How to start a business with IT in mind

Let’s look at a quick scenario.
“You are all excited, your new business venture is late in the stages of planning, you have a great name, you have found the perfect premises, you have ordered the table and chair and a phone line, you have paid your mate to create you a fantastic website, you’ve got your suppliers on board and they have agreed to give you a bit of credit, you have got a bank account setup, and at that point you have to go to the next stage and get your new office working…”
It’s fair to say that I hear this every month and in the majority of cases my heart sinks, I am really excited for the new entrepreneur, but cold experience has told me that in the majority of cases at a time when they should be concentrating on selling their product and service, they are going to be fighting to get the simplest of back office bits working.
I have heard this so often that I decided that this Blog Post should be a list of the “gotcha’s” that befall 80% of startup businesses so here you go, tick these off.

1. Before choosing or deciding a business name – Is the domain name corresponding to your business free? – and / or .com as a minimum? (Beware – do not go and type in your name in a low cost domain name search, if you do then it is very common for the name to suddenly be registered and the “carpet bagger” that has done it will try and sell the domain back to you and inflated pricing that can be over a hundred times higher!)
2. Before purchasing a Laptop / Desktop for office use – Consider what you will do with it and then go for the lowest cost option, but expect to replace it within 2 years. If you are doing basic office functions, you do not need a top of the range touch screen machine with all the bells and whistles, basic office functions mean a basic system requirement.
3. Before buying a printer – “there is not such thing as cheap printing”, I will repeat that … “there is not such thing as cheap printing” .. what you need is a good business image, you will not get high-quality printing from a cheap inkjet, it is better to buy a cheap black and white laser printer which is the cheapest form of printing possible. Remember that everything that you send out to a client in paper format is a reflection of your business, in other words, if you send out an invoice or proposal on cheap paper with poor print quality then that is exactly what you will appear to be.
4. Before signing the lease on an office – please check the availability of broadband that fits your requirements. The vast majority of businesses now have a significant reliance on email and the internet, whether for selling or sourcing, if you expect to spend more than 1 hour per day on the internet, make sure that you can get at least Fibre Broadband to the Cabinet (FTTC). If you can’t then you must have an overwhelming desire to work where you are proposing.
5. How are you going to backup your data – I know, it’s boring, but the worst thing that can happen is that you lose your information, your client list, who owes you money, who do you owe money to. It is true that the vast majority of businesses that lose data through not having backups stop trading, you are up against a new business failure rate of 40% in 5 years so you don’t need to have data loss as a reason for your business to fail. Whatever backup you chose, try and make it as a fit and forget solution so you or your staff, don’t have to do anything at all to create the backup, the excitement of doing business will mean that you put off the routine and backup is a routine.
6. Connecting things – when you start, it may just be you, but then within a few months (hopefully) you will need some help, this means that you will need to communicate, this not only means talking but also connecting computers and systems together. You probably already did some of this when you got your broadband in, you may have used wireless, but you are carrying all your information around with you so now you need to start centralising this data or information so others can see it. Wireless is great for a short term, occasional connection so a great example is in a coffee shop, you walk in, grab your skinny latte and connect your laptop to the wireless so you can do a bit of work before that important meeting, it is not as good for all day everyday access in the office, wireless connections drop out, the technology is good, however if you have a file open and the connection drops then it is very likely that you will be re-entering the information, please use good old cables, CAT5E is the best value solution and if you decide to cable an office properly from day one, work on the principle of 4 network connections to every desk (I know it sounds a lot but you will thank me later! – honest)
7. Screens – Money is tight, you need to make some big decisions on what to spend your cash on, one small, low-cost productivity enhancers are 22″ or larger monitor screens on computers and having two of them. I have persuaded a lot of clients over the years to use two monitors and almost without fail they would never go back to using one, also get 23″ rather than 22″ rather than 20″ rather than 19″ – in other words, the bigger the better up to 24″, after that you are probably wasting money, the financial difference between 19″ and 23″ will be under £50 !
8. GDPR – I know, you are just setting up your business, but the Global Data Protection Regulations ARE going to affect you in May 2018 so it is better that you get to know the basics before you have to and implement them in the processes and procedures that you have or create over then next months, there are lots of videos and information on the internet, take 15 minutes to get an overview now and you will save hours of time later.
9. Telecoms – Look to integrate your telecoms so that your landline and mobile have the ability to work as one, this can be very effective in ensuring that you are “in the office” when you aren’t, you will need to be available when your new business gets operational and having an adaptive telecoms strategy can make a significant difference and save you money as well.
10. And And And .. – Be in no doubt that you are going to be fully employed getting your business up and running, I personally get great satisfaction from watching new businesses set up and then grow, I have been there, I know how hard it can be to get to a position of stability but in all cases, you will get there faster if you can concentrate on selling your product or service and “forget” about the back-end systems ..

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