Technology is a small business owner’s friend–it can increase productivity exponentially. I first discovered this when I was working for a restaurant in the late 1990s. (I recounted the story here: The fax machine is broken! Hurry, get a website! )
A lot has changed since those days. Today, everyone is excited to be the first to own new technology. When the iPad first came out, people stood in line for hours to be among the first to get one. (Speaking of lines, I stood outside the first McDonalds in Moscow for almost four and a half hours to get a Big Mac in 1990. What people will do to be the first to get something. . .
But when you’re making technology choices for your small business, it’s not all about being first with the coolest new toy. There are three questions a small business owner should ask to determine when it’s time to buy a technology tool:
1) How will I recognize and learn about new technology that I should be implementing?
2) What problem in my business will this technology solve?
3 ) Do I need it (even if I can afford it)?
Question 1 above was asked by a business owner a few months ago on a panel I was part of for 270inc. My fellow panelist Patrick Haley, owner of BridgePath Scientific, gave this answer:
“A technology board of advisors is a great way to go about doing that. Invite five or six people from your community to sit on a technology advisory board for your organization. Offer to buy them a meal every three to four months, and just talk about what you do as a business and what you should be doing.”
The answers to Question 2 and 3 will depend on you and your business applications. Let’s look at both of these questions when it comes to the iPad.
The iPad is an excellent device. Our family has two of them. The iPad is good in bed – what I mean by that is, if you want to watch a movie in bed, the device is light and easy to hold or prop up; the screen quality is excellent for watching movies. My kids love it, and it is incredibly easy to use. There are tons of apps from productivity to puzzles to games. It’s also great for email. If you’re considering the iPad for business, be aware it may not be ready to replace your desktop, laptop or other small business devices you rely on.
You need a iPad for your business if you:
- Travel a lot
- Have a desktop but no laptop
- Have to show customers products online
- Need customers to fill out a form and you can use the iPad to do this
- You go to a lot of conferences and take notes
- You need to take payments from customers (an iPad app can do this)
You may not need an iPad for your business if:
- You don’t need to go online frequently
- You are always close to a computer
- You have custom software that you need to run on desktops
Changing technology that gives you double the efficiency and saves time is definitely a winner. Examples of this type of technology are moving from dial-up to broadband, or having a website so customers can find information about your business instead of having to call you.
But before buying an iPad, ask yourself if you are buying technology for technology’s sake or solving a business problem. The iPad is an excellent after-hours device; every family should have one. In its present form, however, not every business needs one. This will no doubt change as more productivity apps and tools get introduced.
Are you using an iPad for your business? What are your thoughts?