Many business owners are sabotaging their business without even realizing it. They are completely out of the loop when it comes to all technology aspects of their operation such as websites, computers and software. They become completely dependent on their technical people and naively believe that things are "being taken care of".
This "head in the sand" approach is very dangerous. Here are just a few scenarios of what can happen:
- Your webmaster is the only person who knows the username, password and other improtant settings for your website. If the webmaster suddenly stops responding to your phone calls or e-mails (which I've seen happen many times), you would have no idea how to hand off the website updates to another person.
- Your programmer no longer wishes to work with you. When you hire a replacement, it turns out that there is no documentation for the program, the code is unreadable, and it will be cheaper for you to buy a new program than salvage this "sinking ship".
- The software that was developed for your business theoretically does all that was required, but there is one big problem: it is sitting idle because it is so confusing that nobody wants to use it.
- The web server crashes and your website files get erased. Then it turns out that nobody has a backup copy
- Your technical person realized how dependent you've become, and starts acting like a "primadonna", and even blackmails you into shelling out more cash, "or else"!
If you are now thinking that you need to become a computer geek yourself so you don't have to depend on anyone else - that could not be further from the truth. If you spend all your time digging through computer books, writing code and working on the technical details, there will be no time for you to run your business.
Doing it all yourself is not the answer. Everyone should concentrate on doing what they do best. What you need to do is just take some measures to protect yourself. Just knowing and applying these few basic things that I'm about to describe will put you a giant leap ahead of most other business owners.
Here are the things you should do:
- Require documentation on all technical projects. Every technology aspect of your business should be documented in such a way that you can hand off this document to a new technical person and they'll understand exactly how the system works and what to do with it.
Let me warn you: you will encounter a lot of resistance from the technical people when you make them document things. However, you need to be firm and require documentation as part of the project before you release the final payment.
- When asking someone to develop a website or software, communicate exactly what you want and how you want it to work. Don't assume that people can read your mind.
Communicate all your requirements upfront. If you don't tell programmers or designers exactly what you want, they'll put together a project according to their own vision, which often does not correspond to yours.
Most problems with technical projects occur because of miscommunication.
- Make sure you have copies of all files and do regular backups. Don't put it off until tomorrow, because tomorrow might be too late. Losing data can be absolutely devastating.
The easiest thing to do to protect your data is to write those files to a CD on a regular basis. Also, don't forget to store those CDs in a secure location.
- Keep track of all technical projects and know what's going on. Being "clueless" should not be acceptable.
Many business owners have such fear of technology that they just don't want to understand the projects and hope that others will simply take care of everything. While you don't need to get involved in all the little technical details, you still need to understand the process and "the big picture".