|Susan Wilson Solovic is the CEO of ItsYourBiz.com. ItsYourBiz.com is the first and only video news and information destination site for American´s small businesses. Susan is also an award winning TV journalist, and an attorney. Her legal background provides her with a unique view of American business. Susan is the author of the popular books, "The Girls´ Guide to Power and Success", "Reinvent Your Career: Attain the Success You Deserve and Desire", "The Girls´ Guide to Building a Million $ Business".|
Technology is an important part of any business today. However, when it comes to making technology choices, many small business owners are confused and overwhelmed. Plus, it’s difficult to understand how to best utilize technology in your business to increase your productivity and profitability.
Hiring an independent IT consultant is a smart choice for small businesses. A consultant provides specialized expertise and assists you in identifying technology solutions that are right for your business needs. But it’s important to find a consultant who is the right fit for your company because you’ll be putting some of your company’s integral operations into his/her hands.
The best way to begin your search is to ask for referrals. Talk to companies similar to yours who are facing some of the same difficulties and find out who they recommend. Professional advisors such as CPA’s and attorneys can also be a good source of referrals. Finally, your neighbor computer store may maintain a list of consultants, but keep in mind, there may be a financial arrangement between the store owner and the consultant so the referral may not be as objective as some of the other sources.
Before you hire anyone, ask for references. Make sure the consultant has a good reputation and has pertinent consulting experience. You don’t want to hire someone for your business who has no understanding of your industry. Also, as an added precaution, check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints or problems with the consulting company.
Many technology providers offer special certifications. To maintain certified status, participation in regular training programs is required. Check with the consultant to see if she/he holds any of these certifications.
Be specific about your needs when you speak with the consultant. Even though you may not know what you need from a technology standpoint, describe what outcome you envision. Then, ask the consultant how he/she would address the problem. If the consultant can’t answer you or is unable to explain the solution in terms you can understand, then move on to someone else.
Because holding down costs is important for your growing business, make sure you understand the consultant’s fee structure so you don’t end up with sticker shock. Consultant fees vary dramatically depending on their experience level, geographic location and the complexity of the job. Some charge by the hour while others set day rates. Don’t be afraid to ask for an estimated project bid. By the way, as with any other business purchase, it is okay to negotiate. You may be able to agree on a “not-to-exceed” budget so you can better manage your cash flow.
Finally, don’t pay for the entire project upfront. Set milestones throughout the project for installment payments. I’ve heard many nightmare stories about consultants who received payment in advance and never satisfactorily completed the project.