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How To Use IT to Grow Your Small Business

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IT and growth go hand-in-hand – but not always for the right reasons.

Talk to many small business owners about IT and you’ll get the impression it’s an area of the business that’s viewed as a necessary evil. Certainly, there a very few businesses that can live without some form of IT network – but there aren’t many directors or decision makers who like paying for it.

If every penny that was budgeted for growth could be focused on actually bringing in more business or developing new products, your company would be surging forward – but, since there’s almost always infrastructure developments needed when you expand, IT and growth tend to be two subjects that collide somewhat.

On this basis, we’re going to talk about a different way of growing your business – one that’s not hindered by technology – but actually has tech at the heart of what you’re doing…

Use tech to maximise your efforts

For most modern businesses, data is at the core of what you do. What that data is will depend on your area of work – but whether you’re storing product information, customer details, potential sales leads – or much, much more – you need to make your data work for you.

This can be a problem though – as the weak point between data and the impact it can have on your business is often the people you employ.

Please don’t misunderstand – this isn’t a directed attack at your staff – this is an overarching view of any human’s ability to manage a huge amount of data. It’s not possible – and, in fact, it’s the reason written language was developed in the very first instances.

The question is – why do we let our people manage data when we know they’re poor at doing so? The answer? It’s because it’s what we’ve always done.

Well, now there’s a better alternative – and it’s all about software. Embracing Customer Relationship Management software is the single biggest step you could take toward making sure you maximise the opportunity in every customer lead you have.

Even if you think you’re making the most of your data currently – you’re almost certainly going to see an improvement when you choose to use a system like Hubspot or Salesforce. The interface can be adjusted to reflect your ways of working – and, then, you’ll be able to track where every client is with a moment’s notice.

The result? Well, it varies business to business – but in the most successful cases – conversions are noted to increase by up to 300% – and lead generation cost drops by almost 70%. If you want to grow your business with the same amount of effort – they’re figures that are hard to ignore.

Use IT to outsource costly elements

If you’re planning to grow your business, there’s a strong chance your IT infrastructure will also need to grow. There’s no getting around it – IT is costly – and if you think the cost of putting the infrastructure into place is expensive, just wait until you begin to recruit staff to support your network.

Fortunately, advances in remote access and an increasing number of businesses using SD WAN solutions, it’s increasingly simple for managed service providers to gets hands-on with your IT – even if they’re in a different city. If you’re looking at channelling money into growth strategies – this is massive.

In reality, it’s going to cost even a small business in-excess of $10,000 in finances and resources to get a good IT support individual or team into place – a combination of finding the staff, training the team – and taking time out of your own roles to make it all happen.

But, that’s just the beginning of the cost. As well as monthly wages – there’s cover to be found for vacations, knowledge-gaps, training – and, in some cases, resignations and re-hiring.

When you consider the impact on a company’s finances that can come from trying to put an in-house IT team into place – it’s little wonder that managed service providers are filling these positions at a startling rate of knots. The right managed service provider will cost you a fraction of what an in-house team would – and they’re a constantly evolving source of best-practice and industry knowledge.

Of course – there’s no one-size-fits-all with IT support – but, with the right service level agreement in place, an MSP will deliver exactly what you need – when you need it. The goes for scaling up and down too – so, when you achieve the growth you planned because you had an enormous pot of money spare when you decided not to recruit an in-house team, your MSP will have no trouble keeping up with what you need…

Get more productivity from the same team with IT

Productivity is a hot topic – getting more value from the same staff team is obviously an enormously desired outcome – but it can sometimes be difficult to do, especially as your time is spread more thinly as your business grows.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, there’s a surprising answer from business consultants – and it’s not what you might expect.

Traditionally, increases in productivity have been linked to incentivising performance, boosting morale – or even being more flexible with working hours – but, there’s an IT solution emerging that seems to outperform each of these approaches:

Online collaboration.

Interestingly, studies that have explored productivity levels see effective online collaboration as the single biggest factor in boosting a team’s output. The reason is relatively simple; collaborating online reduces the need for communication. Now, this isn’t to say that everyone working in silence is the desired effect – but when you can immediately work on information at the same time – the need for detailed discussion is removed.

You may think that a slicker way of working together would only save a few minutes each day – but in actually fact, it’s shown to save much more. On average, 10% more work has been produced by end-users who are working with their colleagues on real-time applications such as G-Suite, Office 365 and similar. Over the course of a year, that’s a significant amount of time that can be injected into driving your business forward…

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