Startup founders are often doing dozens of things at once. Whether it's keeping track of meetings and appointments, coordinating with employees, or planning out new product roadmaps and business strategies, running a startup is an exercise in perpetual multitasking. Matt MacInnis, a former Apple executive and current co-founder and CEO of mobile document management startup Inkling Systems, is used to organizing and prioritizing countless tasks and thoughts at any given moment.
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Inkling is a mobile data and collaboration application that doubles as an online learning platform to help employees create and manage training content, business documents, and internal communications. The platform spans a number of use cases but Inkling does a lot of its business in the large-scale retail and point-of-sale (POS) space, with customers such as GAP and McDonalds using its software on the back end.
For this installment of Business Power Tools, MacInnis talked about seven apps and devices without which he can't run his business. The following tools are the focal points through which the CEO communicates with employees, manages ideas and tasks, and executes his daily balancing act of running a growing company.
"Everybody had ways of staying organized and connected before technology but there are clearly a few simple tools that make your life a lot easier," said MacInnis.
1. Google Keep
MacInnis went inside his thought process of using checklists for pretty much everything. He said simplicity is the biggest difference between Google Keep and his previous productivity app Evernote.
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"I believe you succeed in business by being deliberate. I don't think things happen by chance," said MacInnis. "If you're not worrying about some detail, especially as a CEO, nobody is. So I have checklists for everything. My Sunday night checklist, for example, has all my previous week's meetings to review, any follow-up items I haven't done, the next week's meetings, and any prep work I have to do for those. I set my top three priorities for the week and send those to my assistant so she can optimize my calendar. I do my weekly company email of what's on my mind. There's a whole set of things I do every Sunday night and Google Keep just gives me one note to pin at the top of my screen all the time. It's really basic but it wasn't easy to do in Evernote and it's super easy to do in Google Keep.
"Keep is that notebook you whip out of your back pocket to jot down when you want to remember a thought or copy a link. It works as well in the browser as it does as an app and searching is impeccable," added MacInnis. "I pin my checklists to the top of the list, manage all of my notes from 1:1s with my employees, and snap images of whiteboards directly into Keep."
When MacInnis switched to Android and couldn't use iMessage any longer, he said his personal and business lives collided—digitally speaking. The answer came when both employees and friends started using WhatsApp instead.
"Although we use Slack, its notifications are usually delayed, the interface is heavy, and the application is slow to load, even on a PC," said MacInnis. "WhatsApp is crisp, simple, snappy and immediate; it's designed for simple messaging. I now reach quite a few members of my management team via WhatsApp, especially when I'm traveling. And my husband."
Google Keep is MacInnis's go-to app for top-of-mind organization and checklist management, but Wunderlist is where he turns when he needs to anchor a task to a to-do item. Wunderlist is the CEO's task-tracking and project management app for keeping his mental ducks in a row.
"I read this famous old book called Getting Things Done recently, and the best advice in that whole book is that, if there's something you've got to get done, write it down. Always, always, always, the minute you think of it, you've got to write it down," said MacInnis. "If you don't, it's going to bang around in your head. If it's banging around in your head, it's going to create stress.
"Everything goes on a list. Every to-do, every open question, even the articles I want to save for later reading go there," added MacInnis. "[Wunderlist] syncs seamlessly across my Mac, my Android phone, and my iPad. Its simplicity and reliability are such that I can entrust my most important commitments to it. And it makes an addictive chime sound when I check off an item, which makes me feel like I'm in Vegas at a slot machine—except I'm actually getting [stuff] done."
"Although it's focused on salespeople as a primary customer, Mixmax lets me track who has opened my emails, schedule messages for later delivery, reminds me when a message has gone un-replied, and lets me set up templates when I'm sending similar emails to lots of people," said MacInnis. "It integrates seamlessly with Gmail so it becomes an easy part of my email routine without intruding. I don't have to remember to use it."
5. Google Photos
MacInnis doesn't use a dedicated mobile scanning app or other business-focused media library to keep track of his photos and videos. Instead, he praised the search features of Google Photos.
"When I type 'business card' into Google Photos, it'll find [the card I was just handed] because it knows it's a business card," said MacInnis. "If you're looking for cats, it'll find cats. I have a picture of my license plate that I took because I never remember it. I type in 'license plate' and it comes up. If you type in two people's names, photos of them together will pop up."
Something many startup execs lack is a good night's sleep. As with many a Mac user, MacInnis pointed to the f.lux extension as the best way to relax your mind while working late.
"Sleep does not come easy to any CEO, especially after working late into the night," said MacInnis. "I am addicted to f.lux on my Mac, which automatically reduces the blue hue of the bright screen. It's one thing in front of a 5-inch phone set to low brightness; it's another thing when it's a 24-inch HD display blasting daylight-strength indigo at your retinas until 2:00am. I love the subtlety with which f.lux slowly yellows the tint over time, to the point that you don't even notice it…until it's too late."
7. Google Pixel
MacInnis spent several years working at Apple but, aside from his desktop, the CEO has largely become a Google guy. He called the Google Pixel one of the more underrated devices of the year, and said he and a number of other Inkling employees have switched to Google's iPhone-like smartphone since it was released this fall.
"We've got a bunch of Pixel users in the office. I was an iPhone user but I live and die by my calendar and email. It's all I do," said MacInnis. "The performance of this device is on par with and even slightly better than an iPhone in terms of the basic Android applications, and Gmail and Google Calendar work flawlessly. Whereas on an iPhone…have you tried to use Gmail and Google Calendar on an iPhone?"