Run your business better with these 9 tools

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Just coming up on a year ago I took the plunge and opened my own business. I have never been more scared and excited at the same time in my entire life.  It was finally time…I had the networks, the skills and, most of all, the confidence to know I could build a business that could really help digital and creative agencies build awesome teams.

At the same time, this meant losing all access to the corporate tools and fancy technology that I had access to (some awesome, some cumbersome). I needed to figure out how to put my own systems and procedures in place without the hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage my team, suppliers, clients, hires, etc.

I’m not a believer in patching together a solution that works because it’s cheaper and gets the job done right now.  To me, it’s worth the investigation and investment to find the best tools that will scale with my business over time.  Will I have to change course if we get to 500 employees one day?  Probably, but I’d say that this set of tools is a good start for anyone running a shop with 50 or less folks, maybe more.

So after some research and some trial and error, here are the 9 things I cannot live without daily to run my business.

Productivity and Organization

Trying to stay organized and keeping track of your people and data can be a full-time task in and of itself.


If I was Oprah, I’d gift this as one of my favorite things.  Great on the desktop and mobile.

It’s $13/month per user, you can manage all your contacts, activity and relationships.  The beauty of Cloze is that you don’t really have to input everything because it connects to your mobile phone, email, calendar, Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, social accounts, Slack and more.  The biggest pain of a CRM system like Salesforce is having to input all sorts of data (garbage in, garbage out), where this does the work for you.  And everything is searchable within the interface, which we love!


As a recruiter, I’m trying to sync up meetings with people outside of my organization all of the time.  Add in the excitement of working with people across the globe in many different time zones and I’ve got a real mess on my hands.  It’s not fun and a huge time suck.

Acuity Scheduling syncs up to my calendar and let’s me just send my availability to someone where they can choose their time zone and select the time that works on their schedule for our meeting.  For $10/month I’m saving hours of time.

The interface is simple, it only took me about an hour to set everything up and spin up a site for people – - if you want to check it out (also, I’m always happy to connect to new people!)


GEEK ALERT: This was totally my geek splurge that I made my husband buy me for Christmas, and I absolutely love it.

The LiveScribe 3 smartpen allows you to take notes manually (versus typing while someone is talking) and it magically saves the notes and can even convert it to text.  I’ve set mine up to automatically send to Evernote ( – if you don’t use it, you should) and since my Evernote connects to Cloze, every time I have an interview with someone, all my notes are automagically connected to their account.  Genius.

Content Management and Creation


When launching Kada, I knew that I needed a simple, elegant webpage to show off who we are, what we do and why we do it.  As a new business with a tight budget, I decided to explore the offerings of a DIY website.  I started off trying Wix and Weebly and after a few hours of going crazy, I headed over to SquareSpace.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t a “whip up a site and go” experience.  Like anything, you need to take the time to figure out how to get everything the way you want it and how back end systems tie it all together.  Once I mastered that (thank you help pages – - and other random forums -, I was up and running.

I really like SquareSpace, though in hindsight, I may have started with WordPress site because of all of the integrations.  This may be the one tool that won’t scale forever, however it has been a nice cost-effective launch pad and in my humble opinion, I think looks legit.


Staying consistent on social media presence has always been a struggle.  Even with the best of intentions, putting aside the time to research and post meaningful content always seems to take a back seat to other tasks in the day, yet they are critically important to connecting with YOU!  Add in the fact that you’re managing multiple accounts on multiple platforms with multiple voices and I’ll admit the struggle is real.  Though I think I’m not alone here, I don’t know any business owner that doesn’t struggle with their social media.

The automatic go to solution was Hootsuite, but after testing it with a free trial, I found it to be a little too complex for what I was after and the integrations weren’t what I needed.  So out to the web I went, looking for recommendations that would fit my needs, and I found Buffer.

I now schedule posts ahead of time and make sure that my queue is always full (if it goes empty, buffer will send me a reminder).  I also can use the analytics to understand what’s hot and what’s not.

Also, props to the Chrome extension here too.

Content is a game I have yet to master, but it is critical to connecting with like-minded people across the global, so that we can learn and partner with each other.  As my brilliant Brand Strategist and Mentor, Shelli Whitehurst ( – check her out) keeps telling me, it’s worth the time to put your thoughts out there, but to partner with other people and use the right tools to make sure that it is done quicker and faster while still having control of the message. That goes with all aspects of business, focus on what you’re good at and rely on others to partner with on what they’re good at to build the best business.


Pablo is a tool provided for free by Buffer, where you can take any picture and add text.  They provide a database of free images to use that are provided by Unsplash so you can whip up an image right on the site.

Pablo’s Chrome extension let’s you edit any image online and add the text and download straight from any website, which is super convenient when you are not a designer and you need images.  


Unsplash also has its own site where you can download high-resolution images for free.  This totally beats paying $10 for a photo through Getty every time you want a new image on your website.  I use the images to spice up blog posts, have banners on all of my webpages, use in my social posts and more.  Free is good, yay for open source.

Sales and Recruiting

There is no one stop shop I have found yet for my recruiting and prospecting tools (I view them as one in the same really).  Here a few of the newer ones that I’ve really started to dig into this year and have been extremely valuable.


Engage Talent is a data aggregator on steroids.  With access to over 100 million people, it provides valuable insights to each of these people, including how likely they are to leave their current position, estimated salary ranges, and more.  I can search by industry, location and company.

I also use Engage to research companies, including recent news and even Glassdoor reviews.  I view the system as a one stop shop to gather useful data for recruiting and business development.

The Chrome extension here is really where the magic happens.  When I’m on LinkedIn, at the click of a button I’m able to see these insights for any candidate that I’m viewing.  When I’m on a company’s website, at the click of a button I can see a quick company profile, including revenue estimates and number of employees.  The workflow is fantastic and saves me time researching and finding people so that I can use that time making meaningful connections with people who are ready to engage with Kada.


RocketReach is an easy to use contact information finder.  I can pretty much find the personal email address of anyone.

Again, the Chrome extension is the game changer here.  If I’m on LinkedIn, I click on the RocketReach extension and can select the people whom I’d like to find their contact information.  I’ve found the data to be very robust and they also provide social accounts and suggested work emails if a personal can’t be found.

To those of you running successful enterprises today or just getting off the ground running, hopefully this is helpful!

What are your favorite must-haves to create and scale your business?  Feel free to comment below!

About the author

Lisa Barrow is the Founder and Managing Director for Kada Recruiting.  Kada helps build teams for growing creative and digital agencies globally.  Need help recruiting for your team? Schedule some time with Lisa to learn more today