I could end this article right here.
However, many entrepreneurs forget that technology is on their side – its can level playing fields, increase efficiency and productivity, reduce risk, increase revenues, improve communications and, most importantly, free you to focus on what matters. Even when I co-founded a dot-com in 2000, we spend hours configuring disparate systems and managing servers and later phone systems in racks with maintenance contracts and schedules to take the backup discs home. APIs and integrated apps that worked seamlessly on your notebook and phone didn’t really exist, and we would wait for hours for a large file to upload to a shared ‘cloud’ server.
Automate everything from the outset and where possible turn what used to be fixed costs into variable costs to reduce risk as you scale up or down along the way – outsource, automate and integrate IT and information management, communications, workspace, payroll, accounting software, expenses, CRM, cyber-security, credit control and so on. You will learn as you grow, but work out the most effective workflows and deploy them in existing systems. If necessary write code to integrate systems if budgets allow. In the long run, your business will benefit.
The future is a software-driven.
Embrace technology to create competitive advantage. Large corporates struggle to upgrade and integrate systems or even deploy communications systems. A startup can commence trading with operational systems that are superior to the largest organisations and stay up to date via upgrades included in subscription packages while APIs continue to work. Minimise the need for paper – even when it comes to contract execution and contract management. You can then focus on what is important, developing your product or service and getting to market. Even if your product is software, automate to remove administrative overheads and use available applications to manage your project, code, testing, QA and deployment. As you grow the complexity may of course increase.
ScaleUp with technology
ScaleUps have to focus on strategy and planning, people, operations and finance. Although requirements may become more specific, the vast majority of systems used by the vast majority of businesses are very similar. Keep it simple until you know your precise requirements. Avoid spending money on professional services to customise systems unless the value added is clear. If you do need to integrate or develop systems or write code for operational needs, spend the necessary time on requirements gathering. Otherwise, you may realise that you will need to start work on further changes as soon as you have completed the project. Remember that software will never complete. At the other extreme is the complexity of a Tesla car production line, but even then Elon Musk personally looks for every opportunity to automate and remove steps and time to maximise production efficiency.
As you scaleup, you want to achieve repeatability, efficiency, profitability and you need to take your empowered team with you. You want to avoid disparate spreadsheets and hours extracting data to produce clumsy reports. Automate mundane administration to free your team up to focus on adding value. Use out of the box integrations to enable your team to communicate by messaging, voice or video wherever they may be. If you don’t embrace the latest technology, you run the risk of now universally capable employees using shadow systems to increase productivity, which increases operational and information security risk. Leverage data and use dashboards to present your business information in ways that you and your team can understand and actually use. Every business, whether a restaurant or a software development consultancy, produces data that needs to be collected, managed, interpreted and clearly reported. Knowledge is power.
If you don’t embrace technology, remember that your competition probably will.
Have you embraced technology? Has it improved your operational efficiency or communications?
Please join my Scaleup with Piers Linney on LinkedIn