For young entrepreneurs and small business owners, the struggle is real. Having to balance long hours with an altogether new set of complex challenges — ranging from access to capital (to keep the business going), all the way to figuring out how to attract (and retain) great talent.

The one challenge that stands out — with nearly every entrepreneur listing it among the hardest parts of running a successful business — is the pressure of constantly having to make decisions. More specifically, the pressure of having to make the right decision, at the right time.

For highly intuitive people, this may come easier, but is by no means error-proof. So how do smart entrepreneurs make sure they’re taking the right decisions for their business?

Well, they track EVERYTHING and rely heavily on data. How heavily, you might ask? A study conducted by Adobe found that 96 percent of professionals said that the ability to make data-informed decisions is their most-needed capability.

At the same time, more than one-third of companies involved in the study said that they are not using data to make decisions, and almost half say they still don’t have the right analytics in place.

Why is that? If you know that flying blind can hurt your business and leave room for errors that could have been avoided? Well, in the age of big data, where all of your tools provide you with scattered sets of data, it can be incredibly challenging to turn all of those metrics into actionable insight.

Here’s a list of the right tools to use to keep track of everything that’s important for your business and make sure you make the right decisions — based on the metrics that are most important for your business’ success.

9 Spokes – The smart data dashboard that lets you see the big picture

Instead of jumping straight to the individual tools you’ll use, we’re going to start with the most important one of all: the dashboard that brings all of your business data together.

And that’s because without it you’re likely to fall into the trap of spending incredible amounts of time (time that you don’t have) pulling together information from separate tools. Not to mention that you would still come short of seeing the bigger picture — as your data won’t be centralized in a way that connects all of the dots.
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9 Spokes is a powerful dashboard that will reveal how your cash flow, people and sales are fairing, all in one place. You can connect your existing apps, or if you’re unsure what’s right for you, choose from their recommended introductory list. They’ve even grouped them into 9 business areas to make it easy for you to choose the ones that are the best fit for your business.

You can add widgets and customize your dashboard to reveal the key information you need to manage or grow your business.

Once set up, widgets on your dashboard will display key patterns and trends using the data from your connected apps. But 9 Spokes does a great job at explaining this themselves, so make sure you take a minute to watch this short video to get a better understanding of how it works:

 

The best part: 9 Spokes is free to use! Get your own dashboard by signing up here.

Google Analytics – Always know how your website is performing 


Whether you’re running an online business or a brick-and-mortar store, you need a website. And if you have a website, there’s no better way to assess how it is performing than with Google Analytics.

The industry standard for web analytics, this powerful platform provides you with the tools you need to measure site traffic, conversions, and ad performance, and understand how people use your website.

Google Analytics paints a complete picture of who your audience is, and what their needs are. It’s a platform that connects to every page on your website. And through various dashboards and reports, you’ll have the opportunity to unlock tremendous data.

Their software can also measure sales and goal conversions, say, getting someone to sign up for your newsletter. And with advanced tools such as funnels and attribution, you can see exactly how all the pages on your site are working with — or against you. At its core, Google Analytics helps you understand what’s working and what isn’t. It gives you the insights you need to make changes so you can meet your performance goals. You’ll be able to uncover the why behind the data.

Google Search Console – Know how people find you

Many business owners recognize the value of Google Analytics, but then stop there, without acknowledging that they’re only seeing half of the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, knowing what people do on your website and whether or not they’re converting is of utmost importance. But having a solid understand of how people manage to find you in the first place is a step you shouldn’t skip.

Google’s Search Console helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.

It lets you see which search terms bring you the most traffic, how your pages appear in Google’s search results, and pinpoint some great opportunities to increase the rate at which people find your business online.

Naturally, the Search Console easily integrates with Google Analytics, which in turn pushes the data to your 9 Spokes data dashboard.

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Capsule – The smart simple way to manage the relationship with your customers

CRMs can be confusing, difficult to set up, and can sometimes feel like they give us more headaches than they solve.

And that’s why it’s so important to take the time to choose one that’s easy to use and that matches your needs — not those of the entire business world. One example is Capsule, an online CRM that you can access from any device (no downloads, installs or licenses required, you just create an account and you’re good to go).

Capsule gives you a bird’s-eye view of everything you know about the people, companies and other organizations that you do business with. That means having all of the email exchanges, notes, conversations, docs and files easily available under every contact’s name. Better yet, you can then push all of the information onto your dashboard and have it right next to the rest of the data, for more insight.

QuickBooks – Never lose sight of your cashflow

I get it; I honestly do; nobody likes doing accounting. But as a small business owner, one of the most important things to keep track of is where your money is going — and where your money is coming from.

Currently fueling 2+ million business, QuickBooks is one of the most popular accounting tools for small businesses. And that’s because it covers pretty much everything from sending invoices to payroll and even taxes.

Of course, it is best used right next to your other metrics, so that you can get a clear picture of your return on investment for every partnership you close, or marketing initiative you have. So don’t skip that important first tool and set up your smart data dashboard, where you’ll incorporate the rest of your tools to gain clarity over your business data and never miss an opportunity that may be headed your way.