What is a Small Business?
Defining a Small Business depends on the criteria used for measurement, but most commonly, the ownership structure, number of employees and revenue of the business easily define which class of business it is.
In terms of ownership, small businesses are either independently owned by an individual or jointly owned in a form of partnership by more than one individual. Using number of employees as a criteria, there are varying values, but small businesses can have employees as little as 3 to as much as 50 or more. Revenue can also be wide ranging depending on the scale and success of of the business.
Why Setup a Business?
Businesses are set up with the ultimate goal of making profit so when a business is conceived, the business owner usually has ideas of what to do to make money. There is always a business plan, a set of products and services and a particular category or group of clientele. This part of the business is almost always taken care of long before the business owner even secures a place and opens the door for business because these are the factors that influence location, staff strength, staff designation, position and duties.
The Missing Element in Business
So while many business owners start out well in terms of the brilliant and fantastic ideas that they have, there is always a missing component especially in many of today's small businesses. Many think that because they are a small business, it is okay for them to run the business as a "small business", they do not realize that the foundation that is laid out for a small business is what continues to exist even when the business grows to an enterprise, some actually know this for certain, but they feel they can't be bothered at the moment since it is just a small business, forgetting that a small business can quickly grow to become an enterprise if the business is started on the right foundation. We should never forget that "Change" is constant, so is it difficult to adopt and if a business fails to start right, it will be difficult to change in the future.
So What IT Models Should Small Businesses Put in Place?
1. Setup and Operate a Network
Everything your business wants to do now and in the future first requires that everyone be connected together through a network. You will achieve more if everyone can work from a common network. If a network is setup or established that spans the entire business from where staff work, it will make it easier for your small business to operate optimally and take advantage of other common IT services that may emerge in the future. Even if you want different parts of the business to be segmented because of confidentiality and security (e.g. Finance unit to be isolated from other units), a network can still be logically or virtually partitioned to provide this confidentiality. In the case of small businesses, a network may be a Local Area Network (LAN) within the business premises or a Wide Area Network that exists over public internet, but which provides access to common services operated by the business.
2. Operate a Server (On-premise or Hosted)
A Server will help your office to consolidate all your operations and expenses. It will also help you to manage everything your office is doing from a central location so you are not spending money on many moving parts and it will allow future implementations of other IT services that will enhance your operation. With Virtualization and Cloud technology now very much in the IT space, running Servers is no longer a major bottleneck for businesses. Every small business should make certain that it operates a Server as it is no longer the exclusive reserve of enterprises to operate servers. Your choice of an on-premise Virtualized Server or Cloud Servers is secondary, but the decision to operate a Server is important for businesses. What you do with your Server will become clearer to you as your business grows into an enterprise. One of the most important uses of your server will come when you begin to send proposals, invoices, estimates, service agreements and many other forms of communication between your business and clients, these documents are the life of the business, they continually define your operation at every point in time and are revised and reviewed as the business develops. The inability of a business to keep a track or reproduce these documents and refer to them when the need arises can make or mar the business. When disputes arise (which will happen), the invoices, receipts of payments and service agreements that have been signed will form the basis for resolution and when these documents are not available, anyone can make inexistent claims. It is therefore important to operate a Server where you continue to aggregate all these documents either in applications such as ERPs or CRMs. Your server can also allow you to operate at the level of an enterprise while only existing as a small business, this is a big advantage especially when the product or service you offer has the potential to serve a wide range of clients. Some of the applications you can operate from your server include
- Office Telephone and Extension (IP PBX)
- ERP, CRM, Financial Application, Ticketing & Issue Tracking Software
- Document Management System & File Share
- Many other Applications that your office requires now and in the future
The decision to host the server within your office or in the cloud is secondary, but you should operate at least one server. The decision on this is usually influenced by the level at which the company is currently operating or expects to operate.
3. Operate a Business Email & Website
It's amazing how many small businesses operate using free email accounts today when it is really not expensive to operate a Business Email that portrays your business in better light. Providers of business emails will usually offer you a domain, web hosting and email as a bundle, some will even offer to do a small website for you with either a landing page or pages that tell a bit about your business. This has become very easy to acquire with prices that won't rip holes in your pocket. Even so, these services are annual services that you can plan towards their renewal once you start making some profit.
It is a known fact that businesses that adopt and employ the right technology to integrate all staff and their operations perform better than those that work in disconnected pools and businesses, especially small businesses and startups will do well to adopt the right kind of technology from inception to ensure rapid business growth and increase profit margin.