Great Ideas for your Small Business: Perform a Technology Checkup
With the cost of technology plummeting, there’s no excuse not to have the best hardware and software available. The right technology not only makes your life easier, but it also boosts employee morale and productivity and improves customer service.
One way to figure out exactly what you need to purchase is to take this quick technology checkup. My three-step checkup helps you determine whether you are serving yourself, your employees, and your customers well. It will also help you match the equipment you need with the work you must accomplish every day.
1. Determine your own technology preferences.
Busy entrepreneurs rely on quick, clear communication to keep up with all their responsibilities. Ask yourself how you prefer to communicate with people: Is it via e-mail? Voice mail? Fax or pager? Even the most computerphobic entrepreneurs are slowly realizing that the PC is their most powerful business tool. Decide whether you need a laptop computer. Or maybe you prefer to work in the office and transmit files via modem?
Determining what kind of equipment is necessary to do your work sets the stage for the way the rest of your employees, vendors, and customers deal with your company. Once you’ve figured out what is needed, make a “wish list” of things to buy. Decide whether single-purpose or multi- purpose equipment best fits your needs. Take a stroll through a showroom to become acquainted with what’s on the market.
2. Speak with key employees about their technology requirements.
You can’t make smart purchasing decisions without feedback from your people on the front lines. Add your employees’ equipment requests to the company “wish list.” They may not need much. Maybe they’d like a color printer to add pizzazz to sales materials.
Perhaps they need faster personal computers or networking capabilities. Assign one interested person to begin researching prices and equipment specifications. Speak to other business owners and ask for their personal recommendations.
Most people are very happy to share what they like and don’t like about the hardware and software they use.
3. Poll your customers and vendors.
A quick, efficient way to collect information is to send out a prepaid, perforated, two-part postcard. Most quick printers can help you design one.
Keep the questions short: Do they prefer to fax orders or phone them in? Would they order more if they could order online? Find out if they need an after-hours phone number, an e-mail address, or fax-back service. Ask them if your brochures and catalogs are providing them with all the necessary information. Most customers will be happy to take a few minutes to let you know what’s right and wrong about their dealings with your firm.
Add the customer requests to your wish list before you set your budget and priorities.
While you probably can’t afford to run out and purchase everything on the list right away, at least you can get started. Then set a time to do this checkup again at the same time next year so you can see what progress you’ve made.