What is the right technology for your small business?
Being a start-up isn't easy. In fact, only about half of small businesses in the U.S. survive their fourth year, and only 30% are still around after their five-year anniversary. While small businesses face all kinds of growing pains, keeping up with information technology is one of their biggest challenges. Therefore, getting the right technology for your small business is critical, especially since it is often one of the best ways to overcome other challenges and accelerate growth.
Technology may be the key to growth
While you may be able to run your business off a spreadsheet for a while, at some point you'll need to automate your processes to keep up with your business growth and deliver an exceptional customer experience. The good news is, you don't have to invent new technology or come up with an entirely new way of doing business. The right technology is probably already out there, waiting for you to find it and apply it to your business in a way that enhances your experience and that of your customers.
Consider how e-commerce can now be used to bring in customers from all over the world. Or how Wi-Fi enables your employees and contractors to work from anywhere, turning coffee shops, libraries and restaurants into offices and meeting rooms, with easy audio or video connections. You may already be thinking about those types of technology to help your business grow.
But before you choose the systems for your company, take a good, hard look at what's available. After all, every business is different. So, don't just use the same systems your competitors have in place. They may be one of the 50% that don't make it – because their technology wasn't right for their growing and changing needs.
Here's what to look for
When you shop for technology to help your business grow and compete, make sure it will do these things:
- Automate mundane tasks.
For example, you may want a system to help you administer your employee benefits -- that will automatically track enrollment progress and provide alerts for when you need to take care of something.
- Reflects your company's culture and aspirations.
Innovative, creative and driven employees often want to work for companies that are on the cutting edge. If your company is one of these, you'll want to select systems that are also state-of-the-art.
- Scales with you.
As you grow, you will need your technology to grow with you. Make sure the systems you choose have the capability to efficiently and easily expand as your business gets bigger.
- Connects to each other.
It won't matter if you have the best technology available if your internal systems don't communicate with each other and work together. For example, if you're setting up a system for your employee benefits, you may want to choose one that allows you to manage all employee benefits on one system, regardless of which insurance carrier you select. That way, even if you only offer a few benefits now, you can add more later without any hassle.
- Suits your business needs and processes, not the other way.
Don't try to fit into a system that isn't really what you want, just because it gets good ratings or someone else you know is using it. Hold out for technology that is designed to work your way.
- Evolves as your business does.
As a small business, you're sure to change and evolve as you get bigger and more competitive. Make sure your technology is flexible enough to evolve with you.
- Make a better experience for your customers – and your employees.
While your business depends on your customers' experience, it also depends on your employees. If you anticipate expanding your business beyond the four walls of your current office, you may want to consider systems that will allow you to hire consultants or remote workers or enable your current employees to work from home.
Cloud-based technology helps small businesses compete
One of the easiest ways to set up your business for future success may be to start doing business using the cloud. According to an Inc. Oracle study, 81% of small- to mid-sized business leaders are confident about moving to the cloud and feel that employees will readily adopt the cloud platform.2
Luckily, cloud-based technology is often readily available to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Even if you don’t need the full software package, some cloud-based software offers a "freemium" or scaled down version for free and an upgraded, paid version, for when you need more sophisticated capabilities. Either way, starting with cloud-based technology can provide a flexible, collaborative and secure approach to doing business.
1 Gartner Top Technology Trends Survey, 2017
2 What’s Keeping America’s SMB Leaders Up at Night, Inc. and Oracle, 2017