A vital part of starting up any enterprise is selecting the right technology to manage an efficient, organized and well-run business. It is among the first steps to success.
For a small business, the appropriate technology is as necessary and important as snow is for skiing, says entrepreneur Brad Feld, who started his first company 22 years ago while in college and subsequently sold it for millions.
That business, he says, built software systems for small businesses.
"At the time, businesses were just starting to experience the personal computer revolution, while today, computers and software are deeply entrenched in all aspects of business," Feld says. "From communication to sales management to promotion to customer service to business management -- computers and software are now a critical aspect of everyone's daily function as a businessperson."
"Ignore them at your own peril," he warns.
According to Feld, here are five of the most essential tech tools an entrepreneur should consider investing in when starting a small business.
1. T-Mobile Dash
T-Mobile Dash, an integrated phone, personal digital assistant, email and Web device, is "critically important" for any small business manager or entrepreneur, Feld says. "You want to be connected everywhere, all the time."
He even likes it better than
Research In Motion's
BlackBerry, especially on
EVDO networks, he says.
The Dash, which Feld uses himself, "has spectacular integration with
Exchange, which is a requirement for me," he says.
Plus, it has an "excellent form factor and great battery life," Feld adds. The keyboard, he says, is decent as well.
Before the Dash, Feld says, he used T-Mobile's Sidekick, which he calls "outstanding in all respects, except for its sync with Exchange."
With a $50 mail-in rebate, the T-Mobile Dash retails for about $200.
2. Lenovo ThinkPad X60 With Vista
Feld calls the
Lenovo X60 a "smoking-hot, amazing laptop." The most important aspect of it, he says, is its built-in adapter for EVDO connectivity.
On top of its fixed wireless broadband, the laptop comes equipped with the latest
Core Duo processors, weighs about 3.8 pounds, has a 12.1-inch display and has an estimated 7.5-hour battery life.
"I just flew from Denver to Boston and still have plenty of battery life left," Feld says. "Plus, I can connect to the Internet anywhere, anytime."
In addition, since Feld's T-Mobile service includes WiFi data service, his laptop can connect to the T-Mobile network whenever it's available, and that means an end to "fighting to log on to a hot spot or paying $10 a night to connect in your hotel room."
Prices for the Lenovo X60 ThinkPad start at about $1,650.
"If a small-business person doesn't know what RSS is yet, he will in a year," Feld says.
RSS is the best way to get huge amounts of news and information delivered directly to you, he explains. And FeedDemon, according to Feld, is the best piece of software for managing this.
As a self-proclaimed RSS junkie, Feld is an investor in the company
NewsGator, which makes FeedDemon. NewsGator sells the software for $29.95.
4. Trillian or Skype
"Instant messaging is not just for kids," Feld points out. "While email is ubiquitous, I like the real-time availability of instant messenger in a business context. I'm always connected to my CEOs, partners and a bunch of other people I work with."
Trillian integrates all his
, MSN and
AOL messenger accounts, making it easy to work with multiple applications.
While the basic version of Trillian is free, the most current version of Trillian Pro is available for an annual rate of $25.
Skype is an excellent complement to Trillian, Feld says. He uses Skype constantly for impromptu calls and for talking to CEOs.
Finally, Feld prefers
Firefox as his Web browser of choice.
"I find Firefox to be faster, cleaner, more extensible and more stable," he explains.
Feld says he has been using Firefox for the past 18 months and has never looked back, not even after Internet Explorer came out with its latest version, IE7, late last year.
You can never guarantee business success, but with all these high-tech tools in hand, you can certainly increase your chances.