Success in 2009 (From your IT guy’s perspective)
It is now the year 2009 and businesses are feeling a squeeze. Many of us have to adjust the way we do business. I have some suggestions for business people to consider for 2009. Now more than ever it is important that we avert costly problems and make adjustments to grow and diversify our businesses. There is pressure on our profit margins, the job market is shrinking, un-employment is growing and subsequently the pool of potential wrong doers and desperate competitors is growing. This information is somewhat IT centered but much of it is universal or could be adapted to most industries and trades. My background does not make me an expert on everything in this article but I feel compelled to share it with you. If you somehow benefit from this I will consider it a success. My business philosophy is the premise that the path to success is to make other people successful by allowing them to do what they do best and not worry about their IT needs. The inspiration and content of this article comes largely from my customers who I am also fortunate enough to call friends. I hope that they will continue to share their wisdom and experience with me in the future.
Spend your IT dollars wisely:
Prevention should be your top priority
• Data Protection
• Network/Desktop Security
• Preventative maintenance
• Pro-active monitoring/issue mitigation
• Theft/disaster recovery
Think of it in terms of a problem prevented usually costs a fraction of the cost to recover from a failure. A simple example of this is a 2 Year antivirus license for a typical business costs less than the damage and loss of revenue from one virus infection. Another area that is often overlooked is the impact one negative event can have on the reputation and future revenue of a business. Our customers want to feel safe and feel that we are investing our profits wisely – namely protecting their privacy and availability of our goods and services. A good recent example of this is when a friend told me their computer had been infected with a virus while accessing their online banking account. After advising them on how I felt would be best to handle the situation, I couldn’t help but think about the real costs of that lapse for that bank. I will never look at them credibly again, and the lawsuits that are sure to follow are likely to put them out of business. This is an extreme example but relevant as well.
Things that make you more productive, competitive and profitable
• Investments that will give very fast return on investment (ROI)
• Security software and services
• Labor saving/productivity solutions
• Things that differentiate you and make your company more attractive to the now more critical customer
Let’s face it, it takes courage to invest when everyone else is cutting back. That’s exactly what some of the most successful people do. Warren Buffet is a great example of this, he has scored massive gains from investments he made when most investors were heading for the hills. The deals are better, the service (should!) be better and the benefits are the same. If you have been putting off an investment or project due to the cost now is a great time to get it quoted again. Keep an eye out for bargains, one of my customers was recently offered engineering software at close to a 50% discount.
What about other cost reductions?
• Verify that you have a protocol for when to call your IT vendor and when not to call, management oversight will be important. Many help desk calls can be avoided by simply rebooting a computer or waiting a few minutes to see if a connectivity problem resolves itself. Depending on the nature of your business this may or may not be acceptable.
• Ask your IT vendor to teach you to fish. There are likely to be many things that you call your IT vendor for assistance with that could be handled internally with a little guidance or training. If you notice repetitive tasks that you seem to be calling about, suggest to the vendor that they teach you to deal with it yourself. It may cost slightly more today but in the long term your savings are likely to be significant. This is a two way street, IT vendors can also make these suggestions but it is best to voice a desire for them to do so.
• Evaluate your current arrangement and make sure it is adequate for your needs. Encourage creativity in keeping costs down.
Now a little on topic but not specifically IT related – What about improving my business and those of my valued business partners and friends?
• Find out more about what your preferred vendors, customers, friends and families businesses do and refer people to them when you have an opportunity to do so.
• Verify that your customers are happy with your service; involve them in decisions that are made about changes in policies, etc. Use their feedback to improve the quality of solution you offer. Businesses are built and improve every day by providing solutions to problems.
• Be flexible and prepared to adjust the way you do business.
• Plan for growth not survival, in spite of the conditions we are facing this is still a great place to perform commerce. Since many businesses can almost count on shrinking sales to attrition the growth requirements are going to be more substantial.
You hear a lot of people saying that in down economic times there are some of the best opportunities. I believe this is true for a number of reasons. Foremost is the huge bump that the companies that do well navigating through these downturns will experience during the more prosperous times that will inevitably follow. As the demand for your goods or service rise and there is a lack of adequate suppliers to meet those needs.
What am I doing to try to ensure the success of my clients, friends, family and business partners?
• I will share any ideas that I have that might help make them be more successful.
• I am increasing my networking activity to improve my existing contacts and to make new ones.
• I will be promoting my business when it is appropriate and tasteful to do so but more importantly I will be promoting good businesses that I know.
• I am reaching out to people and trying to provide them with leads, contacts and support.