Technology Tips for Growing Businesses
Sharon Paul, CPA, really wants you to install your computer updates. (Seriously, though.) A tech titan and partner in Gross Mendelsohn’s Technology Solutions Group, Sharon has been helping businesses figure out their toughest technology issues for 30+ years.
When she stopped by the set of Next Level, Sharon told me about how technology can help a business run more efficiently.
⚡ Next Level is a video series for business owners who want to grow their business. To watch episodes, click here.
In her interview, Sharon talked about utilizing software integrations to increase efficiency, what to look for when hiring an internal IT person, setting up the right back up system for your data and more. Below is the transcript from our conversation. You can watch my full conversation with Sharon here.
Samantha Androsky: You've been working in technology for over 30 years. Can you tell me about how you help businesses with their technology needs?
Sharon Paul: We help businesses with implementing the right software and infrastructure hardware to run their operations. We help them with the selection of systems, help them implement those systems in their business and try to make sure that they're using technology to their fullest.
Sam: I know that you love when you're able to show people how they can do things they didn't know that they could do with their technology. What are some ways that you see growing businesses not using technology as effectively as they could be?
Sharon: Well, today, it's not uncommon to see a business using multiple systems for their operations. They might have a software to do invoicing and a separate software to do their financials. Quite often, you see people not realizing that the systems can be integrated, so they're doing a lot of repetitive entry. We like to try to streamline that. That eliminates a lot of repetitiveness.
Sam: Do you think that people usually pick different types of software because they just start out with one for invoicing? Then two years later, they figure out they need to use another software for something else? Or is it more just a cost thing to keep it all separate?
Sharon: A lot of times there are industry specific solutions that are great. You still have a lot of integration abilities though. There's no reason to really have to have one system to solve every business need, but just be able to integrate those and so you're eliminating repetitiveness.
Sam: I know that you work with a lot of businesses who are trying to grow. What's your number one tip for a business who isn't sure where to invest their technology budget as they're working to grow their company?
Sharon: You want to make sure, especially with all the cyber issues we see today, that your infrastructure is a budgeted line item. You need to make sure you're keeping all the infrastructure up to date. You need an insurance policy for your network and to make sure that everything's up to snuff.
Sam: Do a lot of businesses have that in place?
Sharon: Sadly, a lot of them don’t. They do things kind of sporadically and that doesn't position you to be proactive for things that are coming versus like a managed services contract where you have someone there making sure everything's up to date monthly for you.
Sam: So, businesses can actually get their data insured now?
Sharon: You can. There is cyber security insurance, and we can help evaluate whether someone needs that. However, I'm saying more that you need to insure yourself by keeping up with all of your patches on your equipment and making sure those workstations and servers are monitored. That way, if something goes wrong, you're not losing business or having a business interruption. You can keep things flowing.
Sam: So, make sure you're installing your updates! Don't just click out of it! Well, a lot of business owners wear a lot of hats. Sometimes that means that they're their own IT person. At what point does it makes sense for a business to hire an in-house technology person?
Sharon: Statistically, they say that you should have a full time IT employee for every 15 to 20 other employees. If you're the business owner, and you're doing all the technology updates, there's probably an issue. You really need to look to either outsource that functionality or bring someone in-house if it makes sense.
Sam: Is there any particular characteristics that a business owner should be looking for when they're hiring an in-house technology person?
Sharon: You want someone who's really able to listen well, who's very analytical and can solve problems. You need someone who is able to listen to the issues. It'd be nice if there was a Chief Automation Officer at a company that can look at the processes that are going on. If you don't have that, which most companies don't, form committees that look at various areas of your business and to make sure that you're using technology to its fullest in those areas.
Sam: So, just to be clear, your technology person shouldn't be like your cousin Johnny!
Sharon: Hire someone who knows what they're doing.
Sam: There can be a lot of scary ramifications when businesses don't secure their data as much as they should be. How have you encountered that in your career? And what could our viewers learn from those experiences?
Sharon: So interestingly enough, Gross Mendelsohn has a litigation support side. I’ve worked on that side when folks have submitted computer claims where they've lost their data. I've gone out and seen where people thought they were backing up their information…but they weren't backing up their information. As a result, they went through business interruption, losses and things like that. You need to make sure that you're testing your disaster recovery procedures to make sure they're working because these people thought they had a backup and lost everything.
Sam: So what kind of systems do you usually see businesses putting into place to back up their data?
Sharon: Well, you used to see people using just a backup tape that someone would take home with them at night, but now you see more off-site replication. That way, if something happens to the building you're in, you know your data is backed up off-site, usually in multiple locations on the east or west coast. That way it's easier to recover much quicker.
Sam: Before we met, I didn't know that you could automate as much as you can in terms of business data and dashboards. Can you talk a little bit about what dashboards are and how they can help business owners?
Sharon: So dashboards are really neat. We talked a little bit before about people using different systems to run their business. The beauty of a dashboard is it that is lets you see the information that’s relevant to an individual company. Business intelligence lets you put together the information that's important to you.
So, if you're a distributor and you're interested in what inventory items are moving the most, what customers are buying from you that bought this year versus last year, etc., you can snapshot all that data in one location with a dashboard. That information is going to be what's relevant to you as a business owner. It can pull information from multiple systems like we were talking about before. It can piece all that information together in one clear picture.
Sam: Awesome. It sounds like that can really help businesses become more efficient overall.
Sharon: Yes. They can also make better decisions because they can see at a higher level what's going on.
Sam: My last question for you is, are there any free or relatively inexpensive technology tools that business owners can use that would simplify their lives a little bit more, but maybe they don't know about?
Sharon: Social media is a great free tool that people don't take advantage of. It's good for generating business. It's good for connecting better with your employees, if you collaborate that way. It helps you to understand prospects and build business. Social media is something that people could take better advantage of.
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Published on March 17, 2020