Steve Strauss wrote the bible on small biz. Literally. In addition to authoring The Small Business Bible, he runs MrAllBiz.com and is a featured columnist for USA Today. He's been studying, writing and speaking about how to grow a successful small business all his life, so email him with whatever leaves you stumped.
: I was watching the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and was blown away by how much stuff is out there.
What technology do I really need for my business with so many choices?
-- Bill, investment broker, Seattle
: My new assistant must think I'm a dingbat: When we talk about projects relating to content or business, I'm all over it.
But when the discussion turns to technology, I become a stammering moron: "How will my new blog work?" "Why did my email stop?"
The dizzying array of choices out there is sort of like college basketball: Because so many kids turn pro after a year, one is left constantly having to learn new players, and who's got time for that?
So too for today's technology: Whether it was
first ever Wi-Fi camera,
PalmSecure, which protects data by analyzing the veins in your hand, or
1.5-inch thick plasma TV, the CES showed off a dizzying array of cool new toys.
But which of these should your business really shell out money for?
Quad Audio's Earned Its Four-Star Rep
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Don't Go Luddite
The first and biggest mistake would be to conclude you don't need any of it.
Because the choices can seem bewildering, I've seen a backlash among some small business owners: They ignore it all.
This attitude is the big boy version of taking your ball and going home -- a huge mistake.
Those incredible tools designed to make you a more successful, more productive entrepreneur are out there. It'll just take time and effort to find good matches for your business.
Get What You Need
The second huge mistake is to let these companies convince you that your business won't be whole without all the latest gadgetry.
Train yourself to consider only the technology that will give you a competitive advantage. You don't have to spend a fortune or always get the best.
For instance, while a small business server can be had for under a grand, it can greatly assist your team's ability to work together and communicate more effectively.
- If you're on the road a lot, consider buying a better cell phone, PDA, or laptop. But do you need that $3,000 iBook? Probably not, unless graphics are your game.
- Maybe your business demands new audio or video components, but don't go over the top. Create a budget you can live with and stick to it.
- Often your business simply needs a computer upgrade. If your system is three to four years old, you definitely need a new one. And whether you like Vista or not, it's here to stay.
Next, look at where your technology may be outdated. Most small businesses use outdated technology because they don't want to spend the time to learn -- or pay for -- something new. But that's short-sighted.
Remember, you don't always need the best and brightest, but don't go for the dull and most boring either.
Technology is supposed to make your business life more productive, and yes, more fun. If your tech isn't doing that, then loosen up my friend!
Bottom line: New equipment doesn't cost, it pays.
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Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and USA TODAY columnist. His latest book is the
Small Business Bible
. He has spoken around the world about entrepreneurship, including at the United Nations, and has been seen on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC,
The O?Reilly Factor
, and many other television and radio shows. He maintains a Website at www.MrAllBiz.com.