When The Moak Group (TMG) first opened its doors and we started to build our business, topics such as IT infrastructure really weren’t at the front of our minds. There was too much to do- ensuring our clients’ needs were being met, selecting and moving into office space, hiring additional staff, etc.- these were the things I spent my days thinking about, not cloud storage, two-factor authentication, or firewalls. We were young, scrappy, and hungry- so, the approach taken towards office technology?
- Everyone gets a laptop.
- Everyone gets internet.
- Office IT buildout solved.
But it turns out, that’s actually not what it takes or all you need to set your team up for success when it comes to building a business (of any size). And often, organizational success relies critically upon technological success- even if you don’t recognize the connection right away. Over the course of the past 3+ years, we’ve learned a lot about the vital role office technological infrastructure plays in the success of our organization. Here are 5 key points I wish someone had told me when we were just starting out:
1. LMGTFY Doesn’t Apply Here
I often tell my staff that I don’t believe in the old adage, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.” There are absolutely dumb questions- the lazy ones. If “Let me Google that for you” takes a shorter amount of time than it took for you to ask the question, we have a problem. I’m a big believer in using technology as a resource whenever possible to expand our skillset and our knowledge about issues.
That is, unless we’re talking about IT infrastructure. Look, you can be computer savvy and still not know the first thing about what it takes to make IT work for your company. So, from the start, commit to asking the right people for help. Reach out at the beginning, and don’t waste both the time you should be spending building your business looking for solutions and making investments in the wrong things. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel- there are people out there who know how to do this better and more efficiently than you do. Find them.
2. Don’t Skimp – Make The Investment Early
Trust me, I fully appreciate how expensive technology can be. Especially when you’re just starting out, things might be tight, but mistakes can be far costlier than what it would have cost you to do it right the first time. So, in your business plan and short-/long-term budgets, make the necessary investment in your team’s technology. The first time you accidentally lose the grant proposal or client pitch you’ve been working on for weeks and are able to recover it, or are protected by your firewall from hackers trying to steal proprietary information, or have an employee leave your company who has remote access to sensitive information you’ll be glad you did.
3. Choose an Approach- And Stick with It
Paper office or paperless office? Wired office or wireless office? Mac or PC? File server or cloud storage? Make whatever decisions you feel are best for your company/industry. But once you make them, stick with them. And apply them universally. Creating consistency and structure makes sure everyone is on the same page and allows you to implement systems that can be scaled up as your company grows.
4. Acknowledge What Isn’t Working. And Pivot Fast.
As you implement new systems, it quickly becomes apparent what isn’t working for your team. First, trial periods and demos are your friends. USE THEM. Investing in platforms and tools is another added technological expense, so before you commit make sure you’re using the right ones. If your team’s project management tool isn’t working, then acknowledge that. And pivot. Trying to force something to fit how your team works often doesn’t increase efficiencies or make anyone’s lives easier. Have questions about what might work best for your team? Don’t just talk to the people selling the products. Ask for recommendations from them or reach out to your professional network to see who has used what tools in the past. Often, sharing information like that will answer questions for you that you didn’t even know you had.
5. Security Is Key
As I said in the beginning, things like password strength weren’t concerns of mine when we started out. But, as we’ve learned, you are only as strong as your team’s weakest (technological) link. It takes milliseconds to hack a 6-digit password and hackers often only need one password to get into your system. These days it’s easy to practice safe surfing. Turn on the encryption that comes with your computer, invest in a firewall, sign up for a password storage service and make your passwords randomized 10-12 digit alpha numeric codes, turn on the two-factor authentication many services (like your email) offer for free, restrict administrative rights to employee computers, and make sure all of these things are done by everyone on your team.
You still with me? I know this stuff is dense, but I promise, the investment (in this blog) and your IT is worth it. Also, how does a computer catch fish? You don’t know? GOOGLE IT.