Getting started in business with technology

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jethro's picture

Quite regularly I come across people who are just starting out in business. Often this is due to dissatisfaction with a corporate career, change in circumstances or location. Many older people who are made redundant or leave their jobs feel they have little job prospects and decide to start a new business. Many are just starting something alongside their existing work hoping it will be enough to let them quit at some point in the future.

2013-08-16 Alex Hughes 084Some (not all) talk to an accountant or lawyer and set up the right business structure for their new enterprise. Unfortunately a common mistake many make is to not talk to a trusted advisor about their technology requirements. Too often I am called into help after the investment in retail consumer technology has been made already. Often it is too late to change things, funds have been spent and computers, tablets, printers and phones have been acquired.

The mistakes I have had to fix include:

  • Retail consumer level routers that are not able to handle the demands of a small business
  • PCs that were purchased with retail licences of the operating system, office productivity software etc.
  • Tablets and phones on retail or prepaid phone plans and accounts
  • Cheap PCs that were physically not capable of meeting the demands of the office software installed on them
  • Hodge podge of retail cloud services, email accounts and domain names (usually no domain name) and no professionally integrated solutions
  • Cheap printers that have high consumable costs and cannot handle the demands of a small office
  • No understanding of customer data management
  • No backup solution (or an untested hope and pray solution) or Business Continuity Plans (BCP)
  • and so on

Note the common theme is retail. The retail versions of software is usually cheaper for a reason – it is missing components that businesses use. And maybe they don’t need them when it is one person but as they grow and expand saving $20 now means spending hundreds more later on. By cobbling together “free” services and retail solutions like Gmail or ISP based email addresses, prepaid phone plans and the like, these small and micro businesses think they are saving money, but they always spend more than they saved fixing the mess they get themselves into when something goes wrong as it invariably does.

So my upfront advice to any new business or person contemplating a new business is this.

  • Get yourself a trusted IT advisor. We act in this capacity for most of our customers.
  • Treat them like your lawyer or accountant. Expect to pay professional rates and get professional advice. Tell them everything you plan to do.
  • Ask them to help you build an IT plan that covers at least 3 years of your business plan and allows for growth, expansion, additional staff and locations.
  • Consider cloud services carefully (more on this in future posts), ensure there is a BCP, a backup solution that is tested, and if possible regular maintenance contracts ensuring everything is maintained.
  • Ensure that critical assets can be replaced quickly without loss of data and minimal downtime.
  • Check your insurance policies cover equipment loss and data recovery.
  • Ensure data can be protected, and portable devices (laptops, phones and tablets) can be remotely wiped if stolen or lost.
  • Ensure purchased or leased equipment is running professional levels of software (not home consumer versions) for future compatibility and that equipment is using latest generation hardware. Typically cheap computers are running hardware that is 2-3 generations old. This will cost you more in the long run.