November 28, 2014

Fire Yourself From the IT Department

it department

I have an important question for other entrepreneurs.  How much time are you losing by handling your technology needs yourself?

Are you troubleshooting when your website goes down? Scratching your head while the hours slip away as you try to figure out why your email isn’t working?  Trying to ensure your files are backed up reliably?

Many of us start out in our businesses by being do-it-yourselfers. I did. Cash is usually tight in the beginning. The last thing you want to do is spend money. That’s probably the right move when getting started. In the beginning we have more time than money — so it’s better to conserve our cash.

But it’s a mistake to stay in the do-it-yourself mode too long.  As the business begins to grow, you need to grow too.  Your daily duties need to shift.  Spending your energies on anything less than the best and highest use of your time is not a good use of a scarce resource: you.

And what is the best use of your time?  Well, for a business owner it’s not tinkering around with backing up files.  Yes, having backed-up files may save your business from certain disaster.  But it doesn’t do much to proactively grow it.  You could do more to grow your business by outsourcing the IT work. Then spend your own time working on a new pricing strategy or by making community connections that may lead to new customers.

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice about “working on, not in, your business.”  It’s more than just a catch phrase. You really must think about what that means.  An old friend of mine said it well — and he was extremely successful in his business.  He wrote:

Okay, so what would change if the owner started working on the business? First, he or she would not be the first one in and the last one out. He wouldn’t necessarily come to the store every day. She would be circulating in the community making contacts with other owners of small businesses getting ideas. He would seek out organizations made up of like-minded business people in his community. She would be joining associations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the Lion’s Club. Once a member the owner would be attending regular meetings to become an integral part of the community.

The owner would be expanding his or her circle of associates and yes, even friends, outside the industry. He or she would be spending ‘think time,’ that quiet time spent thinking about the future and how to use all that knowledge bottled up inside but not exercised because of day-to-day pressures.

“Wasting” 6 Hours Per Week by Trying to Be the IT Department

Did you know that small business owners lose 6 hours of productivity per week by doing IT-related tasks, according to a study commissioned by Microsoft?  Think about those 6 hours.  Multiply those by 50 weeks out of the year (assuming you take two weeks of vacation time).  That’s 300 hours per year — 300 hours that could have been spent working on your business instead of in it — had you spent it on high-value work.

That’s seven and a half weeks!  What I wouldn’t give for an extra seven and a half weeks of think time, strategy time and relationship-building time in my business….

And that’s really how you have to look at it.  Don’t look at how many pennies you can pinch by doing it yourself.  That’s a small-minded approach to running a business.

Look instead at how many opportunities your business may be missing by filling your time up with what is — for you — low-value-added work.

I am not saying IT activities aren’t important. They are very important. Technology matters a lot today.

But you should leave the IT to those for whom IT is a core capability.  They will be faster and better at it than you are, anyway.

IT is just the wrong use of a CEO’s time.

You see, when you become a business owner and CEO, the business takes higher priority in your work day — over what you personally have fallen into a habit of doing. You owe a responsibility to employees, customers, yourself and your family.  It’s no longer about what you find easy to spend your time on.

You have to have the discipline to tackle the longer-term stuff — strategy and relationship building.  If you don’t, who will?

So the next time you are tempted to handle some IT task on your own and not wisely use technology or your own time, pretend you have a board of directors.  What would your board say about the company CEO spending time on daily details versus working on strategy and bringing in more revenue?

Fire yourself from the IT department if you want to grow.

Image: AMI Partners study for Microsoft – click to see full image

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

12 Reactions

  1. I can see your point that the time is better allocated to making connections or expanding your network instead of tinkering with IT. After all, it should almost run on auto since we’re talking about technology.

  2. It is true that when your business grows larger, so does your workforce, and you will have to engage less physical labor as a founder and spend more efforts to conduct analysis, strategies and critical thinking instead.

  3. As a micro-business, this was exactly my problem – keeping 3 PCs and peripherals all playing nicely took way too much time.

    So I switched to iMacs and now life is sweet.

    • I totally agree. I’m moved as much to the cloud as possible and run Macs. End of tech problems. :) People say MACs are expensive but not compared to the $125 – $200 an hour computer professionals cost around here – and then the job was never done completely right.

  4. I agree with you and that is why any company website problems like downtime are handled by my hosting company, leaving me with more time for other important stuffs.

  5. Six hours of productivity is a lot and it adds up quickly. I actually have an IT client that trades his services for mine. Works out great for both of us and he can fix issues much faster than I or my partner can.

  6. I definitely agree, I could save so much time if I wasn’t always having to fix computer issues.

  7. For any business owner, it is best to delegate as many tasks as possible so that he can concentrate his energies on the ones that really matter. Hiring a proper IT service or keeping an experienced IT technician on the staff might help save a lot of time.

  8. Being both an entrepreneur (three startups) and an owner of a small business IT Services Company, this post is exactly correct. I see this time and time again where near term frugality and lack of knowledge impede a business. An owner feels outsourced IT is expensive and at some level doesn’t understand what needs to be accomplished.

    Outsourced IT services don’t need to be that expensive and if you find and commit to the right person / vendor, your technology usage and competence will elevate over time. This will have a direct impact on morale, productivity and efficiency. While this is an investment in capital near term, it will pay both tangible and intangible dividing long term

    At my company, Rimot Support, we call this technology happiness. In the end, it’s about make the most of your technology. Proper tech wellness best practices will mitigate most of the maintenance issues.
    One last tip, there are six things every small business must do well, not even great, in their IT management. They are:

    1. Be accountable. You must own the IT institutional know-how. This isn’t fixing it, this in knowing at a high level what the systems are.
    2. Manage email, calendar and contacts. Next to documents, this is your most precious intellectual property.
    3. Documentation. You have to create a culture of documenting your IT. It is inexcusable to lose passwords or rely exclusively on an outside vendor.
    4. Document management. They should be accessible so that the right person has access to the right files, backed up and properly organized within your organization.
    5. Tons of Internet Access. You need to have as much speed as your budget allows and then get some more. Internet access has displaced the backbone of business communication.
    6. Data Backup. No excuses here, it should be automatic online backup. Local backup is a losing proposition.

    Jonathon Fishman
    Founder/ President
    Rimot Support, Your Personal IT Department

  9. I have applied this same principal to accounting and HR. I still need to be a part of all of these operations, but not getting caught up in every detail.

  10. How much could you save in time and money by outsourcing your IT department?

    Personally, I don’t want to do IT tech stuff, so I will hand it over to specialized when that day will come.

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