Having the right business software is critical to the growth of companies at any stage. I am particularly passionate about start-ups. I have found in working with startups that the biggest challenge is matching the right software to their pace of growth. A startup with rapid growth shouldn’t buy systems for “right now” but with future capacity in mind. For other companies expecting slow, paced growth, with perhaps a few key accounts, investing in a big software package too soon might not be the best fit.
When considering a technology purchase as a startup, you have to think about your needs over the next five years. You want to invest in something that you won’t have to change out in one year. (On the other hand, if you know that the solution you are choosing will ONLY last you one year, you should know the next software you plan to transition to in twelve months.)
If you aren’t sure what you are going to be needing because you haven’t built a company like yours before and you don’t know what technology challenges you’ll face or what your needs will be, then it is best to get some qualified assistance. Partnering with a firm that helps start-ups with business technology can be helpful.
Choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system shouldn’t be an isolated consideration for startups. All the software you need to manage the various aspects of your business (i.e. accounting, marketing, website, distribution, manufacturing) should be considered holistically. Businesses that are small and growing have limited resources and shouldn’t waste time double entering data into different software. When systems don’t talk to each other well, it causes time inefficiencies and the potential for error and lack of visibility into key business information (you can’t see your real costs, customer demographics, order predictability, etc.) increases.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your software purchase isn’t just about the product itself. Having a system implemented to mold to your business, and its’ needs vs. having to change your business to fit into a system (like CRM) is essential. You need to have your processes documented and laid out so that you know what changes you need to make to the systems you are putting in place. We call this the perfect marriage of system knowledge, your specific business knowledge, industry experience and growth knowledge.
- System Knowledge – System knowledge understands systems (like CRM, accounting, ERP, etc.) capabilities. What are its weaknesses and strengths? Where does it play well, not play well? Where does it need to be customized or have third party bolt-on products brought in to make it work in a particular environment?
- Your Business Knowledge – Anyone who recommends a software package to you without becoming intimately familiar with your business is doing you a disservice. You are the expert on your business. Anyone working with you should ask enough questions to understand your business as well as you do (what we call a discovery process) and be able to reflect their knowledge and recommendations back to you intelligently (preferably in documentation form).
- Industry Knowledge – Understanding the sector you are in is key to any successful software implementation. Sometimes this can be made up by knowing your business well (if you are a larger organization). But when you are a small growing company, you need partnerships where people are looking out for your next two to three stages of your growth. You want a partner that will prompt you with the right business questions that you are going to need to answer concerning the future of your business.
- Growth Knowledge – It is one thing to be able to help a company that is stagnant or has slow growth. It is another thing to be able to help predict growth and the needs the business will have as it goes through those stages. Thinking ahead when you have a software purchase will be substantial.
As you can tell, I am very passionate about this subject because I have seen too many startups hastily select software packages because they needed something “right now.” In the long run, they ended up with an expensive mistake that hindered their growth. I don’t want to see your company stuck in that situation.
I am always available for a conversation around what may be the right next steps for you. My team and I have helped companies like DockATot and Plae with their systems so that they could focus on driving sales and customer success. You can experience our expertise in assisting you in the software discovery and selection process at no charge. But if you chose not to work with us, that’s ok. Just be sure to find the right partner to work with who is genuinely interested in helping grow your company, not trying to sell you their particular software packages!