I recently served on a panel at Wine Down Wednesday hosted by Higher-State Technology. It was a great event that discussed IT challenges faced by small businesses in the Austin area. I learned a lot from my fellow panelists and enjoyed hashing out challenges and viable solutions. Here are my three big takeaways from the event:
Takeaway #1: Make sure your product development is efficient and don’t forget about cybersecurity.
Austin is home to many technology companies so a lot of fellow business owners I run into around town are product-oriented, similar to Tenavox. If not careful, hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars can be spent inefficiently on product development. For example, one person I know spent hundreds of thousands over three years on a platform that NEVER launched and another blew through $3 million to realize there was no product-market fit.
Since product development is such a focus to get a company off the ground, another issue that tends to be overlooked is cybersecurity. One of the most important traits to have as an entrepreneur is to "know what you don't know" and cybersecurity is one of those topics that make my eyes glaze over. However, I am lucky to have an amazing technology team that has implemented and strategized about our cybersecurity for today's operations and as we grow. Too many folks have the mindset of, "I'll deal with this when it becomes an issue," and it usually turns out that prevention would have been a simpler solution.
Takeaway #2: Have a team that you trust that can take the business needs and execute.
At the end of the day, you need to have a team you trust—a team that will come through in the clutch and has a sense of “ownership” in the business. Ideal candidates can come from anywhere, but we try to look for individuals that display great leadership qualities. For example, these are individuals that can lead, communicate, and motivate. They’re not held back by their egos, and they have a willingness to learn when that is required. At Tenavox, one of the biggest traits we look for is someone who is hungry to learn and work hard.
Takeaway #3: Have a champion of strategic IT planning so that you can be innovative, rather than reactive.
Many companies - from big to small - are reactive in how they approach strategic IT planning. One of the best ways to do this is to bring on or determine who will be the champion—the person who leads on the initiative and can bring others along. In order to close the gap and become more innovative, rather than reactive, we also need to make sure the right stakeholders are involved. I cannot tell you how much time I have seen wasted (in both big and very small teams) because the right person was not in the room.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: One of the biggest takeaways I got from my fellow panelists (who were IT security experts) is the importance of integrating two-factor authentication. If you take nothing away from this post, make sure your team has two-factor!
What do you think about these takeaways? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.