Technology is an important part of any business today. However, when it comes to making technology choices, many small business owners are confused and overwhelmed. Plus, it’s difficult to understand how to best utilize technology in your business to increase your productivity and profitability.
As the economy continues its downward spiral, businesses are looking for ways to leverage technology to enhance productivity and profitability. If your firm doesn’t have internal IT support, then an independent consultant can be a smart choice to help you identify technology solutions. But it’s important to find a consultant who is the right fit for your company because you’ll be entrusting him or her with some of your proprietary information and operations.
Where do you find the right person? The best way is to simplay ask for referrals. Talk to companies similar to yours who are facing some of the same difficulties and find out who they recommend. Professional advisors such as CPA’s and attorneys can also be a good source of referrals. Finally, your neighbor computer store may maintain a list of consultants.
Before you hire anyone, ask for references. Make sure the consultant has a good reputation and has pertinent consulting experience. You don’t want to hire someone for your business who has no understanding of your industry. Also, as an added precaution, check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints or problems with the consulting company.
Be specific about your needs. I’m not talking about the technology, but the specfics about what you want the technology to do for your business. Because holding down costs is always important, make sure you understand the consultant’s fee structure so you don’t end up with sticker shock. Consultant fees vary dramatically depending on their experience level, geographic location and the complexity of the job. Don’t be afraid to ask for an estimated project bid. By the way, as with any other business purchase, it is okay to negotiate. You may be able to agree on a “not-to-exceed” budget so you can better manage your cash flow.
Finally, don’t pay for the entire project upfront. Set milestones throughout the project for installment payments. I’ve heard many nightmare stories about consultants who received payment in advance and never satisfactorily completed the project. To learn more about what technology can do for your business, watch Tech Tactics where you’ll be introduced to new technologies available to help you grow.