In today’s turbocharged business environment, startup companies no longer have the luxury of growing slowly. If an enterprise has outside investors, they’re eager to see a rapid return on their capital; and even a sole proprietor has to move quickly or risk being overtaken by their competitors. Fortunately, technology can help a new company quickly ramp up its operations — as long as management follows the right tech playbook.
The foundation of a good company, of course, is good infrastructure: a marketable idea, employees who work together toward a common goal, an identifiable target market that is likely to generate revenue, and appropriate cost control and other internal checks and balances. A sound startup is also likely to already have the basics of a tech platform, including a website, one or more email addresses, and cloud or other server access. But self-aware entrepreneurs will also be able to differentiate between what they know and what they do not know, and will take appropriate action to remedy any gaps. They will get a CPA to handle their books and taxes, a lawyer to set up their legal entity and to advise on contracts, and a qualified small business IT support provider who can help to securely leverage the startup’s digital assets.
For example, instead of utilizing a generic email, a business can get a branded email address that aligns with its mission. The company can also launch or upgrade a properly designed website and social media campaign that will assist in amplifying its digital presence.
And as part of every company’s infrastructure, there is a need to efficiently track activity, generate invoices, accept receipts, and facilitate payment, all while enhancing internal communications with employees and external communications with customers.
At inception, some small shops get by with basic Excel sheets, perhaps supplemented with a simple accounting software package. But a growing enterprise needs to understand and control its costs. Once a company has grown to encompass more than a handful of people, management needs to be able to accrue and project revenue and expenses for planning and resource allocation. Can the business afford to take on a new hire or branch out into a new line? The decision is more complex than simply looking at a bank balance.
Growing small and medium-sized businesses may wish to consult with their managed IT services provider about utilizing a platform like QuickBooks, which offers such benefits as shared access to data with authorized employees and outside accountants; the ability to automatically send invoices, statements and reports; and inventory tracking.
Separately, internal and external communications systems need to offer security, scalability, and rapid on-the-move flexibility, scheduling and accountability. Faxes, spreadsheets, emails and phone calls will not provide this level of service for growing businesses. Instead, a qualified cybersecurity managed services company can offer customized advice about platforms like Microsoft Teams, which integrates conversations, files, meetings and other apps in a single shared workspace while also creating an audit trail that enhances analysis and productivity.
To enhance outreach activity, platforms like Microsoft Dynamic 365 offer customer relationship management and other modules that, for example, allow sales teams to prioritize their customer list by displaying relevant sales information and customer context. Other MS Dynamic 365 modules include a Digital Contact Center Platform that can simplify contact center and customer engagement complexities with an open, extensible and collaborative platform.
Last, but definitely not least, is the topic of security. Social engineering and malware make up the most common threats against small businesses, while email remains a common attack vector. Websites also present significant risks, while behavioral vulnerabilities such as poor password practices and unsafe web browsing habits add further complications.
To counter these threats, businesses need to employ a variety of security strategies, including multifactor authentication or credential reviews in addition to a password that validates a user’s identity, security awareness training for users at all levels, constant monitoring and encryption, other endpoint protection of connected devices – like PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and IoT devices like security cameras – to help mitigate the risk of penetration, and review of third-party practices to ensure that connected vendors are up to date on their security practices.
Today’s competitive market presents businesses with multiple challenges, from identifying, attracting and retaining qualified employees to successfully connecting with customers who are keeping a close watch on their budgets. But businesses that operate efficiently and effectively, in a coordinated and targeted manner, start with a competitive advantage that can make a big, positive difference in the marketplace. And a good IT partner can do a lot to get them in that place.
Carl Mazzanti is president of eMazzanti Technologies in Hoboken.