Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

The Absolute Startup Essentials. Part III.

Posted on: May 1, 2008

Putting the right tools in place, can make the difference between you having to be stuck in the office managing the team, vs, a system doing its job and you supervising and even better – you remote managing your team and keeping a pulse on how things are progressing.

It sounds like a dream, but isnt too far.

Try the Zoho Suite. I had mentioned in the first part that you should get a corporate email. It seems Zoho offers that as well. Apart from Email, they offer the calendar suite, and everything from applications to take notes, to Wikis, to CRM, etc etc.

Google Analytics. The first thing you need to do after your website is up, is to essentially track your visitors, and ensure that the one channel that serves and mediates your image to the outside world is well taken care of. The second bit to this is to know how to use Google analytics. There are some very spiffy tools and insights that it can provide. See if you can leverage that.

If you can, get a Blackberry. There was a time when affording a blackberry was unthinkable. These days given that its price has touched just about the price point of a normal phone, its a luxury worth having. Email on the go, is something that once you get used to, will not depart away from.

Get a Project management tool in place. This is tough. And trust me, it will take its own sweet time for everyone to fall in place and start using it, but believe me when I say that without this you are not going to scale anywhere. You will end up baby sitting everyone. The only way to scale is to bring accountability and a mindless, neutral system to monitor everyone helps. Recommendation: Basecamp / Activecollab.

Financial Software: Your Excels are not going to hold those data for long. It is better to switch to a financial accounting software from the beginning to start with. There are plenty of freelancing accountants who will setup this process for you.

Invoice Application. Very soon, I assume you are going to run something for clients, and they are going to require invoices. By the time you figure out what template to use and what all is required, the client would have moved on to so many better things. Try Zoho’s Invoice Suite. Another option is Freshbooks.com

VNC: Virtual access is your best friend when you come home, and want to login to your development machine to get something out – after SSH. Block that darn FTP port and dont allow anything apart from secure access.

Anti-Virus. Firewall. AntiSpamware. You cannot afford to be stopped by these measly pests. Enough said.

Block Bittorrent. If you are on office lan, block the ports that Bittorrent uses. The sheer amount of network congestion that BT causes is not good for a productive environment. Block it at all means. Orkut is next on that list – you need to setup a HTTP Proxy for that.

Go Wireless. For Rs.3000 flat, you can go wireless. Eventually people are going to bring in their wireless and the fun element in a startup is the ability to be flexible. Go wireless from day one.

Theme the Office: You could be very cheap and not really look that way. A good chair will set you back by Rs. 5000 to anywhere upto 8000. But imagine if you can get bean bags, or even a few of those gym balls. I’ve been to offices where they have used floorings from Fabmall, thrown a couple of pillows on the ground, and had done an entire japanese – sitting on floor – with low tables and such. It looked fabulous. One could never pull off such things in a MNC.

Corporate Benefits:

When you are running a startup, the first thing your employees will feel is the lack of benefits. It doesnt take much to put together a few and bridge that gap.

1. Income Tax Filing: If you are paying fairly well, your employees will need to file their taxes in time. MYITReturn.com allows you to do it online. Set apart a date and get it all done, with an accountant.

2. Bring in a Financial Planner for Advice. If your Employees pinch the pennies, and do some planning, trust me, it helps you in the long run. Employees who dont save and burn everything every month, end up as liabilities when you yourself are on thin ice every month. Just before the end of the fiscal year, get a financial planner to come, and have a chat with everyone and get them all on a plan to save.

3. Corporate Mobile Plans. If you are anything more than a five people team, any mobile company would be interested to sell you some plans. Get a corporate plan for all your employees, and offer to cover upto Rs.500 in their bill. Also most corporate plans come with the option of being able to talk to each other for free. Will certainly go a distance in making sure they call and talk to each other when necessary. Picking up the phone and talking is still the best way to get something resolved Immediately.

3.b If you can get a guy to come and collect the payment every month as well, that’s even awesome stuff.

4. Suggest to your employees to stay close to where you work – not more than 30 mins commute time. Help them find a place nearby if required.

More to Follow.

Part One. Part Two. of this series.

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5 Responses to "The Absolute Startup Essentials. Part III."

Great and very valuable insights over here. I have a couple of points to think about around what to use as a hosting, development, deployment platform.. i think especially internet based startups should figure out if they can leverage google apps, facebook, salesforce.com platform apis to jumpstart their model .. rather than invest time and money on platform building.. i see technology models getting redundant every few years .. i think collaboration is now becoming a commodity with all the social networks, google apps and sharepoints.. similarly in every other area .. zoho is now giving a scare to salesforce with their pricing model .. i am sure similarly in other spaces as well with SAAS as a model will challenge a lot of established companies if they dont move soon enough. On the startup side need to be careful on this.

I know this is a little specific .. my 2 cents.

Kaushik,

I think you are talking about what the Startups are building, I suppose?

Vijay : Nice post! Thanks for recommending Zoho.

Not sure whether you have tried Zoho Projects. If you have, would like to hear your valuable comments. We have some neat project management features liek task dependency, Gantt charts etc.

Arvind: It sure makes sense, and there is no other logical choice about it 🙂

As always, good coverage overall.

The Blackberry is pretty affordable these days, I agree. But is it that very essential?

Orkut is blocked in almost all offices today, isn’t it? I guess it would be blocked before BT 😀

Theming the office would be super cool if affordable!

The corporate benefits are certainly worthwhile anyday! It seems so logically.

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