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When Is It Worth the Effort to Upgrade and Change?

status quo in business

In a small business it sometimes seems like the pain of changing can be worse than the pain of staying status quo.

I run into this dilemma all the time in my own business.

When I worked for a large corporation, and we wanted to look at potential new software, hardware or service solutions, we’d typically assign a task force. The task force would include several people.

If it were a really large or important project, we’d sometimes hire a 6-month contractor or reassign someone internally to become the full-time task force leader for months or even years at a time.

That task force would evaluate potential solutions and recommend a choice. Often, the task force would stay on to implement the new solution until it was working smoothly.

In a small business, there are no task forces.

At least … there aren’t task forces in the sense that large enterprises and government agencies think of them.

Instead, there’s the owner and possibly a lean management team — all of whom I can guarantee are already wearing several hats. (Because that’s what we do in small businesses — we wear many hats.)

So the small business “task force” consists of the owner and/or maybe a key manager or staffer who steal a few hours on a weekend or on a slow afternoon or maybe at 10 p.m. after the kids have gone to bed, to hunt around on the Web to find a possible new solution.

I can’t tell you how many times I end up researching new products or services at midnight on the Web. Does that sound like you?

Most of us have very little time to even research and identify potential solutions, let alone compare features and benefits, and evaluate them.

And we haven’t even gotten to the implementation part yet!

A survey conducted by the SMB Group in 2013 found that the number one technology challenge of small business owners was finding the time to evaluate technology solutions and vendors.

Think about that for a moment. The top challenge we have as small business owners is just looking around and sorting out potential solutions.

Another challenge that ranked fairly high in the study was the challenge of implementing technology.

Let’s face it: we’re time starved. I know I am.

Time is very often the practical impediment to making internal process improvements that can drive efficiency and set the foundation for growing your business.

I’d love to get my business to $5 million in annual revenues. My dreams are big. Unfortunately, my time is small.

The process of looking around to find new solutions or better ways of doing things feels overwhelming. The mere thought of making a change begins to feel more painful than leaving things the way they are.

It’s tempting to just say to yourself, “We don’t have time to find a better solution, so we’ll make do with what we have today. It’s good enough.”

But is it really good enough?

And is that kind of thinking going to get you to where your business needs to be, to meet your goals and dreams?

Thomas Hansen, vice president of Worldwide SMB at Microsoft made a cogent observation recently when he wrote, “even the smallest disruption caused by outdated technology can affect your bottom line.”

One of his points was that you may find yourself putting up with outdated technology because you figure it’s good enough to get by. And you may not see any potential revenue increases or fee savings from switching.

But what you may not be taking into account are the inefficiencies, lost working time and delays caused by a technology that doesn’t work as well as newer technologies. It could be costing you more money than you realize.

One of the ways we look at things in my business is in terms of “man-hour savings.”

Labor is very expensive, whether it’s your own labor or that of someone you pay on your team.

Don’t look just at the pain of switching. Look at the cost of the status quo.

Really add up the time you’re spending dealing with delays caused by outdated technology, the staff hours spent on manual processes that could be automated, and the time needed to fix technology that breaks a lot.

Ask yourself questions like: would it be better to spend 30 hours once if it can save 10 times that number of hours over a single year’s time?

Don’t focus on the pain of switching — focus on the ultimate gain. And the ultimate gain may be efficiency and productivity, not necessarily an increase in revenues or lower fees. You may not see more sales immediately. You may not see lower out-of-pocket expenses by upgrading technology.

But chances are, there are “hidden” costs you are incurring that can go away by upgrading your technology.

There’s usually a reason businesses flock to newer technology. It goes beyond shiny object syndrome. It’s usually because there are benefits to be gained from doing something with a different solution or in a different way — and that’s what we’re seeing with the cloud.

There’s another reason the status quo may hurt you. We don’t operate in a vacuum. The world is constantly moving around you. Blink too long and the competition and the market will leave you in the dust without you realizing it.

While you’re thinking ‘it’s good enough,’ others are trying new ways and doing things faster. Soon “good enough” is not even earning you a place at the table. Your business falls behind. It can’t keep up with the speed and service quality that customers come to expect.

Find out what your competitors and the businesses down the street or in the next town are doing. Check out some options to see what best-in-class small businesses are doing to run their businesses more productively, profitably and effectively.

At the time of writing this article, Anita Campbell is participating in the Microsoft Small Business Ambassador Program. This article is part of a series underwritten by Microsoft.

Status Quo [1] Image via Shutterstock