All businesses go through stages.
Start-up is the stage when you’ve launched and quickly finding out if your business strategy is sound and there is indeed a demand for your product or service.
The growth phase confirms your business plan and reveals weaknesses as you try to meet consumer demand. This is a different kind of scary from the start-up phase because you now find yourself trying to keep up with the pressure of fulfillment while managing all the back-end stuff like payroll, compliance, bookkeeping, inventory, staffing needs, risk, and simply trying to stay sane.
The Mature phase is where you have time and space to strategically plan for more growth but more importantly you have the bandwidth to find efficiencies within your business. It’s typically in this phase where the question of IT comes into play.
When you dreamed of having your own business you never thought of being the ad-hoc bookkeeper, accountant, janitor, legal expert, or the “IT Support Department.” It’s at this point you wonder should you hire this position or find a company that can manage your technology to optimize your greatest resource: your employees.
Here are some questions to consider.
What is the true cost of the employee? Anybody who runs a business knows that having another employee costs more than their paycheck. You must consider insurance, benefits, and bonuses when calculating that cost. The average factor is somewhere between 1.25x and 1.4x of their annual salary.
How do you manage this person? Have you ever managed an IT department or personnel? How do you track their productivity? Or better yet, how do you know they are doing a good job? Do you measure how well they do based on the fact that they fix things when broken? This is not the best way to get the most of your employees.
What happens when this person goes on vacation or falls ill? At some point your IT hire is going to need a vacation or fall ill. Who is going to be their backup, and will they know enough about your environment to fix problems quickly?
Do you know what to look for in a good IT candidate? If you’ve never hired an IT staff member, it can be a bit scary. There are a lot of technical terms and acronyms that get thrown around that may sound valuable and highly sought-after but may be worthless to your organization.
What happens if the employee decides to leave? Does the knowledge go with them or is there somebody else who can quickly help?
Do you understand the liability associated with this hire not doing their job correctly? The internet is littered with horror stories about businesses whose systems were hacked or compromised or were unable to recover from disaster and lost data. What would happen to your business if either of those things happened?
Do they understand business continuity and proactive planning? Fixing things when they’re broken is not a proactive strategy. Proactively planning, searching, fixing and preventing issues before they break is a better approach. Do they understand the concept of a business continuity plan for your company? Things like managed and tested patching, life cycle management, backup and disaster recovery, security monitoring, MFA, and compliance are proactive strategies.
How well do they know all your technology? Every business has Line-of-Business applications. Nobody is an expert and training can be expensive and painful. Will they have experience with the many vendors that are at the root of your IT environment?
Would your new hire have the tools necessary to monitor and maintain your environment, even after hours and on weekends? This question is a proactive approach. And you (or they) likely haven’t thought of this.
What about professional development for your IT staff? Will they have the resources and depth of development to keep up with the ever-shifting landscape of hardware, software, and security?
Do you background check your team? With something as critical as your confidential data, you want to make sure you are hiring somebody that’s not going to get you in trouble.
In other words, there is a lot to contemplate in this decision. Your IT environment might be your biggest worry and threat to your business. The pressure to get it right is vast. Making sure you’re getting the most or your employees’ productivity should be paramount. And securing the right resource for your IT needs isn’t as simple as, “we’ll find a person.”
If you find you are in a lot of IT pain or have been putting off this key strategy decision, we have a Weston Proven Process to determine compatibility between your desired outcome and our core capabilities. Feel free to contact me for a quick coffee.
Ron S. DiTullio is an Account Executive at Weston Technology Solutions. Weston has been serving the Pacific Northwest since 1994, providing people-friendly managed IT services to small and medium-sized businesses with offices in Bend and Anchorage www.weston-tech.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (541) 383-2340