Apps run your business and personal life. The right software choice will make your dreams attainable and your life profitable. And the wrong software decision one could turn your life into a living hell.
Yes, I’m talking about the same hell you feel when you realize you’ve been using a subpar project management tool that can’t even properly sync your team’s calendars, and you end up missing that life-changing appointment.
The same stress of not paying your bills on time, missing your rent payment… You know what I am talking about, you felt it. But there is a way to destroy this digital entropy that wreaks havoc in our lives.
In this article, I am outlining Alpha Efficient philosophy behind software choices, as well as some of the apps that I use to run Alpha Efficiency, our 30 employees, and our mind-boggling expansive list of clients. (If you are one of our clients, thank you!).
You’ll gain insights into some of the best practices when choosing software to build a growth-friendly environment for your business and personal life.
Table of Contents:
- The Philosophy behind Software Choice
- Three Main Pillars of Alpha Efficient Software Philosophy
- Why Software Choice Matters
- The Building Blocks of Your Ecosystem
- The Paradox of Choice: Too Many Apps, Too Little Time
The Philosophy behind Software Choice
If Plato was alive today, what would be his favorite mobile or desktop application? Did you ever wonder which writing application would Nietzsche use? How about Decartes? What practical approach to app use would he introduce today? I often wonder…
Whether you want to address metaphysical attributes of software, its insanity, or practicality, there is a place for your own way of thinking about software. One that suits your needs and preferences.
It does not matter if you are creating software or just using it, the philosophy behind it is your approach to modern life and business.
My software philosophy zigzagged between wanting to put everything into Evernote and being a digital minimalist who only uses precisely what’s necessary, to use specific task applications for everything. What did I learn?
My revelation is that you need to find a balance within your selections. You can’t have single-purpose apps for every little problem you are trying to solve. The sheer volume of applications in that sense becomes impossible to manage.
So I’ve started consolidating things into software silos. No app is the Holy Grail of software. Some apps will work for you, others won’t, and that’s okay. A high market demand shouldn’t be the only factor that influences your software choice. At the end of the day, I use the best tool for the job, but I don’t shy away from some degrees of centralization into applications like Hubspot and Hubstaff for our marketing, sales and HR needs.
Three Main Pillars of Alpha Efficient Software Philosophy
There are many ways you can describe software philosophies, but I want to focus on the blocks that I’ve used to architect my systems. These systems are the foundation for my team and me running a seven figure service-based business.
Throughout the last ten years, we’ve been through so many iterations of our tech stack, and it evolved with our services as well as our growing needs. Here are the three main pillars of our software decision that we use as a starting point to find the right products.
Integrated – Puzzle piece 🧩 fits the rest of your ecosystem
The primary principle is integration. When I was a child I played with a lot of Legos. I started seeing software as this large integrated ecosystem. Every time I need to choose business software, I ask myself: “How will this app work with the rest of my system?”
A lot of time has passed since smartphones became an integrated part of our daily lives, yet we still have software companies that are seriously lagging behind. One thing that is very interesting about my business is that I run my company from a smartphone mostly. I do most of the tasks through Slack, Rocket Chat, Hubspot and similar applications that are heavily mobile-optimized. I wouldn’t be able to do all of this without my team members of course, but I manage all of this with their help.
The first thing I ask when I evaluate an application is its mobile friendliness. How much of the feature set is thought through for the mobile device? Companies that truly listen to their customer base communicate with them, and nearly all of the customers today require some degree of mobile-friendliness.
I often ask myself questions like:
- Can I perform the primary function of this application on a mobile device?
- Does the mobile app work properly?
- Can I integrate the mobile app within my mobile ecosystem? (Yes, I even have a mobile ecosystem)
The app is definitively not a perfect fit if its primary function can not be applied on a mobile device.
Friendly for the human – Human Interface Guidelines
I don’t even use many of these apps anymore! It is my employees that tackle them. But as I was evolving my business, I was focusing on finding the tools that my employees will love to use. What every responsible manager should apply in their day-to-day operations is observe the tech stack that his coworkers use.
But observation is not enough, observe what could be better, and if there is a tool that offers more.
Ironically we also build apps as a company, so my focus is on following Apple’s Human Design Guidelines. You can clearly see the difference in the software that Apple creates and endorses. These design principles have been around for 30 years, and they’ve been making significant revenue for Apple, as they’ve been improving user retention.
A good software ecosystem will also help you improve employee retention. You want software that just works and doesn’t make your company’s experts (or yourself) frustrated.
Why Software Choice Matters
Think about it: you spend a ton of time researching before buying a car, a house, or even a smartphone. So why would you skimp on choosing the right software? You literally live inside these applications all day. Don’t be that guy or gal who just goes with whatever’s pre-installed on your iPhone or any free software that shows up first in a Google search. You deserve better.
Finding the right applications will make your life more enjoyable, streamlined and organized. This not only improves your financials, it also helps you with a more balanced life. Being calmer is underrated quality of life.
The Building Blocks of Your Ecosystem
Building a successful business—or even just an organized personal life—is like building a healthy ecosystem. Your software choices are its foundational building blocks. Whether you work a 9-to-5 or are your own boss, you should be a vocal advocate for software that not only gets the job done but also makes you feel good about what you’re doing.
If you are in a 9 to 5 rat race, you spend 8 hours behind the tools you are utilizing, they better be good. You should ping your boss to improve your tech stack and stop being cheap.
Apps for Everyday Living
Sure, Apple apps have their charm. They’re simple, they’re pretty, and they sync across all your Apple devices seamlessly. But can you build an entire system around them? Not really, unless they’re fully integrated into the rest of your business or life.
Beyond just jotting down notes or setting reminders, consider apps for:
- Personal Organization and Notes: I have to plug Notion here. I wrote this newsletter piece on Notion, and I run my core management team off of the flexible notes. But I also run my daily observations inside of it, and moving all my past ideas into it.
- Communication: Are you a Slack person or more into Microsoft Teams? At Alpha Efficiency, we frown at Teams, and we’re using Slack and Rocket Chat. There is also Discord, Telegram, WhatsApp… You will need more application choices for communication than you anticipate.
- Personal Finance: Mint, YNAB, or perhaps something more investment-centric like Robinhood? Well all these are a thing of the past, as I became a big fan of Rocket Money, that syncs up both my business and personal accounts, and gives me a detailed overview of the cashflow that we have.
- Task Managers – These used to be my favorite applications. Nothing beats a good reminder. While I used to use Omnifocus (fancy reminder for Apple users), more and more of my tasks get moved into Notion, Hubspot and other parts of my business ecosystem. But when you’re starting out, keeping things simple is definitively way to go. You can start with apps like Todoist, and than slowly and gradually moving up into other apps.
Apps To Organize Business
Let’s move to the business side of things. Are you still using Excel spreadsheets for project management? Stop that. Look into software designed to handle complex tasks and processes.
My business resides in a few application silos. We use Hubspot for marketing and sales (our newsletter gets sent via Hubspot), and we use Hubstaff for project management and fulfillment.
The same as business, as life gets more complex, you may need extra tools to enable it. It is okay to start small, but as you expand, you may need to add to it.
But in order to keep business simple, you will want to centralize apps in as few categories as possible.
Here are few business categories that you must own:
- CRM – This stands for Customer Relationship Management – it drives your entire sales funnel and sales strategy.
- Marketing & Marketing Automation Software
- Project management software – wether you are an agency, SaaS or running a physical store, you will have projects. No better place to organize them than in Project management Apps. While I used to love Trello (and you should if you look for free solution), the fact that we’re an agency made us focus our efforts into Hubstaff.
- HR and Recruiting management
- Workspace software – We use Google Workspace and Notion.
Now let’s see why choosing the right software for your business from each of these categories is essential.
The CRM and Automation Hub of Our Organization – Hubspot
Your business needs a place where all of its metrics are a single source of truth. Google Analytics is great for the website, but for the vitals of your business, you need a CRM that is integrated into your marketing automation platform. No business exists without a CRM and marketing automation platform.
Business data gets OVERWHELMING. And I am saying this as the business owner that bootstrapped its way to success. No funding, nothing. Just organizing this digital entropy as I went on. While you don’t NEED Hubspot, you definitively need a single place from which you will observe your operations.
Project management software: Why we love Hubstaff
While it shares a similar name to the previous app, it is a completely different tool. Project management and time tracking are a lifeblood of agencies. While you may need time tracking component for your business, it wouldn’t hurt knowing where your paid hours are being spent.
Project management is critical for a survival of every company. Being able to track the time, effort and results of your actions is mission critical for expansion of your business.
If business were a basketball, project management software would be the software of choice for coaches.
You aren’t simply running a business, you are coaching your employees to drive specific results with the knowledge that you have. Getting a team to share your action plan is mission critical, and having a reliable app that handles that effortlessly is the key.
We are looking for ways to integrate client tickets (From Hubspot) and merge them into our project management ecosystem (Hubstaff). This strategy plays in the field of “integrations” and having everything work smoothly.
The Paradox of Choice: Too Many Apps, Too Little Time
Finding the right software can feel like walking through a minefield. Too many choices can actually be paralyzing. But there are reliable ways to narrow down your options. Skip the trial and error and start by consulting review sites like G2 Crowd or Captera. But remember, these reviews often come from companies with big marketing budgets. Take them with a grain of salt.
When it comes to personal apps, always read up on what other people are using to get the ideas on what will work for you.
Define the Problem First
Know your problem before you go hunting for solutions. Are you a writer? Then your main concern may be finding the perfect writing and note-taking app. Run an agency? You probably need to learn how to choose project management software that does it all. Start by defining your problem and only then delve into researching the apps that solve it.
When you zero in on which problem you want to solve, it will get easier reading the app reviews, and really understanding the issues you are trying to solve.
The Budget Factor
Whether you’re a one-person show or part of a bigger ensemble, your budget will always be a deciding factor. Good software costs money, and while there are free apps, they often come with limitations. You get what you pay for.
But how will you budget for software? When I was making this decision for Alpha Efficiency, I focused on the time factor. I was focused on finding the right amount.
You will easily notice that apps for personal use are way cheaper than apps for business use. Sometimes as you are starting out, focus on B2C apps for your business, until you can grow in your business size.
Your Turn To Make A Software Choice
Life is too short to be stuck with software that doesn’t serve you. You owe it to yourself and your business to make well-informed choices. Because at the end of the day, the right software can make all the difference. So, go ahead and be picky, be thoughtful, and most importantly, choose apps that empower you and your business.
How do you choose applications for your personal life and business? Send me a reply, curious to know!