The business management tools that SMEs love to use

March 28, 2022 by Mark Davis

Knowing how to run a business is not a skill we’re born with. In many cases, it’s not even something we’re taught at school. Luckily, help comes in the form of management software that takes care of some tasks for us. We just have to choose the right ones.

A good management tool will give you at-a-glance insight into the overall health of your company. It will save you time on admin tasks. It will boost your business performance. We know you might not have the financial clout of a multinational conglomerate, nor a specialized sourcing or purchasing team at your disposal, so we’ve put together a list of software that are helping SMEs get the job done.

If it works for them, it can also work for you.👇

💡 We’ve only selected tools that are 100% SaaS (Software as a Service), meaning they are solutions that you can subscribe to online. You can access them at any time, from any place with an internet connection.

Business accounts, accounting and insurance: the basics for running a Small or Medium Enterprise

These software may not make you fall in love with admin. But they can simplify it for you.

Business accounts: click your way to solid finance management

A dedicated business account allows you to track the money coming into and going out of your company; you know where your cash flow stands at any given moment. When choosing an account, consider your future needs as well as your current ones. And a good tool will adapt to your business, rather than forcing you to adapt to the tool.

We recommend: Qonto, the account that powers up SMEs and freelancers. In just 10 minutes, you can set up an account that will manage many of your business finance tasks for you. Qonto also takes the time (and paperwork) out of business expenses and makes it easier for you to do your accounting thanks to an array of handy features: physical and virtual business Mastercards, one-click expense receipt uploads, automatic VAT detection and compatibility with your accounting software. With that done for you, you can focus on the tasks that will drive your business forward.

💶 How much does it cost? There are a range of subscriptions depending on the size of your company, starting at €29/month (excluding tax) for SMEs.

💡 If you haven’t yet created your company, Qonto can also guide you in making your capital deposit. It makes starting a business less of a bureaucratic headache.

Accounting software: stay compliant but save on time and paperwork

It’s hardly the stuff that dreams are made of. But your accounting won’t do itself and it’s no solution to simply leave everything with your accountant and take a peek at the balance sheet once at the end of every fiscal year.

Modern accounting software allows you to streamline the way you generate your financial reports. It means less paperwork. It means no more Excel spreadsheets. And no more inputting data manually. They also give you a real-time vision of the financial health of your business overall. You’ll be able to use the tech to generate forecasts for the months to come as well as to prepare your tax statements. These software may not have you dreaming about doing your bookkeeping, but neither will the process be such a nightmare anymore.

So, how do you choose the right accounting SaaS? Most are very simple to use but here are two pointers:

  1. Your chartered accountant probably uses software already. You could keep things simple by getting the same.
  2. Nowadays, business accounts can be connected to accounting solutions. Your transactions (and your receipts, if your business account provider has that capacity) can be input automatically. Account reconciliation is done quicker than you can ask ‘where’s that darned restaurant receipt?’

We recommend: you could opt for the big-name accounting ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) suppliers like Sage, which offers a very complete software package. These solutions may be too complex for smaller companies. In those cases, you could turn to Pennylane or Axonaut, which cater to the smaller business market. Both of the solutions mentioned can be connected automatically to a Qonto account. This will save you time when it comes to doing your accounting. For one, you’ll be able to add receipts digitally to the relevant transactions as soon as you’ve paid an expense, directly from your business account (rather than scramble around at the last minute looking for the matching paper versions). Also, you can share with your accountant all the information she or he needs to prepare your books, as well as connect your Qonto account to more advanced accounting software to enjoy the extra features they provide.

💶 How much does it cost? Sage subscriptions for freelancers and self-employed workers start at €9/month (excl. tax). For SMEs, Sage plans start at €159/year (excl. tax). Pennylane plans start at €19/month before tax, while Axonaut offers a no-commitment, 15-day free trial and then monthly plans from €34.99/month per user (for a 2-year contract).

Software can also help when it comes to billing your customers. You can create and edit your pricing estimates and invoices in just a few clicks. You’ll also have real-time visibility over your incoming customer payments, which can reduce the risk of being paid late. Soon, you will even be able to do all that directly from your business account...Qonto will be announcing some good news soon along those lines, so watch this space.

Insurance: protect your business from risk

Another important administrative aspect to consider is business insurance. The most common across all sectors in France is the RC Pro (Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle), which covers the majority of risks people or assets might face during the day-to-day running of a company. This insurance is mandatory, although the specifics of the policy vary according to the size of your business and your field of activity.

We recommend: Easyblue is an insurance broker for freelancers and VSBs (Very Small Businesses). A mentor will establish a risk profile and recommend you the appropriate, customized insurance. Easyblue works in partnership with large insurers like AXA.

💶 How much does it cost? The price depends on the business in question. Easyblue’s lowest-priced plans start at €15/month, tax included. The initial risk assessment is free.

SaaS for HR: payroll, company health insurance and employee savings schemes

Where there are teams involved, there’s always a bit more paperwork to do. Not a fan of paperwork? HR software can help you out.

Payroll software: automate your HR processes

It’s a legal requirement to give each employee a pay slip on pay day. But not all companies have a dedicated, in-house payroll specialist, which is why there’s been huge recent growth in the online payroll software space. These solutions automatically generate pay slips and remove the risk of human error.

We recommend: PayFit’s online solution saves you precious time when it comes to payroll management. You don’t need to be an HR black belt to use it, either. The software is intuitive and guides you step by step through the process. Pay slips are generated automatically on the date you choose and the tech also manages holiday and leave requests. What’s more, if you have a Qonto business account, you can pay salaries directly from PayFit.

💶 How much does it cost? PayFit’s prices include a flat rate for each company plus a fee per employee. Prices aren’t published online but you can order a free demo to see the software in action.

Company health insurance: taking care of staff

A company health insurance policy (in France, ‘la mutuelle’) has been a legal requirement for businesses since 2016. All private sector companies must offer one to their employees and subsidize the cost at a level of at least 50%. These insurance policies protect both staff and management to varying extents adapted to the type of business in question and complement social security reimbursements for health insurance.

We recommend: complementary health insurance is a fragmented and complex world but there are solutions that seek to simplify matters wherever possible. Alan is one such solution available to businesses in France. It manages to cut through some of the unnecessary paperwork and jargon, making it relatively easy for your employees to understand what they have access to and how they can access it.

💶 How much does it cost? Prices start from €42/month per person insured with the “Alan Pink” offer.

Meal tickets and employee savings schemes: perks for your people

There are extra benefits you can provide to staff that go beyond the strict legal minimum. Happily, this is another sector in which new solutions to the market have been shaking up the old, stale and outdated traditional players and making services more user-friendly.

  • Meal tickets

Known in France as les tickets-restaurant or tickets restos, meal vouchers are a perk that most French workers have come to expect, even if there is no legal requirement for businesses to provide them. Alternative solutions include providing a cantine, a kitchen or paying a lunch bonus.

We recommend: if you choose the meal voucher route, Swile provides your staff with a payment card and an app to pay and manage their meal ticket balance. All paper-free.

💶 How much does it cost? If your SME provides meal tickets, the company will need to subsidize them to the tune of between 50% and 60% of their value.

  • Employee savings schemes

Profit-sharing schemes, savings plans and other bonuses related to company performance are not purely the preserve of big corporations. Small businesses can also use them to incentivize and motivate staff.

We recommend: company incentive schemes don’t need to be complicated to put in place in France. Epsor offers a simple, customized scheme that’s 100% online. Not only does it guide employees in placing their investment, it also offers advice on personal finance generally.

💶 How much does it cost? Epsor will give you a quote and give you a trial with no long-term obligation.

Project management, group work and internal comms: build your teams’ togetherness

If the SaaS we’ve looked at so far are designed to make business admin smoother, what about operational tools? We’ll now examine the tools that can boost productivity more directly by making it easier for your staff to work in or between teams.

Project management: online tools for aligning on tasks

Planning and monitoring projects efficiently is key to business performance. For SMEs just as for multinationals - process matters. A solid, precise process will give you a clear bird’s-eye view of your company’s projects, their timeline and any potential obstacles. A good software will allow everyone access to the information they need to keep process and projects well-oiled.

We recommend: there’s an abundance of effective project management software to be found on the market. So, which one is for you? It will depend to a degree on how you like to visualize projects, as well as on how much you’re willing to invest in a tool. For advanced needs, Notion is an excellent platform for managing projects and its features go far beyond that, with shared databases, document archive, integrated calendars and so on. You can even monitor the costs of a project thanks to Notion’s integration with Qonto, which enables you to generate and automatically update financial dashboards with new transactions. Notion may take some time to set up and customize, but its versatility is a major asset.

Asana is another very complete solution that helps you break projects down into tasks and sub-tasks and visualize them all in various formats (calendar, timeline, table etc.). Trello is perhaps more appropriate for those seeking something simpler, with its table and card views.

💶 How much does it cost? There are, with certain conditions, free-to-use versions of the three software mentioned above. To unlock their true potential, though, you’ll likely need a paying subscription. Asana starts at €10.99/user per month, Trello at $5 and Notion at $8.

Teamwork tools: making sure everyone is on the same page

Online document sharing amongst teams allows staff to follow updates in real time and collaborate more effectively from distance. It’s a much more streamlined process than sending an email and having the attached document sent back and forth ad nauseam with new corrections. Online sharing gives staff one source of truth that’s always up to date.

We recommend: Google is the biggest SaaS solution in this space and provides collaborative versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. On a shared drive, you can build a structured framework of files and sub-files, with different access rights for different co-workers. With the Google-Qonto integration, you can duplicate all your receipts from your Qonto account into your Google drive. The receipts are imported and filtered by date automatically, meaning you don’t have to spend your time doing it manually.

Notion is another useful software used by businesses for centralizing project management and Works In Progress.

💶 How much does it cost? A subscription to Google Workspace starts from €4.68/month per user, with a two-week trial period. Notion’s prices, as mentioned above, begin at $8/month per user.

Internal messaging channels: for quick and clear communication

Telephone and email still have their place but there are software solutions that bring with them much greater flexibility and reactivity for staff. The work-from-home era has underlined how important these internal communications channels have become.

  • Team communications platforms

Teams can find themselves swamped by emails very quickly, a pain point that collaborative platforms address with increasing success. They can give you channels dedicated to tasks and projects, 1-on-1 dialogue or team chats, quick questions or group discussions. Such platforms make it far easier to view who’s communicating with whom than long chains of emails.

We recommend: Slack has become a proven leader in this kind of software and is a solution that’s easy to put in place and intuitive to use.

💶 How much does it cost? There is a free version destined for teams, but to access more features and a complete chat history, subscriptions start at €6.25/month per user.

  • Videoconference software

Like a good old-fashioned phone call except you can see who you’re talking to and present documents at a distance. Something of a boost in the remote work age.

We recommend: Slack includes a videoconference feature in its paid subscriptions. Google Workplace also provides you with Google Meet, while Zoom is another reliable alternative.

💶 How much does it cost? The video call features proposed by Slack and Google are included in the paid plans mentioned previously (€6.25 and €4.68 per user per month respectively). Zoom has a free version for meetings that are no longer than 40 minutes, with yearly plans from €139.90 if you need longer video calls.

CRM, emails and social media: managing your customer relations

The above SaaS solutions should have you covered in terms of internal needs. Now let’s look outwards at tools that will make your customer relations easier to manage.

CRM: all your customers and leads in one place

Many SMEs are reluctant to adopt Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools but they do offer great time-saving benefits when managing your client base. For one thing, they bring all of your contacts and relevant data into one single place and allow to consult your entire communication history with any one customer, at any time.

We recommend: Hubspot is one CRM that is easy to use. Beyond simply storing your contacts, it also allows you to integrate marketing and sales features should you need them.

💶 How much does it cost? Hubspot’s contact management solution is free and if you’re simply looking to keep all your client and lead contact data together in one platform, that should do the trick. You can check out their pricing page to learn how much each extra feature will cost.

Email management: keep in touch with your client base

You may need to send emails to groups of customers and/or leads for sales reasons. Using your traditional mail server will mean your mails get sent directly to the spam box, whereas SaaS solutions are much more likely to ensure that your emails get seen and can generate sales.

We recommend: Mailchimp is among the better known and effective emailing solutions, while alternatives include the French startup Mailjet.

💶 How much does it cost? Both of the above SaaS offer free versions under certain conditions. This may be enough for your SME. If not, Mailchimp’s paid subscriptions start at $11/month and Mailjet’s at €14/month. Their pricing pages will explain how many contacts are included with each option.

Social media: boost your reach and engagement

There are SMEs that still neglect their presence on social media because they can’t find the time to keep their profiles updated. The value of social media should not be underestimated, however, as they can keep you in touch with your existing customers and generate new clients.

There are software that reduce the time it takes to keep your profile up to date. For example, you can schedule posts on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social accounts. Spend a few minutes per week programming what you want to post and when, and the SaaS will take care of the rest.

We recommend: Hootsuite and Buffer are particularly helpful in keeping your profiles fresh without draining you of your precious time.

💶 How much does it cost? Both Hootsuite and Buffer have free plans that allow you to test drive the platforms. This may be sufficient for your business. If you need more features, you can subscribe to Hootsuite from €39/month and Buffer from $5/month per social network. You’ll find details of their pricing on the platforms themselves.

Time spend now is time saved later

From finance and admin to internal and external communications, the SaaS discussed above are the most popular among small businesses. Spend an hour now investigating each solution and you could save yourself days, weeks or even months further down the line.

If you want get started on a business account that will power up your company finances, then look no further than what Qonto has to offer.

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