Once upon a time businesses were run with lots of employees to keep up with all the organizing and financial demands required for efficiency. There was no shortage of labor jobs. But, for better or worse, technology has changed all that. It's difficult to be competitive today without depending on the help of a computer. Many of those laborious jobs have been replaced by the instant research and number-crunching offered from good software programs. Some require a serious learning curve and carry high price tags. Others are easier to understand and cost less.

Look for software or the Internet to help grow your business

There are a number of basics that are essential for a business to operate efficiently. Some can be assisted by software and information you can even find on the Internet for free.

First you need to get your business off the ground with a good business plan so you know what your expectations are and have a clear, doable plan of action. Information is available on many business sites to guide you through creating your own business plan.

One of the most important essentials to run a successful business is to make sure you keep efficient records. There are a number of basic bookkeeping programs that are offered for free online. Most of these programs offer only the very skeletal basics. Some others will give you a start but require you pay for more elaborate versions of the programs. But when you first start your own new venture you probably won't need anything too complicated. Starting simply will give you a chance to understand how things work one step at a time. That way you will be ready to learn more as the need to upgrade becomes more important. Later, having a good, comprehensive software like Quickbooks, can help you grow your business, save you hours of labor and avoid dangerous financial mistakes.

To grow any successful business you will need to advertise and get the word out. Designing ads for print or the Internet, putting up posters, creating flyers, handing out business cards and other forms of printed or designed media will help you promote your company. Look up free forms and formats available on sites that you can use to design your materials.

Also handy on the Internet are formats you can use to print up your own calendars and date books. You may also want to take advantage of free programs that allow you to print up your own checks. Do be aware that most free check-printing software – and even most paid software – you will need a special printer that can use magnetic inks if you want the new bank teller deposit printing machines to accept your checks.

There are many useful applications for free sites and software available online. Most will be very perfunctory and as you grow your business and need more complicated services, you'll want to buy full service products. But using the help of these free products can certainly help you start your business off on the road to success. Be aware that every year there are upgrades and new products being released. Try to keep current whether you use free offerings or buy software packages. You'll likely get the most for your time and effort this way -- energy you can use to put back into making your business more successful.