BizProf: Define business needs before buying technology - East Valley Tribune: Business

BizProf: Define business needs before buying technology

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Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 12:47 pm

Dear Professor Bruce:

I own a small plumbing business and am overwhelmed with all of the technology available. What are the most cost-effective technologies I should use to help grow my small business this year?

Answer: With new software programs, mobile applications, social media and more, there are many choices available when it comes to technology for small-business owners in any industry. Shane Caniglia, director of technology at The Rich Dad Co., a financial education business, provides some excellent advice.

To figure out which technologies are best for your business, it is important to have a plan. Start with the basics, and list all of the functions your business needs to run smoothly. Then, decide what kind of technology may help you with each function. Also, think about the 80-20 rule. Your business will change, so the technology needs to be flexible to change, too. Try to focus on 20 percent of your major needs, and the remaining 80 percent will come with the growth in business as customers define what your services really will be.

If you have little understanding of technology and aren’t sure what is right for your business, check with professional associations you may belong to in your industry, local small-business organizations and successful entrepreneurs you admire. Get recommendations on the services, tools and applications they use. Prepare a list of questions in advance, and ask about the amount of training and skill necessary to run a particular program, the advantages and disadvantages of using a specific technology, and the costs, effort and time involved.

There are many technologies available to help business owners be more cost-effective and successful, but it can be easy to overspend on unnecessary features. To avoid wasting money, make a list of all of the technologies you are considering for your business and which ones fit your specific priorities and budget. You may find that you need only a single software program to manage all of your business needs.

Always ask for a free demonstration and trial period before purchasing any new technology. This way, you can see what works best for you. If you love a particular product or service, ask for some kind of new-customer offer, coupon code or other discount. You may get the technology you want at a lower price, and it never hurts to ask.

For further information, please visit www.richdad.com/resources.aspx.

• Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public-relations firm in Livingston, N.J., and author of “Birthing the Elephant” (Ten Speed Press). Email questions to Bruce@SmallBusinessProf.com.

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