Four Tips for Growing and Scaling
Having started and grown a technology company from one person to over 400, I can tell you firsthand that the word that comes to mind when considering the scalability of a technology company is “irony.” The irony is that most technology companies seem to focus so heavily on the technology they are providing to their customers that they forget to consider their own needs and future growth. I was lucky enough to be so cash poor when I started my company that I had to be as efficient as possible and that meant finding technology tools that not only helped me work faster and cheaper but also prepared me for what I call, “the elusive growth.”
As owners, we tend to be so busy attending to our customers’ needs and potential business, that we overlook our own needs and forget that technology should be ubiquitous in our company infrastructure. Technology is a mindset and is the solution to a myriad of problems and challenges. Think about the purpose of technology: its intent is to solve a problem and make for more efficient operations, no matter what those operations entail.
So how does a startup CEO think about the future when the present is taking up every spare moment and brain cell? Start by thinking about infrastructure. Every business needs a solid infrastructure to support its operations and that includes HR, accounting, marketing, sales and IT. If these departments are set up to grow efficiently with the company from day one, you will have more time to focus on the money-making technology offered to customers.
1. Make sure you have a line item in your budget for scalable solutions.
When I started my company, I was constantly searching for software solutions that would make my life easier. If it cost less than $249, I whipped out the credit card and started my download. The concept was good, but the execution was poor. I spent more money on a large number of smaller products than I would have if I had taken my time and found a medium sized scalable solution for more money. Not having a budget or financial plan for software purchases and solutions can mean missed opportunity and wasted money.
2. Find software solutions that allow you to be as flexible as possible.
As trendy as the word “cloud” is today, the concept has been around for years and has only gotten better. More than just an option for hosting a website, cloud server companies can provide all of your IT support needs including securing your critical data. In his article titled, Small Business and Big Tech, Doug Hardy describes what he calls “enabling technology.” This type of technology is the foundation for scalable growth. Utilizing cloud-based applications such as Google Apps, Microsoft Office Web, Zoho and especially Google Analytics, can provide great value to entrepreneurs no matter what their business. Finding a cloud-based solution for all your data needs such as accounting, HR, or IT is a smart move, but remember to do your homework and ensure that you can step away with your data at a moment’s notice. Don’t be held hostage by the software or the service provider.
3. Look for internal options to grow your technology needs.
If the solution for your needs isn’t out there, invent it. Today, web-based solutions can be developed fairly inexpensively and with the right development tools, you don’t need an experienced IT department or developer. The opportunity to develop new innovations and harness the power of technology available today is readily accessible to companies that want to pick up the pace of business and get there first.
4. Know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.”
There will come a day when the scalable solution that you are using for HR, accounting or any other department is no longer scalable for your needs. As hard as it is to throw away what you have invested so much into, your return will diminish more drastically if you continue to try to utilize a tool that truly does not meet your needs any longer. I’m not saying that you need to switch every time the latest and greatest is unveiled, but don’t become complacent and convinced that your tools are satisfying your needs. Eventually, it’s time to replace the futon couch with Italian leather.
The important thing to remember is that your company will grow and you need to be ready for it. Use technology to your advantage in every aspect of your company – it’s not just for your customer!
Carol Craig is the founder and CEO of Craig Technologies, a $45M nationwide engineering, technology and manufacturing company headquartered in Cape Canaveral.