Small businesses, whether a start-up or a purposefully small business by design, can face many challenges when it comes to just about every facet of the organization - from hiring the right talent, to retaining that talent in the face of more glamorous big brands, from choosing the right software that is not only affordable but is scalable, to finding the time to even explore solutions to problems before it is too late. Oftentimes, executives and managers within a small business are wearing multiple hats with various roles and responsibilities - no task is too small for a small business manager to dive into, nor is a task too large in scope to exclude all employees. Oftentimes most, if not all, employees are included in making big picture decisions, and even the smallest of voices with the seemingly littlest amount of influence are heard and considered. While each of these scenarios can present a unique challenge that are not seen as a company gets larger, this is often how small businesses rise to success - they are not bogged down by bureaucracy and red-tape especially when onboarding new solutions: software, in particular.
Unique Challenge #1: Time
It is said that many things aren’t equal, but everyone gets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While true, for a small business the way that you spend your time is more important than those in larger businesses with more people. While large businesses put together research teams to vet vendors, small businesses do not always have the resources (in terms of people) or the time to spend looking at all possible solutions. There are many software vendors for virtually every problem a business of any size faces - but it is impossible to look through each solution and weigh the pros and cons. To avoid falling down the black hole of research, this is where referrals can come in handy. Not only do most people get rewarded for coming in through a referral - but this allows for someone else’s resources to be used on doing the research for your company. Time spent talking to companies that currently enjoy their software providers is better than starting from scratch because you are able to voice your own concerns and needs in order to find the best fit. If you know a company that has struggled in similar ways that your business is currently, reach out and ask! Oftentimes, software vendors are willing to provide at least a list of the companies that they work with so you are able to get a feel for the clients that they service and how they might compare to your organization. If you have to research companies for yourself, asking for a list like this is a great way to first see if your company and the software vendor are compatible in terms of company-sizes they service, and platforms they offer to find the right solution for you.
Unique Challenge #2: Scalability
Another common problem small businesses face when looking to adopt new software solutions is scalability - both from the software side as well as the company side. Usually, when adopting a software solution it is easy to see what is needed now and the foreseeable future. This is a fine approach if your company is willing to spend the time throughout each phase of growth to re-evaluate your software solutions. This can be costly, in terms of time and money (depending on contracts). Look for software solutions that are scalable and provide the guidance to best set up the systems in terms of future growth. There is nothing worse than setting up software a specific way that works now to only find out that it does not or will not scale in the future. Ask the questions to ensure that the solutions you are deciding on are not only right for small businesses but are right for businesses that may experience growth.
Unique Challenge #3: Costs
From onboarding, to training key employees in use of the software, to the resources spent investing in research - adopting software solutions for small businesses can result in higher spending than initially planned for this type of investment. While most pricing models are based on number of users, it is important to consider hidden costs when looking to make an investment. Larger business entities are able to justify some of the hidden costs, while still seeing a large return on investment - while smaller businesses would need to stay with one vendor for a longer period of time to recoup the same return. This is not meant to dissuade, instead, relay information about the way in which to spend time when looking for solutions. Oftentimes, when small businesses are more agile, that can work to their benefit - however, when working with vendors (especially large vendors), that may not be as able to work as quickly within their large setting, it is important to understand the time that it may take when asking for a new product feature to be released or any other unique circumstance that may arise. While small businesses cannot always afford the time that it takes to research the right solution, sometimes small businesses can’t afford not to take the time to fully vet the companies they are working with. Another hidden cost that is not always taken into consideration is what type of work it will take to get a solution up and running - from the integral employees learning the software, teaching others to use it, not to mention getting the proper data into place - understanding whether mastery happens in a few days, to weeks, or months will be important when making software decisions.
While these three challenges could be faced by enterprise organizations, the examples specified throughout the article are unique to small businesses. It can be argued that all companies go through time, cost, and scalability constraints, however, in small businesses the outcome of failing to consider these three factors could result in a much larger loss than the business can sustain.