I admit, I'm a bit of a software geek. I enjoy learning about and trying out new applications to find that perfect software stack (a group of applications that work together) on which to run my party rental business.
Currently there are seven cloud-based software applications that I use on a daily basis to run my business. Here they are, listed in no particular order.
Price: Free (with paid plans available)
Slack is a very popular business instant messaging app that can be used on desktop or a mobile device. It is ideal for connecting remote work teams. I use Slack for communicating with our office admin, who works out of an office in her home.
Why not just use text messaging via our cell phones? As mentioned, Slack can be used on desktop as well. It is much easier to type out longer questions and answers on a laptop keyboard versus a phone screen.
With Slack you can also easily attach documents from your computer to the message. All conversations are archived and easy to find later if you need to refer back to something. And the phone app is very easy to use, just like texting.
Slack does much more than what we use it for, but even just using this limited functionality it is a great tool.
2) QuickBooks Online
Cost: Starts at $10/month after free trial
I've been using QuickBooks Online since 2003, before cloud-based software was as common as it is today. The online version makes it simple for me to share account access with my tax account and bookkeeper. No need to meet in person with them or email reports.
With accounting and bookkeeping being my least favorite thing to do as a business owner, it is nice to be able to easily turn it over to the professionals.
3) Google Suite (G Suite)
Category: Office Admin
Price: $5/user per month
The G Suite (Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Gmail) is the way to go. Most people are pretty familiar with these products, so I won't bother going into detail.
I stopped using Microsoft Office two years ago and don't miss it at all. After about a week I was as comfortable using Docs and Sheets as I had been with MS Word and Excel (which I had been using since 1995). With Google Drive my documents are accessible from any device with a internet connection and no need to worry about a hard drive crashing.
Gmail is now the standard in email service, but I often see party rental businesses who do not have it set up properly. I highly recommend that you set up your Gmail account to use your business domain name. For example, email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. It is much more professional and easy to do. Just Google it.
4) Hubspot CRM & Marketing
Category: Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Tools
Price: Free. There are paid plans, but the free versions are all you really need.
I'm going to write a longer post about how I use Hubspot, but will give a brief overview here. I just started using Hubspot for my party rental business this year, but I have been using it a little more than a year for Bounce Rental Solutions.
I never thought a CRM was really necessary for a party rental business. We already had our customer records in our rental software (Bounce Rental Solutions) and email addresses in our email marketing program (Constant Contact). But when I wanted to go after new business from schools, religious organizations, summer camps, sports leagues, swim clubs, etc., I was trying to keep track of these efforts via a spreadsheet.
I was attempting to use a general purpose tool (Google Sheets) for something a CRM is specifically designed to do. After a while the spreadsheet would just get out of control with so many notes and pages I would just give up on the whole thing.
With a Hubspot CRM, what was difficult becomes simple. You can send email right from the CRM or link your Gmail account to the CRM all communication with your prospects is automatically logged. You can see who is opening your email and if they are clicking on any links. You can set follow up reminders and much more.
With the free version of the Hubspot Marketing tool you can add Lead Flows which collect email addresses from prospects who aren't ready to order yet, but might like to receive emails from you about special offers.
I believe Hubspot CRM and Marketing is going to be a great new tool for my party rental business this year.
5) Constant Contact
Category: Email Marketing
Price: Starts at $20/month. I currently pay about $50/month.
Most party rental business owners are already using some form of email marketing. Sending occasional emails to your customer base alerting them to new equipment or special offers is a good way to make sure they don't forget about you.
I started using Constant Contact a long time ago, but there are other options available that are probably just as good, if not better. A couple of other popular options are Mail Chimp and Aweber.
Category: To Do Lists
Price: Free (paid versions available)
I've also been using this app for years. There are many options available for free, or close to free, To Do list applications. I don't think it is important which one you use, but I do think it is important that you use one.
It is way too easy to have things fall through the cracks if you try to keep everything in your head. Writing your To Do list in a notebook can work, but I've found I tend to start a new page and then don't go back to the uncompleted list. An online To Do list app solves this problem.
The other thing I'm guilty of is using my email inbox as a To Do list. But this just clutters your inbox and makes it more likely something will get missed. With ToodleDo, I can forward emails that need follow up right to my To Do list and get those emails out of my inbox.
7) Bounce Rental Solutions
Category: Rental Management / Online Reservations
Price: $50/month after 30 day free trial
Saving the best for last :). I truly believe that offering real-time online reservations through your website is the biggest time saver for you and a major convenience for your customers.
Bounce Rental Solutions also offers backend rental management tools such as inventory control, invoicing, payment processing, email alerts and much more.
I've had online reservations on my website since 2005 and can't imagine owning a party rental business without them.
What's Your Stack?
I hope you find this list useful. None of the links are affiliate links, so there is no bias in my opinions (other than for no. 7).
Let me know in the comments section what software stack you are using for your party rental business.
About the Author
Rob Wright is Founder of Bounce Rental Solutions and Co-Owner of Boing! Bounce Rentals