This month we are delighted that Andy Steer from Vividly Simple has agreed to write a guest blog for us, sharing some great IT guidance for small business owners when considering expansion plans. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Andy. Here is what he had to say . . .
A familiar story . . .
Many small businesses start out with the technology the founders already have around them or with a very basic provision. As the business expands and the team starts to grow, the limitations of those tools become apparent.
You might upgrade to a business email solution; sign up for an app that lets your team share files; perhaps another for managing tasks and projects; another to help you schedule social media, and another for email marketing. New tools for the new challenges you face.
But a while later, although costs have crept up things still aren’t quite working as they should be. Email enquiries from your website” disappear” en-route to your inbox, some members of your team can’t see the files and folders you thought you’d shared with everyone, or your laptop decides to “go slow” just when you need it most.
Data protection laws just add to the complexity, as does the increasing need to defend your business from cyber-attack. Your team get more frustrated, and you spend more time just trying to get to grips with the tools that you’d introduced to solve your problems, not add to them.
Business vs Home
We’ve all become so used to using technology in our everyday lives, with carefully collated and tested services from Apple, Google and a myriad of others an integral part of our day. But what we don’t get to see is the huge effort and billions of dollars these providers undertake to ensure the devices and apps all work nicely together.
Business IT isn’t like your home tech. When you get it wrong, the risks can be far greater, and your obligations are different too. Piecing everything together isn’t easy, but the good news is, once you have the right technology in place, your team will feel connected and productive, the data you store will be secure and protected, and you’ll feel in control again.
Where to start?
Unless you have a real aptitude for IT (in which case this story won’t resonate), the key concept is to keep everything as simple as possible.
Keep the number of IT tools you use to a minimum, starting with a business version of either Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 for email, file-sharing and chat. Both platforms will give you control over who can access what, which is important for cyber security and data protection.
Thinking about the key aspects of any small busines, you will probably need:
- An accounting package like Sage, Xero or Quickbooks.
- A CRM system such as Capsule, Soho or HubSpot to manage your interactions with clients and suppliers, plus your new business development approach.
- An email deployment tool such as Mail Chimp, HubSpot or Mailer Lite.
- A tool to schedule your social media posts, such as Hootsuite, Social Pilot or ContentCal.
Many of these integrate well with Google and Microsoft, but there are so many alternatives my advice is to choose your expert first and then let them guide you towards their preferred platform.
When it comes to data protection and cyber-security, the UK National Cyber Security Centre and the Information Commissioner each offer guidance for individuals and businesses. It can be a daunting subject, but they both provide a set of simple principles that are a great place to start.
Choosing the right IT for your small business isn’t easy, but managing your business with the wrong IT is frustrating and time-consuming, so it’s worth spending the time to put the right solutions in place.
Get expert advice upfront to avoid expensive mistakes. The right IT, configured correctly, will save you time and support your business as it grows, leaving you and your team free to focus on what you do best. If it all sounds daunting, don’t worry; we can help, get in touch to arrange a no-obligation discovery call.
Some great words of wisdom here Andy, thank you for sharing.