Lessons of a CEO #3

By Alex, Updated: 2023-01-18 (published on 2016-10-10)

A Brief History of Thyme

So, apologies are of course due. We are only at Blog week 3 and I’m already a day late. My subscriber base (my mum) was up in arms about the delay – such atrophy, she lamented must surely be the cause of the recent Sterling flash crash and will not bear me well in life. I must also apologise to the patient viewers of my 22 press ups in 22 days challenge. Having only succeeded in 20 push-ups, and having missed day two – this is not looking like a project coated in success.

Anyway, let it just be said that it was a busy week – on which I will update you more in a separate post when I can.

I’m returning today to look at the ingredients of a successful startup – and this week I thought I would spend a bit of time looking at productivity tools.

Related reading: These technology tools will help you do more with less in your small business

Your life has changed (and let’s be honest, not for the better) when you quite consciously click on the store, looking for an app to make ‘email something you love again’. (Yes that one exists – go hunt for it yourself and if any of you reignite the fires of passion for your Yahoo account after downloading it, then email me and tell me why). Needless to say, I have downloaded (and often scrapped pretty quickly) many many online tools over the last few years – looking for solutions to problems big and small and I thought it would be useful to list a few of them out for you here – so you don’t have to!

My memory isn’t great (there are a lot of productivity apps for that) so I may not get round to listing every last app I’ve stumbled upon here today BUT fear not, just like Baldrick, I have a cunning plan. I will jettison in our hotshot team of Dragons and ask them to add anything else they download to this list whenever they next do – heck this blog might become the startup software survival list in a few years. One simply must think big.

Lists, my grandmother – Mamgu, always said should be well-organized – so mine shall be.  Mamgu (which is Welsh for grandmother, and we’re English – go figure) was actually a productivity rockstar. Her hand got shaky when she was older and she would write me letters using a typewriter with a digital display. I think it would show about ten or fifteen characters before it typed on the paper, so if you made a mistake, boom, you could erase it before it hit the paper. Now that was some cutting edge sh*t back in the day I assure you and saved her a bunch of money in Tippex.



Unless you are shipping snow across the States – don’t get me started, you’re really going to want to have a play with some of these at one point or another

LinkedIn Sales Navigator – Why would you pay 50 bucks or so a month for something that is free? Because LinkedIn isn’t free. Collecting your very up-to-date data – that’s free – but if you want to use LinkedIn to talk to folks you don’t know, you’re going to need to pay.


Unless you’re a recruiter, Sales Navigator is the subscription I’d recommend. LinkedIn tries to get you to use a different interface once you sign up. You probably won’t end up ever looking at it. You’ll just be delighted to now have a few million new friends who will share daily photographs in your feed of inspiring messages. Favorites include photographs of expensive sports cars with overlayed white text about hard work and success. Don’t click ‘like’ on these posts. It won’t help you with sales productivity.

Dux Soup – Go on, admit it, you’ve never heard of it! BOOM, check it out. If you use LinkedIn and you’re into sales automation, you really want to have a look at this. It’s a native Chrome app and it makes your LinkedIn Sales Navigator account very much more valuable.

LinkedIn Autopilot – The nemesis of Dux Soup. I downloaded this, used it for a while, and then switched to Dux-Soup. They do different things so have a look at both. – Some of the sales guys use this. Having never used it myself, I can’t make much comment but I think it’s wizardry is guessing email addresses from social media profiles. Can we hide nowhere anymore?!

Gmass – This little bad boy lets you mass-email directly from your Gmail account. That’s presumably how it got the name. It was free for a while but I think they’ve started charging a few bucks a month now. It’s a great way of avoiding your email looking ‘spammy’ or ‘newsletter’ or anything else with a ‘y’ on the end.

Pipedrive – This is a CRM really but it’s a pretty neat tool for very small sales teams that just want to push leads along a pipeline. It’s visual – for those of you that are – visual.

SumoMe – This is pretty hardcore sales stuff for your website. These guys know page conversions. If you’re new to traffic generation, you should have a kick around here.

Boomerang – This lives right in Gmail and schedules your mails to go when you like. But clearly, I’m not paying for that. Why do people buy this? Because of ‘read receipts’. You know the minute your sales email is opened – and sales folk like that for fairly obvious reasons. There are a bunch of competitors to Boomerang but the sales guys I talk to like Boomerang.


TeamGantt – Never used this in my life, but our Product team swears by it. Gantt gets stuff done on time, and that’s good for you and your startup. So there you go, I endorse it!

Receipt Bank – Awesomeness on your phone. Spend company cash, take a photo, and it’s in Xero. Done. Clearly our CFO will ‘lol’ at this post since he routinely finds my expenses in my bag crumpled up. But look in-principle – this app is just amazing!

Google Apps – Long story in three words: CTO was right. And to think all those years ago I thought Microsoft was the centre of the world. Forgive me cloud computing, I was a humble lawyer. You know now when I start a spreadsheet, I actually do it in Sheets. First!

Xero – Love these guys. If you do need online accounting software – make it Xero.

Dragon Law – Our CFO loves it for legal work, and our Cathy swears by it for e-signing (You should create a free account for that alone!).

Evernote – Everyone struggles to organise their life. I found this and for about a month, Chris and I talked about nothing else. Then we downloaded the Scannable app and it just got better. Then for reasons I don’t recall both of us just stopped using it. But quite frankly you should give it a go. Its beautifully designed. I think I might start using it again.


There is so much SaaS software out there for working together on your software that I’m not going to waste time going too deep here. Needless to say you’ll end up using one or other.

Smartsheet – When we were just starting out we tried to use this to help with early project stuff. I did not take to it at all (but then let’s be fair – see my comments on Basecamp, the thing we actually use (not on Basecamp of course because I would never in my wildest moment of madness actually use it). Anyway this was a few years back now – I’m sure its worth having a play with.

Basecamp – Yes Zegal uses this. Do I personally use this? No. Never. Never. Is it useful for our business? Our team thinks so. Should you ever say on a group call at Zegal, “It’s on Basecamp”? No, of course you shouldn’t. Ever. Is any of this Basecamp’s fault? No. See my comment on it’s competitors, Smartsheet and Trello.

Trello – Downloaded it. Didn’t really get it. A pretty version of Smartsheet for folks that like their collaboration software to be visual. Anyway the Dragons have spoken, we use Basecamp.


Intercom – Look, this isn’t cheap and it will probably not be a Day One purchase for you, but when you are casing out customer contact software for your app, and you will be, don’t hesitate. This is quite simply the best.  API works like a breeze. It channels chat to the right folks in your business. It does work on your phone and they’ve done a rather jolly good over there at Intercom. 10 points to Gryffindor!

Zendesk  – Oldie but a goodie. Works well alongside Intercom. We used to use Freshdesk but moved on to Zendesk when we implemented Intercom. Our Customer Success team is a lot happier (and thus more successful) now!

Google Hangouts – I guess the secret here is to understand what Hangouts is, or rather what it isn’t. It isn’t Skype nor is it Whatsapp Audio or FaceTime Audio, which are of course totally awesome lifehacks when you’re overseas and working off a data-only plan. You can use Hangouts as a Skype replacement because it does have a call function but you’ll 7 times out of 10 end up mad at your phone and want to do damage requiring screen replacement (if you do – GetFynd are good if you’re in Singapore). No, Hangouts is simply a meeting room. Once you figure this out and you set up your calendar invites clearly (with the link to the meeting in the meeting description so your friends dialing in from their phone can find it) well it works rather well. Boom, con-calls for free.

Outlook for iPhone – I have no idea why Microsoft released a full-blown piece of software for the iPhone for free after about 8 years of competitors doing it. But they did. We assumed it would be horrible and clunky. I tried it for a week (because I have used EVERY single email client for the iPhone and I give them all a week). It’s still on my phone. I kind of like it!

That’s all for now – but bookmark this page – we will keep adding to the list as we try out more of the truly mind-boggling array out there!

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Daniel Walker


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