Category Archives for "Technology"

Is it Time to Outsource Your IT?

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Consulting , Freelancing , Small Business , Technology

Technology is very important to businesses today, and when it fails, it can be an utter disaster. You have two choices when it comes to your Information Technology (IT) operations. Do you hire someone in-house to install and maintain your servers, and train your staff on the latest software? Or, do you outsource it to an external IT expert? The choice of the latter has many reasons to pick and smart business owners recognize the value of outsourced IT.

The benefits of outsourcing your IT can be quite clear, however, some are not as clear. Here are ten benefits to outsourcing your IT.

Lower Costs

You can lower your overheads with outsourced IT, as you’re just renting the equipment or space on a server, and pay a monthly fee rather than having to outlay tons of money for in-house equipment. You end up paying only for what you need.

Enhanced Security

Data security is crucial for your small business, and managed service companies are experts at protecting your data safe. These IT providers can easily increase data security, and make expensive data breeches less plausible.

Decreased Training Costs

It can get quite costly keeping your IT staff up-to-date on the latest operating systems and other software, not to mention the constant updates out today. Outsourcing your IT can reduce or eliminate these costs lowering your overhead even more.

Hiring Issues are Gone

Most business owners are not techies, and you’re probably not either, so hiring an IT person can be difficult when you don’t understand what it is they do. These hiring challenges can be eliminated by outsourcing your IT.

Dependable Backups

You have so many things on your mind as a business owner that backing up your data may fall on that list way down. You may have a setup where your data is backed up automatically, however, are you checking those backups. Managed service companies ensure that backups are done regularly and that those backups are usable. You’ll definitely be pleased about this when something goes wrong.

Technical Abilities

You’re an expert in what you do and the niche you’re in, however, IT is probably not one of those. Through smart outsourcing of your IT to an expert, you can focus on what you do best, and not have to worry about your IT.

Better Budgeted Costs

You can better budget what you’re spending on your IT each month as you just pay a fee based on the infrastructure or services you bought. When you have in-house staff, that’s much harder to do, as when something breaks down, you’re responsible for paying for it.

Easier Scaling

With an in-house IT staff, it can be much harder to scale up, however, with outsourced IT can be as easy as letting them know what you want. Is your business in a growth phase? Then you’re perfect for outsourced IT.

Better Productivity

The goal of any business is to be productive and efficiently serve customers, and that’s much easier when you outsource your IT. If your goal is higher profits, as I’m sure it is, then better productivity and lower costs ensures those profits.

Give Yourself a Fighting Chance

As a small business owner, you can keep up with larger competitors by outsourcing your IT. Outsourcing has always been a great way to level the playing field, and outsourcing IT lets you win in this global world of ours.

Finding ways to do more with less is the way of the startup as well as the growing business. A great strategy to do more with less is for your business is to outsource your IT, it has ten great advantages as mentioned above.

Five Major Benefits of Business Process Automation

By Randall Orser | Small Business , Technology

Every business will have inefficiencies of one type or another. Your business might be profitable, but certain processes can still slow down decisions, damage productivity, and lead to recurring errors. Altering the structure of the business could be unnecessary, though, with the overall workflow being beneficial to your operations. A better way to make improvements is to use process automation, replacing repetitive human tasks with efficient, optimized software models. Streamlining processes will have a number of benefits, with the following examples illustrating why you should consider automation in your business.

Root Out Inefficiency

Countless hours can be wasted performing tasks that are not improved through manual effort. General administration work is time-consuming and repetitive, but most small business owners feel they have to complete these tasks themselves. Even employing staff to perform admin duties can be inefficient, with wages better spent on productive activities. Automation can change the approach to day-to-day procedures, freeing up time for activities with a high ROI.

Improve Communication

A lack of organization can result in poor communication between staff and clients. Many businesses still rely on writing notes or sending individual emails, but these can get lost or removed from their intended context. From a communication perspective, automation ensures all interactions take place within a framework, allowing for easy reference back to the projects they are discussing.

Save Costs

Automation can reduce staffing requirements, create a paperless office, and end inefficient working methods. You may not see the savings immediately, but there should gradually be a reduction in wasteful practices that lose time and money. An improved workflow should also result in higher productivity, so you can develop, produce, and distribute more within the same time frame.

Accurate Data Analysis

The ability to study analytics will help spot areas of workflow that can be improved. Frequently, decisions are made by estimation, with business owners happy to use a gut feeling. While human experience is important for any business, it will often lead to common errors. Automating processes with software can provide accurate reporting, so you can feel more secure in your decisions. The data might still need to be interpreted, but the accuracy of the information, along with the savings in time, make it one of the first areas to employ automation.

Systematic Workflow

The use of process automation ensures a systematic workflow, with employees taking responsibility for their area of the process. In many cases, a business already has a system in place, but it fails due to human error. Automation is not infallible, but it makes it far easier to see the inputs that caused the process to fail.

Automating complex processes will not be an easy process, with any difficult transition posing challenges. Thinking into the future, though, effective process automation can be one of the factors determining if your business can survive. New startups will look to squeeze every last drop of efficiency and productivity from their processes, so inefficient businesses can find themselves outdated compared to new competition. Automation will not always be easy to implement, but the long-term benefits are there for all businesses to see.

Why Small Businesses Go Bankrupt and How to Avoid It

By Randall Orser | Budget , Business Income Taxes , marketing strategy , Small Business , Technology

Debt Word And 3d Character Shows Bankruptcy And Poverty TNStatistics are regularly released that say something to this effect: “85% of new businesses fail in the first five years”. The message is clear. If you start a small business there is a high probability that you will fail. You would think that this would send the smart money straight to the Help Wanted ads but what about the businesses that succeed? What made them different? What secret did they know that lead them down the path to prosperity? Here is what you need to know to be one of the winners.

Lets look at a scenario. Andre is a baker. Not just any baker. When anyone who has eaten Andre’s baking hears mention of it they start to salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. One day Andre’s grandmother passes away and leaves him a modest inheritance. His time has come. He takes his money and starts his dream business. Five years later the inheritance is gone and Andre is back working for his old boss. What happened?

Andre had spent all his time learning about his passion, which was baking. In order to succeed he needed to know an equal or greater amount about business. For every cookbook he read he needed to read a book on business. For every cooking class he attended he needed to attend a course on business. Andre didn’t know the difference between a Monthly Bank Statement and a Cash Flow Forecast. He had heaps of Specialty Knowledge and almost no Business Knowledge.

So the first step to succeeding in business is to learn about business. Sounds simple doesn’t it. It is but it is a sad fact that most people will only figure this out after it is too late and maybe not even then. Here are some things you can do to give yourself a huge edge and increase your likelihood of success.

  • Sign up for some courses in small business at your local college or university. Maybe even start working on a degree in business. Be aware that there are now programs aimed at learning to be an Entrepreneur, which differ somewhat from a typical business degree designed to send you into the corporate world.
  • Start networking. Meet successful business people. You will find them at your local Chamber of Commerce, at work in their business and as members of clubs such as Toastmasters.
  • Read books on business. The libraries and bookstores are filled with them. Read reviews to find some of the most recommended titles and take notes when you read them.
  • Make use of the excellent resources online. The United States Small Business Administration website is just one example of a tremendous (and free) resource on starting a small business.

Entrepreneurs are known for taking risks but the reality is that the skilled entrepreneur takes risks that are calculated and based on knowledge and experience, which is available to anyone who will go looking for it.

One west coast entrepreneur has owned a jewelry store, a pub, a community centre, a restaurant and a music store. Each one was a success and was ultimately sold as a profitable business. The key elements of his success were his solid business fundamentals.

Some things you need to know before you start leasing space, hiring staff or buying equipment include:

  • A sound understanding of Business Plans and which one you need (and you absolutely do need one).
  • The basics of marketing, who your customers are and how to reach them with your message.
  • What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and how this differentiates you from your competition. Why would your potential customers choose you over them?
  • What are the important numbers that you need to know and monitor to measure the health of your venture.
  • What is Cash Flow, how does it differ from Monthly Sales, what potential Cash Flow pitfalls effect your business model and how can you protect against them.
  • Who are your competition and what are their strengths and weaknesses.

Taking the time to gain a solid business education to supplement your Specialty Knowledge is the key to surviving your new business venture. It is what separates the winners from the losers. Reading this article is a sign that you are on the right track. Use the list given above as a starting point as you build a framework of required business knowledge and continue to fill your areas of weakness until you are strong and prepared to enter the arena. Do this and you will enhance your potential for success and give yourself the edge you need to achieve your dreams.

Five Signs Your Business Model and Plan Needs Revamping

By Randall Orser | Small Business , Technology

revampingImagine a situation where business is great, sales volumes are steadily increasing, your market share is growing and customers just can’t seem to get enough of your company’s latest and greatest product offering. Your company is the envy of the market, the proverbial market leader and an innovator in its field. Then, rather suddenly, everything seems to change. Everything seems to be going wrong. Your costs have increased, your sales have decreased, you’ve lost market share and you’ve hit one roadblock after another. However, did this really happen all at once and simply catch you by surprise, or is it something that has been building over time? In essence, did you simply ignore the warning signs when everything around you was screaming that it was time to redefine, revamp and reinvigorate your business plan? Unfortunately, far too many companies ignore the warning signs until it’s too late. So, what are these warning signs and what must your company do to avoid the damage they can inflict?

1.      Your Company’s Goals and Objectives Change

One of the surest signs your business model needs restructuring is when you, your management team, and your employees, all start veering away from your company’s stated goals and objectives. Often it’s the result of following where your market leads your business. After all, it may simply be a sign of an ever-changing business environment. However, when your marketplace changes, and you must change along with it to remain competitive, then take the time to revisit your company’s goals and objectives within your overall business model. Make sure your business plan accounts for the new realities within your market. It will help provide a clear path forward on pursuing these newly established objectives and provide every employee and manager with common long-term goals.

2.      Your Cost Structure Increases and Revenues Decrease

If there is one essential rule of business it most certainly has to be that profit must be protected at all times. In fact, profit is essential. It’s the reason why your company is in business. While most would assume that an increase in costs, and a decrease in sales, would immediately be recognized and dealt with, reality is entirely different. What ends up happening is that both occur gradually over time. Rarely do sales volumes plummet overnight, unless of course a major contract is lost. Instead, costs seem to slowly increase, while sales numbers slowly decrease. In most cases, the increases and decreases are gradual and not immediately obvious. This is ultimately why companies must continue to assess their overhead by analyzing their direct and indirect expenses, while at the same time tracking their profit margins on sales. Again, these warning signs are gradual in nature, but by the time they’ve taken hold of your company, it’s far too late to adopt any short-term solutions. It’s been a while in the making and it will take your business time to adjust.

3.      You Grow Too Quickly

Granted, it’s difficult to find issues with business growth, especially in today’s economy. However, growing too quickly can have serious consequences, especially if your business plan and model isn’t easily scalable to your new growth. It’s not hard to imagine the consequences of a business that takes on more than it can handle. Sales, marketing and customer service can suffer under the weight of increased customer expectations. Manufacturing can suddenly have issues with quality and production throughput. Inventory and supply chain management can suddenly encounter higher costs of inventory ownership as they struggle to find vendors and creditors able to deal with the extra workload. If not prepared, that increase workload can damage your company’s reputation.

4.      You Ignore Critical Benchmarks

Another sure sign of trouble is when your enterprise ignores key performance indicators (KPI) or continually misses one vital benchmark after another. Your company may have defined these benchmarks early in its history. In fact, your original business plan likely included several key vital benchmarks, ones you deemed essential to securing your long-term future. They were seen as pivotal milestones and periods of reflection, ones where your company could assess the success or failure of individual strategies. Once your company starts ignoring these benchmarks, and glossing over deadlines, it moves towards a period of indifference, one marked by constant rescheduling and missed opportunities. Don’t allow this to happen. Sit down with your management team when you find your enterprise is missing important deadlines. This period is essential in order to redefine your business plan and model going forward. It’s an opportunity to revise your schedule and find ways to make those benchmarks important again.

5.      You Start Losing Your Biggest Customers

Losing a series of large customers has both immediate and definitive long-term consequences. This is often due to the 80-20 “Pareto Principle” or rule. It states that 80% of a company’s sales come from the top 20% of customers. Losing any of these large customers means a sudden and drastic decline in revenue. Unfortunately, a number of enterprises rationalize these losses, especially when they are seemingly ahead of their growth curve. However, losing one customer may seem simple to overcome, but losing multiple large customers isn’t. Therefore, be aware of where your biggest customers are and why they may be willing to move to your competition. If left unchecked, you can suddenly find yourself losing more than you thought possible.

When thinking of the impact of these five aforementioned outcomes, think back to how you originally came up with your business plan. You understood that success wasn’t guaranteed. You were well aware of the failure rates for new enterprises. As such, you laid out a plan that protected your interests, one that defined specific goals and objectives, defined your enterprise’s cost structure, outlined a plan for sustainable growth and finally, defined specific benchmarks and key performance indicators. Pay attention to those original plans before the fifth and most ominous sign occurs; losing big customers has dire consequences. Before that happens, revisit your business plan and revamp your business model to account for your new market reality.