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June 15, 2008

8 Technological Tools for Boostrapping Consultants

It has been a while since we did a top-tools type of post. I have been inspired to revisit this theme after reading a lost from The Entrepreneurial Mind on bootstrapping recently. In particular where he states:
...bootstrapping over the long-term can help a business avoid the need to secure external financing and keep 100% of the ownership in the entrepreneur’s own hands. By being more efficient throughout the life of the business, cash flow is optimized and the entrepreneur can build cash reserves that can be used to fund future growth.
He makes an excellent case for bootstrapping not only as a start up technique, but as a way of doing business for all entrepreneurial pursuits. And it occurred to me that all the consultancies I have worked for that were growing concerns had this thinking at their core.

So in that vein, here are my current top eight technological tools from the Internet for consultants. This list continues to evolve and to change, and I am sure it will continue to do so as technology changes and my familiarity with it all changes also.

1. Google Login: Undoubtedly the most valuable login on the Internet, and one that has transformed the way I do business. it has given me access to Blogger, custom searches, Gmail, Google Reader, AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Docs, and of course my home page iGoogle.

The functions and depth of the programs is far too great to go into here. But number one of all of these is the ability to have your companies email system easily managed in Gmail. Which I find to be by far the best and easiest to use of the web mail products out there.

2. LinkedIn: I am no expert in networking, but I do okay. Linked In has changed the way I go about managing a lot of my personal relationships. For me it works mainly because I am connected to people all over the globe and not in one particular country or region. SO it helps me to stay abreast of whats going on in my network, and it gives me a range of additional tools also.

E.g. The Consulting Pulse group on Linked In is now at near 2000 members with absolutely no promotion whatsoever. Great for a growing community and aspiring Internet publisher, also the people who provide me with answers on the LinkedIn network absolutely amazes and humbles me.

3. - This has been the find of the year for me. I love using it, I love not paying for it legally, I love that it integrates seamlessly with Google Docs, and I love the fact that there is a seemingly vibrant community of developers out there plugging away at building additional tools for it.

For the bootstrapping consultancy (or consultant) free, high quality office productivity software must be very high on your list of to-do items.

4. Flickr: I love this one! Most of my posts these days have a Flickr photo in them. Fantastic site and one I would sincerely recommend to anyone for filling presentations, filling blogspace, or filling webpages and articles with. BUT - it needs more industry photos so adding to the collection would be of value to everyone also. :-)

5. - Another new one for me and one I am just starting to get to the bottom of now. Seems like an absolutely fantastic idea to have a site where all sorts of people can contribute all sorts of slides about all sorts of themes.

You can embed these into blogs or websites, download them and get some fantastic inspiration from some of the stuff on their. I put this (so far) into the idea generator tools, and a great one at that.

6. Wikipedia - Another tools I just started to use in the past 12 months. Today I am guardian of a few pages in there, and I refer to it almost daily. While the sources are sometimes a bit shaky, it normally provides you with a good starting point for whatever it is you need to find out.

Today each page of notes I take has a column down the side for "things to know". Every time I hear a word, phrase or concept that I am not quite sure of; I write it down, and then check it out that evening on Wikipedia. What a year of learning I've had as a result!

7. - I'm a huge fan of the SaaS model, and a huge fan of Mark Benioff and his company for driving this model inbto center stage. I used to use thsi as my CRM in a previous life, and I would use it again tomorrow.

More to the point is the platform. A bit technical for me (after trying for a while) but I can see the value of being able to easily generate your own internal SaaS programs as and when required.

8. Basecamp - Nothing better on the web that I know of for online project management. For internal use, or for sharing with clients, Basecamp is the killer project management app at this moment. And its free. (Mostly)

I have separated out BaseCamp because I use it a lot, but the entire 37Signals suite of programs are fantastic and I am sure I will need to use some of them at some staqge. (I may even use their CRM to replace what I do with who knows?

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