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Just like established businesses, new businesses need tech. But deciding what’s urgent and critical, and what’s unnecessary, isn’t always easy.
New businesses need technology just like established businesses do.
But they don’t need nearly as much technology. And the things they need from their tech can be quite different too.
The hard thing for a lot of founders is figuring out the difference between useful tech and unnecessary expenses. You don’t want to make life harder when you’re trying to get this thing off the ground. You also can’t afford to waste a single dollar.
And you definitely don’t want your early life at the company becoming all about managing a million different tools.
The tricky thing is that there isn’t one right answer to the question of what tech new businesses need. Every business is different.
So here are some smart questions to ask yourself early on. Get good answers to these and you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary tech.
What would we do if we had no tech? The most important thing for a young business is to make sure you’re creating something of real value for your customers. While it’s natural to try and find efficient ways to create that value, try determining the inefficient way to do it first – then walk back to figure out ways to streamline things.
For instance, if your business is trying to deliver dry cleaning, you could probably run that whole business on paper forms and bounded folders. But if you introduce tech like mobile forms, you could make the whole process a lot faster. If the speed of your service matters most, that’s tech you’ll want to invest in.
Will everyone be in an office? There’s a lot of tech that makes it easier for people to work remotely and stay connected to the office. It might be simple, cloud-based solutions like G-suite and MS365. Or it might be more sophisticated solutions like a VPN to make sure salespeople can send and receive files over public Wi-Fi without compromising your data. But you’ve first got to be sure the productivity of road warriors and field workers are important enough to your business to merit the investment. Because if they are important to you and your customers, you don’t want their productivity being hindered by the wrong tech.
What’s the most important thing we don’t want to do?
New businesses are always scrappy – they’re full of smart, passionate people doing their best to solve as many problems as they physically can. Job titles tend to be blurry. And everyone’s happy to get their hands dirty. But over time, it starts to become clear that some of the things these smart, passionate people are doing just aren’t worth the hassle. It demotivates them, it keeps them from the stuff that’s really important, it frustrates them. These are the places where tech is ideal. You might think it isn’t worth getting something like an automated, interactive voice service for your phones. But if the lack of one is making your head of sales feel like a glorified receptionist, it’s worth solving that problem.
What’s slowing us down the most? A good way to think about technology is as an accelerant. Now, when you’re an established business, almost everything needs to be sped up. Bureaucracy takes its toll. But when you’re a brand new business, it’s more likely a lack of structure that’s slowing you down. So you’ll want to be careful not to solve a problem with technology when what you really needed was a less chaotic process. At the same time, you should analyze your business’ overall speed in delivering value to customers so you can spot the things that slow you down the most. Then think about whether tech is the best way to solve that problem.
How quickly are you scaling? When your whole business is two people, you don’t need that much tech or process. As long as the two of you are communicating clearly, you can figure things out. But as soon as you start adding new people into the mix, things change. This is where tech can really help. Take HR software as an example. You probably don’t need software to conduct performance reviews when there are only three of you. But if you’re planning on adding 20 new people by the end of the year, you’re going to need to standardize how people are reviewed. And you’re going to want to make the process of doing those reviews as simple to pull off as possible. In that case, some software could solve a real problem.
So what tech is necessary?
Every business has different needs, so there are no clear-cut answers here. In fact, it’s possible none of these examples are good recommendations for your specific business.
The good news is that SaaS products make the economics of investing in technology a lot more sensible because you can pay-as-you-go.
But you don’t want to spend on something just because it’s cheap. So ask yourself these questions, do the hard work of finding good answers to them.
And take solace in the fact that technology is a lot easier to replace than good people. So talk to your people, ask them what matters to them, what slows them down, what’s getting in their way.
Then see if technology is the answer. It won’t always be. But when it is, it’ll go a long way.
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