Running a small business isn't for the faint-hearted.

As a business owner, I am constantly amazed at how many minor daily issues need my attention. From equipment maintenance, staff, customers, suppliers, landlords, marketing and financial issues...the list is endless and relentless.

And, if you're like me, this never-ending merry-go-round of annoying little tasks can sometimes seem overwhelming as you try to keep your head above water and do your best to survive the horrid to-do list.

Perhaps the worst part is that much of your week is occupied with tasks that probably won't grow your business. They are just necessary evils.

So what's the answer?

Eliminate, Delegate or Automate.

I am a big believer that, at least once a month, business owners should sit down and review all the tasks that have taken up their time, with the view of finding new efficiencies.

Find a quiet place and reflect on all the time-sapping tasks over the last few weeks. Then, try and put as many as possible into one of three categories - Eliminate, Automate or Delegate.


Some tasks may be taking time and offering no value. These could include unnecessary meetings, reports or processes that add nothing to the business but have just been happening for a long time without question. Put them in the "Eliminate" box and say goodbye forever. Chances are, the sky won't fall in once they are eliminated, and you will free up a heap of time.


Next, look at all your tasks and also the skills and aspirations of your employees. Usually, you will find, after review, that you can hand over some of your tasks to competent employees with a bit of training and early supervision. Again, there is a double benefit here. Not only will you free up some valuable personal time, but your employees will likely cherish the extra responsibilities and the opportunity to grow and learn.


Finally, look at what is left. Can these tasks be automated, at least partially?

More and more affordable software solutions are available to automate a range of manual business tasks, and you may be surprised just how much time and money they can save you.

So with so many online software tools on the market, how do you find the best ones? Well, after a decade of using many small business online tools, below we outline, in our view, the best online business tools in terms of functionality, simplicity and cost.

Best Online Tools for Small Business 2018.

CRM - Base

Think you're too small for a CRM? Not so. For any business, attracting a new customer is ALWAYS so much more complicated and expensive than keeping an existing one. An essential CRM tool can help you monitor your customers and provide an organised way of segmenting and communicating with them. All you need to do is find a way to capture their data via online forms, competitions or simply a business card drop.

Whilst there is a heap of options out there, most are way too complex and expensive for the needs of the average business.

At RosterElf, we have used Base for five years as our CRM, and we love it. It is super simple to set up and use and provides robust reporting insights and communication tools.

Price - Starts at $45 per month.

Email Marketing - Mail Chimp

Email marketing is a must for small businesses. But, did you know a recent survey found that email marketing generated new customers at roughly 7%, while social media had a conversion rate for new buyers of less than 1%?

RosterElf has been using Mail Chimp since the beginning. Setting up and creating campaigns and newsletters to keep your customers engaged is super simple. Send newsletters, updates and competitions to your customer base in minutes.

Price - FREE for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month!

Online Remarketing - Ad Roll

This is a new one for us which we have been using for several months. It provides a great way to 'retarget' customers online by tracking visitors and serving web and social media ads, both desktop and mobile.

You don't need to be a marketing guru to set up your campaigns, as Ad Roll has a clever little algorithm that captures website visitors. They even design a few free ads for your first campaign to give it a go.

Price - Pay-as-you-go solution with an average cost per click on your ad of around $2-$3.

Social Media Management - Hootsuite

We all know that regular social media content is a must for most businesses. But with so many platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube etc., managing regular content can be time-consuming.

This is where Hootsuite is awesome. You can connect all your social media platforms to the Hootsuite dashboard and create and manage content in a single place. It also gives you excellent reporting to see what content is achieving results and how you can improve others.

Price - Starts at $25/month.

Rostering/Time and Attendance - RosterElf

Ok, I may be a little biased here, but we believe RosterElf is the best rostering, time and attendance and payroll solution on the market. It handles staff availability, rostering, communications, shift swaps, clock-in-out and award interpretation which integrates with all major payroll and accounting systems. Save hours and dollars weekly while getting rid of paper rosters and timesheets.

Price - from $2.40 per user per month

Accounting - Xero

We love Xero. It's clean, simple and powerful. RosterElf loves it so much that we developed an API so Xero and RosterElf customers can use the two together seamlessly.

RosterElf customers can review and approve timesheet hours and send them directly into their Xero account at a click, including full award interpretation. Xero has functionality that is perfect for just about every type of small business and presents data in a way that is easy to understand without an accounting degree.

Price - Starts at $25/month.

Reporting - Fathom

This is another fantastic Xero add-on. Fathom is an easy-to-use management reporting and financial analysis tool that helps you assess business performance, monitor trends and identify improvement opportunities. It connects to Xero easily and will give you amazing value.

Price - Starts at $49/month.

So there you go, seven excellent and affordable online tools for your small business for 2018 to automate some of those small, annoying yet time-consuming tasks so you can focus on the things that matter.


Simon Ingleson

Founder/CEO @ RosterElf

Magically Simple Rostering Software

Have Questions?

We Have The Answers!

How can I identify tasks to eliminate in my business?

Review tasks regularly to find those that add no value. These can include unnecessary meetings, outdated processes, or redundant reports. Eliminate them to save time without negative impacts on your business.

What are the benefits of delegating tasks to employees?

Delegating tasks not only free up your time but also provides growth opportunities for your employees. They gain skills and responsibility, boosting their job satisfaction and productivity.

How can automation help my small business?

Automation can save time and money by handling repetitive tasks. Tools for CRM, email marketing, social media management, and accounting streamline processes, allowing you to focus on business growth.

Why is a CRM essential for my small business?

A CRM helps manage customer relationships, making it easier to retain customers and reduce acquisition costs. It organises customer data, improves communication, and provides valuable insights.

What are some recommended tools for small business automation?

Some recommended tools include Base for CRM, Mail Chimp for email marketing, Ad Roll for online remarketing, Hootsuite for social media management, RosterElf for scheduling, Xero for accounting, and Fathom for reporting. These tools are affordable and enhance efficiency.

Important Notice

The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on RosterElf's interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice.

RosterElf is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article.

RosterElf disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.