statement: one part applies to your startup's value proposition/unique selling proposition and the other pertains to the brand (how your startup makes people feel).

In short, you must know what is out there so you can create something that stands out. Let's break it down using the categories listed above.

Value Proposition/USP
Most startups will resort to "lowest price" on this point, but we can do better than that. Instead, ask yourself what are the alternatives to your product and what do they lack that your customers need? Sometimes it's as simple as a better interface or a different distribution method (i.e. Dollar Shave Club going subscription for razor blades). This should indicate what the big selling point of your product is or at least inform you of what is lacking within your competitors. From there, you can adjust your messaging to hit on the specific pain point your customers are looking to ease.

Branding
No two companies are alike in nature. Not even if they are in the same industry. Guaranteed, there are cultural nuances and quirks within every company that make them unique and special. Frankly, most of them hide it behind a professional demeanor and an unwillingness to be human. So, your goal is to assess your competitors personalities and find a void to fill. If the majority of them come off as stoic and cold, you have an opportunity to be friendly and vulnerable. Granted, you have to know yourself, since you can't put on a false identity in the hopes of attracting people.

These two bits of research can inform almost every decision your company should make in marketing itself. They give you the reason people should buy your product and why they won't forget you.

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The Creative Curse

Creatives, entrepreneurs, and startup founder beware.

5.13.2020

Creative minds, though responsible for new ideas and solving big problems, have a huge shadow: the inability to give those new ideas time. This is especially true in branding. It's almost inevitable that after going through a new brand identity, strategy, etc, the desire to change will pop up. A new idea will strike and it must manifest or it will go away.

But int he context of branding, assuming you do a good job, you have to resist. Branding is something that should remain consistent and be given its due before making massive overhauls.

Commons areas where this desire arises:

  • Expanding target markets
  • Redoing the the name or logo
  • Expanding a color palette
  • Adding new typefaces

Look, these things might need to change, but if you have to let them settle before you can make an informed decision as to whether or not they need to change. This doesn't mean you can't change small things, like experimenting with new ads, altering your layouts, running A/B tests, but it should all cohere to the strategy you are trying to implement.

Point being: resist your creative impulses to start something new before your previous task has been finished and given time to rest.

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