On Thursday, October 17th I was excited to be a speaker at the NY Business Expo. I was on a great panel, discussing “Using Technology to Drive Innovation & Grow Your Business .” I shared with the audience that when I started my business as a junior at Hoftsra University, technology was my greatest competitive advantage.
Technology can make your business look larger than it actually is: a one-person business can appear to be a multi-person business, creating the impression of size and professionalism that customers needed to be comfortable before they would commit to doing business with me. As the business grew, technology helped my team as well by giving them access to resources and the ability to collaborate over great geographic distances.
One major lesson I learned was how crucial planning is. It’s essential to stop and think about business today; determining what is needed to succeed now and plan what will be needed for business tomorrow. This can be challenging: new technology appears on the market regularly, and no small business owner can realistically purchase all of it. You have to determine what you’re going to actually need and what best suits your needs, today and tomorrow.
Here is my advice on what to do to properly plan out your technology choices for growing your business.
Make a List:
It may seem simple but it is important to stop and create a list of your needs. Think about each area of your business; day to day tasks like email and general communication. Think about your marketing tactics and the tools you will need to support your efforts.
What processes do you have in place? Are they automated? Could they be? This is an important part of list making and what will help you on your journey to choosing your tech.
Find a Bounce Partner:
I have mentioned this before when it comes to marketing your business, but sometimes we just do not know what we’re missing. Go over your list with someone who has been there and knows what they missed their first time out.
Your bounce partner will challenge you to look at things in a new way and help you see what is missing on your list. They do not have to be a technology expert, but they should have technology as part of their focus of efficiency.
Identify Tools that Integrate:
Now that you’re ready to start looking at applications to streamline your business you want to be clear about two important words – compatibility and integration.
You already have technology in your life that you’re using and plan to continue using. That means selecting tools that work with this technology – in other words, they’re compatible. It begins with your computer. You may have a PC or a MAC. There are some tools that only work on one or the other. If you’re looking at cloud tools compatibility isn’t usually an issue, but occasionally you will notice some systems are only designed to work with some web browsers. Keep this in mind as you make your decisions.
As you review tools it is also important to pay special attention to what applications allow you integrate with other applications. This is a very important step in your decision making process because it can cut down a great deal on duplication of data.
Growth, Upgrades & Migrations:
Make decisions based on what you need for today, but be sure that the tools you look at allow you to grow as well. Look for tools that open up features as you grow. It may cost extra but it will be worth it.
Additionally, make sure you can move to another platform with ease. You may get to a point where you out grow the application. This happens! When it happens to you, you want to make sure moving or migrating data to another platform will be relatively painless.
Find Time for Training:
The new tools only work when you know how they work. We all like to jump in, but you may waste more time trying to figure it out than you would with a few hours of training.
Growing a business with technology is about knowing what you need to make your life easier. Take the time to walk through these steps and you’ll be able to appear bigger and more efficient to your clients.