Technology needs of a start-up
The most successful entrepreneurs we advise, even those running pure on-line businesses, do not adorn technology or create shrouds of gold and jewels to house this precious aspect of their business.
Technology, after all, is hungry, and will devour all the funds you feed it. So, how much investment is enough, and where should those dollars be allocated?
Dissecting technology reveals answers that may not be as complex as you think.
- Phone communication is critical, of course. Naturally, you want give the perception of being "established," and more importantly be reachable by your clients. If they can't talk to someone when they call, or quickly leave a message, most people will not try again. However, answering services and assistants are expensive, right? If you are a small business, consider using an automated phone service such as Webley, or outsource to a phone answering service. With Webley, you can receive a dedicated business number, voicemail box, voice access to your e-mail, and fax capabilities all in one service. This type of service is a low cost for the value, and most importantly, customers can easily track you down by telling the system to "Find you". It will ring your chosen phone numbers to locate you. If you are buying a phone system, consider a used or refurbished system for savings.
- Computers are critical since much of the world communicates via e-mail today, web research can save you time, and your documents will look more professional. A low cost way to obtain a PC or laptop computer is through leasing programs offered directly from many PC manufacturers and resellers. You don't get to write-off the cost of the PC all at once, but you don't spend your valuable cash resources all at once either.
- Your first website can swallow your funds in one gulp if you are not careful. This is our business, yet we are firm believers in entrepreneurs finding customers first, and then creating the complete website and applications that tie to them. Many start-ups have created slick websites without any customers and it takes their focus off the important things, like growing their business. If you are creating an on-line business, or a business heavily dependent on your on-line solutions, a cost effective way of using the web is to create a demo of your solution and use that to sell to clients and/or investors. The non-successful usually balk at this either due to fear of someone taking their idea (because it is "just a demo"), or fear of selling. Unfortunately, these individuals believe spending time on building a website is building the business, when in reality only people who say they will pay money for your product or service can build your business.
- Software - The necessary software will depend on your business, but you will at least need a word processor, spreadsheet program and accounting software. Naturally, Microsoft's Office or Lotus covers the first two and typically come with a PC purchase or lease. Accounting packages include QuickBooks and Peachtree. Look for features that allow you to use on-line banking and payroll services directly from your accounting package (huge time saver). We use QuickBooks, and it does this nicely.
- Payroll and Benefits - One of the biggest drains on an entrepreneur's time, if you let it, is the administrative aspects of the business. Frankly, we made the mistake of doing this ourselves, and these are what we call "non-paytime activities". Since non-paytime activities are done outside of selling hours, payroll and benefits for the start-up company should either be done after hours, or should be outsourced. Looking back, our suggestion is to outsource. There are many good services that will co-employ your employees and alleviate your burden to set up a healthcare plan, 401K, liability and workers comp insurance, employee handbook, payroll, etc…
- Other - An investment in an electronic organizer is a big time saver. You are never without a phone number, your emails can be read from them, your calendar can be manipulated from anywhere, and your tasks can be quickly forwarded to another date without rewriting them daily.
Whether you are a one person start-up running on a minimal budget, or have a moderate to large budget, you will ultimately be faced with a tough question: "When I finish feeding my technology beast, how many more customers will I have?" If the answer is none, then this may be the wrong time to invest in technology, because early on, unless your actions are making your virtual cash register ring, it is not worth the investment.
Hopefully, the shrine to technology has been adequately dismantled, and your technology budget will only feed on controlled doses. Two last things that can be great investments:
- Find a trusted technology advisor. Some of our clients use temporary CTOs as they are getting their businesses off the ground. This is a cost savings for them, and provides the support they need.
- Since you will be selling instead of spending, buy a good telephone headset. Not only will your hands be free for writing and typing, but your voice will come across more relaxed and confident.
Thank you, and best wishes growing your business.
This article was written by a staff member of: GENECA
Geneca provides an array of software consulting, advising, and outsourced project/product development services. Geneca's ability to create trusting client relationships, plus its rapid web deployment tools and commitment to continuous learning has helped them stand out in this crowded field. Geneca is located at 1441 Branding Lane in Downers Grove, IL. They can be found on the web at www.geneca.com and contacted both by email, email@example.com, and by phone at (630) 434.8200, x120.