Running a business is hard
Every time I say this it feels like I'm saying that the sky is blue or that rain is wet but I'll say it again. Running a business is hard, it is unforgiving, and for a lot of us competition is stiff.
Take Lemon & Honey as an example; I have to run HR, IT, Finance, and Operations just to keep existing as a corporation. As the CEO of my business I wear a ton of hats and no matter what I do there's always more to do.
It's with this mindset that I write this article; for other entrepreneurs who have 8 million projects, a core business to run, employees to care about, and competitors to worry about.
Every business can take advantage of technology
I always hear people say "I don't think I have enough for them to do" or "what would they even do?".
It's hard to imagine that there's a whole full-time job lurking in Shopify or Wordpress and I'll be honest, you can get by without a website. I see it all the time when prospecting but just because it isn't necessary doesn't mean it isn't a game-changer. I actually wrote a whole article about how to get the most out of your website.
Software companies around the world are constantly solving problems in sales, marketing, support, and other crucial pieces of businesses. You, as a business owner, can use that technology as an advantage to overtake competition or you can slowly fall behind and watch your business crumble into ruins.
Technology can ramp up your business in all kinds of ways by utilizing things like:
Internal documentation for increased efficiency
Internal and external communication for brand cohesion and efficiency
Cloud document storage for all your shared files
Brand awareness and sales boosts from ads
Analytics to understand your consumer
But to be honest that's only scratching the surface and big companies will spend a lot on these investments. At New Relic our IT team was 15+ and our business-facing engineering team was ~12 on top of the 10 software admins in other business functions.
Your job as a small-business owner is to make sure that you…
Keep your eyes on the prize
Outsourcing your technology needs will keep your business focused.
Remember that competitive advantages come from emphasizing your strengths, not by having no weaknesses. For example, if you sell cigars then you would need to worry about sourcing, maintaining inventory, testing products, training employees, seasonal projections, competitive analysis and so much more.
The more time you have to focus on these core needs, the easier it will be to scale your business and stay competitive as market conditions change. For example, if there's an issue with your Nicaraguan product you need to deal with it. If there’s new competition around the corner you need to deal with it. You don’t need to be hung up on search results or a bad review.
Using an IT shop allows you to focus and puts those responsibilities on an expert.
Contractors and agencies bring best practices
Let's be clear, as an agency we have seen more technology than a normal IT manager.
An IT shop is an expert in technology and will know and understand what the hottest technologies are, where the deals are, what tools have quality issues, and what just isn't worth it.
Not only do they understand and bring best practices to the table, they work with a wide breath of clients and technologies. They can understand your needs and solve them with the right tools the first time, because they have done this before.
You benefit from the agencies other clients. Obviously, different clients have different needs. For instance, more established clients with more mature online presences will want to start testing new products or working with more integrations, where smaller clients just need an updated website that doesn’t look like it’s stuck in 1998. But, no matter where you fit in that range, working with an agency can allow you to gain learnings surrounding which online strategies will work best before you even try them.
Evaluation is key
When evaluating an IT shop it's important to remember that they are meant to support YOU and YOUR business.
They're your champion, your liaison, and if you want to get the most out of one make sure you pick someone that makes technology make sense. If they don't they aren't the right fit.
The right shop will listen to you, make you feel comfortable, and deliver what your company needs. For complex retail shops this might mean a guy who comes out and sets up for the physical network. For someone running a consultant business you might need digital marketing and a website. Whatever you need, they should have your back.
Sometimes it makes sense to hire internally
A good rule of thumb cost-wise is that if you’re using more than 3/4th of a person you should consider a full-time person.
This is difficult thing to check and it’s hard to know exactly how much room for improvement there could be. But, if you know you have a need and budget then I would suggest you start interviewing for internal IT candidates.
However, if you don’t know for sure or you need someone in the interim start outsourcing and see how that is cost and dedication-wise. Sometimes it makes sense to bring people in-house but it's easier to get rid of an agency than an employee (morally and logistically).
Of course, we're a little biased
We started Lemon & Honey because we’re dedicated to making technology accessible to non-technical teams.
We believe through a few focused hours a month we can do more for your business than one of your managers can do stumbling through Shopify.
Do you agree?
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