6 Tips for Mastering Technology as a Small Business Owner

Never has there been such a wealth of technology solutions available to business owners looking for a competitive edge. Access to turn key solutions across a nearly limitless array of options makes it easier than ever to give your small business a boost. The downside though is that for those chief cook and bottle washer types, striking the right balance of technology usage for your business can be harder than ever. If you’re not careful, you can turn this advantage into a tangled web of out-of-date tools or burdensome expenses for your business.

Here are 6 simple steps to cut through the noise and create a technology plan that works:

Business Tech Tip #1: Keep It Simple

Any business owner must be savvy with tech these days, but being on the bleeding edge of tech can also be a mistake. Depending on the business you’re in, there are a probably some key areas where you need to invest the time and energy to make the right tech decisions. If you own a restaurant, a killer web presence, social media tools as well as payment acceptance should be high on the list. Just across these domains the options are seemingly endless. The key can be finding a solution that is a fit for your industry and size of business. Many seemingly slick solutions may be bogged down with features and corresponding expenses meant for a business quite different from yours. Find providers that best fit your business profile.

Business Tech Tip #2: Understand Risks 

An often-overlooked area for where tech can both help and hurt your business is related to risk. Have you secured sensitive customer information? Do you let employees access social media sites? Do you change passwords and cut off access immediately after an employee leaves? Spend some time and assess your risks and come up with some simple policies and put tools in place to protect your business.  PR disasters can hit anyone these days, and many could be easily prevented with some pre-planning.

Business Tech Tip #3: Know Your Customers 

Much of the blanket tech advice for small business owners assumes all customers are created equal. Ask your customers how they found you and try to understand what is meaningful to them in deciding which businesses they choose to work with. This will not only tell you what is worth investing in, but what’s not worth the time and energy. As an example, having a mobile app might be a point of pride or bragging rights, but will your customers use it? If not, it is just another pricey tool you must maintain that might not be helping you grow.

Business Tech Tip #4: Go Cheap with the Hardware, but Keep it Secure

This is not a hard and fast rule, but generally if you just need a reliable, basic operating system and access to the Internet, don’t spend the money on anything too fancy. Costs can add up fast if you get drawn to the latest and greatest machine. But whatever you have, make sure to keep it running effectively and protect it with an up to date anti-virus subscription.

Business Tech Tip #5: Save Your Money for the Cloud

A basic laptop with fast Internet is your gateway to an endless array of options in the cloud. These subscriptions can add up though, and if not used thoughtfully, can turn into an unwieldy array of tools that continue to hit your credit card every month.  Before selecting a solution, look to see if it integrates easily with other tools you already use, pay attention to the pricing structure and look out for hidden fees. Also, like your hardware, have a plan for protecting your data and securing your accounts.

Business Tech Tip #6: Stay up to Speed

Life as a business owner can he hectic and fast paced. Even a well-devised technology plan can go out of date quickly if you don’t pay attention. This could mean burdensome costs, unwieldy tools and unknown risks throughout your business. Some low effort/high reward ways to invest your time to stay up to date include LinkedIn Groups specific to your industry, local networking groups and even apps like Flipboard to quickly sift through relevant articles across a wide variety of periodicals.

Having a thriving and successful small business can be an immensely rewarding and fruitful time in your life. In my career, I have been tasked with drafting technology strategies for large divisions of public companies, venture-backed start-ups and even my own small business. In every case, having a thoughtful plan, keeping things simple and staying informed were the best ingredients to successfully leveraging technology.

 

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