Erik Day, VP of Small Business for Dell

If you could create your own fantasy Board of Directors who would be on it? CO— connects you with thought leaders from across the business spectrum and asks them to help solve your biggest business challenges. In this edition, a CO— reader asks how to handle IT challenges without a full time IT department.

Erik Day, VP of Small Business for Dell, answers…

IT challenges are some of the most common dilemmas amongst small businesses. As technology rapidly evolves and continues to provide the foundation of our productivity, small business owners are more reliant than ever on high-performing, reliable technology solutions to run their companies. However, with limited budgets, time and resources stretched thin, and the overwhelming learning curve looming over new business owners, the task of identifying the best IT solutions is often tabled or delegated to an employee who is unqualified to make such a decision. For good reason, IT comes at a cost, which is why 83% of small businesses lack an IT staff and only 21% of small businesses strongly agree that they have a well-defined strategy to use technology to transform their businesses for growth.

Below are a few areas of advice for small businesses to keep in mind when determining an IT strategy under tight resources and budgets.

Don’t wait to find a solution

According to the Small Business Association, only 50% of new businesses survive beyond five years. With the multitude of tech challenges facing small businesses and the growth of new and advanced technologies today, it is imperative to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one when planning a technology strategy. Do not wait until a problem occurs to walk over to the drawing board. By the time you accrue employees, transactions and customers, it will end up costing you more money and resources if you don’t have the proper infrastructure in place to remedy technology that isn’t working properly.

Assess your technology needs

As your company grows, your needs change. What you needed a year ago might not be practical anymore. It is imperative to have hardware and software that supports your team, not just in the present, but in the future as it expands. Don’t jump too far ahead, but be sure to keep the big picture in mind. To gain a good idea of your technology needs, audit your current state of technology. Assess employee roles, examine workflows, ask employees what they need, look at how they interact with customers and how transactions take place, what you use on a daily basis and what is helping or harming daily tasks. Learn from the past: Was there technology that didn’t work for you? Look at your budget, revenue flow and projected growth.

It takes a village to start, grow, and scale a company from scratch.

Erik Day, VP of Small Business, Dell

You are not alone

Know that as a small business, you are not alone in your journey. Do not isolate yourself during the technology decision-making process when you’re facing IT issues, or endure a complete “do-it-yourself” methodology. There are many business leaders and fellow small business owners out there who are happy to share their experiences. Talk with other fellow business owners, join small business organizations, develop a network to lean on and learn what works and what doesn’t.

In addition to growing a network, there are cost-efficient, tech-focused advisors out there who can equip you with the proper training, direction, and solutions necessary to keep your business running. According to Salesforce's 2016 Connected Small Business Report, 49% of small businesses say they spend too much time and money figuring out which technology to use, and 73% of small business owners are responsible for purchasing technology for their businesses. To prevent wasting valuable hours and dollars, small business owners can partner with an expert tech provider who can guide them in making smart IT decisions.

There are also third-party IT consultants that play a key role in helping businesses adopt the most fitting technologies, who can provide an in-depth overview on all IT solutions and service offerings across different brands that are available to small businesses.

Some say that it takes a village to raise a child, the same can be said for small businesses. It takes a village to start, grow, and scale a company from scratch. My advice is not to wait to build your IT infrastructure, start early, connect with other small-business owners on key learnings, and most importantly, partner with an IT expert who can guide you in making the best cost-effective tech decisions to run and grow your company.

Who's on your fantasy Board of Directors? Email us at co@uschamber.com and tell us what you'd like to ask them. We'll do our best to make it happen.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published February 25, 2019