Three Approaches for SME Founders looking to Hire a Technology Contractor

To ensure the survival of your company, it’s crucial to adopt the mindset of a technology company or risk going out of business. This transformation involves re-imagining the fundamental structure and operations of your business. 

You must view your business and industry from the perspective of a digital native startup that aims to challenge you and capture your market. Embracing this mindset will enable you to stay competitive and protect your company’s existence in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy, employing majority of all private sector workers. In today’s competitive landscape, small businesses increasingly rely on information technology (IT) to maintain their competitiveness. The widespread adoption of mobile devices and cloud-based applications has made IT a vital tool for enhancing their operations.

By automating business processes and facilitating seamless data sharing across platforms, IT enables small businesses to stay ahead of their competition. IT plays a critical role in driving small business growth by granting access to the latest technology, ensuring they remain competitive and fostering business expansion. Embracing the role of IT in their operations empowers small businesses to improve efficiency, seize opportunities, and achieve sustainable growth in the dynamic business environment.

Before considering integrating a new technology or third-party software into your business, I’ve discovered three highly valuable approaches that can be of immense help. Take a moment to read through these methods to ensure you make informed decisions before embarking on any technology adoption journey for your SME.

  1. Personal Research/DIY

When you’re launching your small business, financial constraints might prevent you from hiring talent, often necessitating a DIY approach to technology development. While building technology on your own can consume a lot of time, it might be essential to outpace competitors. As your income grows, you can gradually bring in assistance.

To embark on technology development, opt for a user-friendly Software as a Service (SAAS) solution. This simplifies management and installation. In case you face challenges during installation, make the most of the help section to stay updated and adept in using the technology.

Online articles play a crucial role in helping businesses conduct research and explore various technologies. Resources like Google, Bing, ChatGPT, Bard, and others provide a vast array of valuable information for business owners seeking to integrate new technology.

Small businesses can benefit from a DIY in the beginning for several reasons:

  • At the beginning, a simple solution might be sufficient, making online resources a practical choice.
  • Limited financial resources may make it challenging to hire top technology consultants.
  • Understanding the competition and identifying suitable technology may require time and research.

As a founder, embracing lifelong learning is essential to stay ahead and grow. Online materials can provide answers to business problems, but it’s crucial to thoroughly investigate technology and best practices before implementation.

In addition to online search resources, you can also leverage alternative sources for learning, such as:

  1. Online courses available on platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Coursera. These platforms offer a wide range of courses taught by experts in various fields.
  2. Delve into books related to the topic you’re interested in. Books provide in-depth insights and perspectives that can enhance your understanding and knowledge.
  3. Follow technology and business experts on social media platforms or through their blogs and publications. Learning from experienced professionals can offer practical insights and real-world applications.
  4. Participate in workshops, seminars, and conferences related to your area of interest. These events provide opportunities to network with professionals, engage in interactive discussions, and gain hands-on experience.

However, it’s important to note that adopting a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach to a technology or project you’re unfamiliar with can occasionally lead to frustration. Certain concepts might take longer to grasp, and the learning curve can be steep. Despite these challenges, this approach can also offer significant rewards. Making mistakes and encountering difficulties can provide valuable learning opportunities. With persistence, you’ll gain not only a deeper understanding but also a sense of accomplishment that arises from overcoming obstacles and acquiring new skills.

It’s essential to exercise caution to avoid costly mistakes. For instance, I encountered a business owner who invested significant resources in a technology solution that didn’t align with their actual business needs. Blindly adopting software without considering business requirements can lead to such pitfalls.

To mitigate risks and ensure a successful technology adoption journey, enrolling in a masterclass or collaborating with experienced technology consultants can be invaluable.

  1. Hiring A Specialist 

Another approach that many business owners often take is to hire a specialist to build the technology. For example, they might hire a web developer to create a website or engage someone to develop a complex software solution.

Selecting a developer or specialist stands as a pivotal decision for any founder. Avoiding the creation of a tool that remains unused requires thoughtful consideration of several aspects:

  1. Prior to Contract Signing: Begin by requesting the prospective specialist’s previous work experience, work history, or a comprehensive portfolio. Subsequently, engage with some of their past clients to gain insights into their practical experience.
  2. Online Review Scrutiny: Examine online reviews to gain an understanding of their reputation. While acknowledging that discontented clients often voice their concerns online, evaluating how the specialist responded to such reviews can provide insights into their conflict resolution abilities and the nature of any misunderstandings.
  3. Industry Alignment: Assess the specialist’s previous work to determine whether they have experience within your industry. Opting for someone who has dealt with technology within your sector can indicate a deeper comprehension of the technological needs unique to your field.
  4. Diverse Skill Set: Prioritize a specialist with a breadth of knowledge spanning multiple areas. Collaborating with an individual proficient in various skills—such as web development, design, and content writing—can offer complementary services. During initial discussions, request examples of their work and analyze it closely to ascertain its alignment with your project’s vision.
  5. Project Timeline and Delivery Agreement: As the de facto project manager, detailed discussions concerning project timelines and delivery expectations are crucial. Establish how frequently you can meet to review progress and make necessary adjustments.
  6. Ownership Considerations: An additional vital aspect is the matter of ownership. Protect your interests by ensuring that all assets, including domains, hosting, administrative emails, and contact information, are registered in your name. A cautionary tale involves a founder who lost her license due to ownership mismanagement with a developer who was untraceable.

Many years before I became a tech professional, I hired a developer to build a software platform for educational institutions. This platform was intended to provide dashboards for school owners, parents, teachers, and advertisers, making it a project that required meticulous planning.

However, I soon realized lacking experience in building such technology, I found it challenging to provide the developer with precise instructions. The developer diligently followed my specifications without seeking clarifications, which ultimately resulted in a product that didn’t meet the actual needs of the users. Unfortunately, many web developers are trained to follow client requirements without questioning them, leaving the responsibility of understanding the technology entirely on the business owner’s shoulders.

It became evident that this method without careful consideration may also lead to the creation of a technology that fails to address the business’s core needs, rendering it essentially useless and a wasted investment. To avoid such scenarios, it’s essential for business owners to either possess a deep understanding of technology development or work closely with experienced technology consultants who can effectively bridge the gap between their vision and the technical execution. This way, you can ensure that the technology developed aligns perfectly with your business objectives and addresses the real needs of your organization and its stakeholders.

  1. Hiring A Consultant/Consulting Company 

Based on my personal experience, the third and highly recommended option is to hire a technology consultant (business analyst) or a consulting company. The advantage of engaging such experts lies in their wealth of experience and training, enabling them to ask the right questions and make informed decisions.

When you work with a technology consultant or consulting company, they begin by conducting a thorough audit of your business strategy. This assessment helps them understand your specific needs and objectives, ensuring that the technology solution aligns perfectly with your goals.

Moreover, these consultants can recommend the ideal expertise required to develop the technology. Many consulting companies have specialized teams with diverse skill sets, capable of taking on the entire development process on your behalf.

While some may perceive this approach as expensive, it’s crucial to consider the value it brings. Investing in expert guidance ensures that the technology addresses your business needs precisely, thus avoiding costly mistakes in the long run. Although some business owners may struggle to collaborate effectively with their consultants, I always emphasize that the success of your business ultimately depends on the attention and commitment you devote to it.

In conclusion, hiring a technology consultant or consulting company may seem like a significant investment, but it offers a wise and strategic approach to technology adoption. By leveraging their expertise, you can create a technology solution tailored to your business needs, setting the stage for sustainable growth and success.

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