So, the last couple of days have been filled with “what software should I use,” and “what computer should I buy” questions.

I think lots of women business owners hate the idea of reaching out to an IT person (wonder if I should tell them that I am an IT person)…I promise we aren’t all scary and geeky. Ok well, I’ll admit that I am geeky, but I am also pretty girly. I love anything Star Wars, Marvel comics, Minions, Michael Kors, Vera Bradley, well you get the point.

IT should be something that every business owner should consider, no matter how big or small you are. I will let you in on a little secret: Geek Squad and Staples Tech services are not real IT, and no I am not picking on them because I am trying to steal their business. They are bench people; this means they know how to fix a few things with the tools given to them. For the most part, they are no different than a call center person. They know how to follow a script. They know what is on their sales floors and what will get them the most points for selling with their boss. Their job isn’t to steer you in the right direction; it’s to make money off of you for the store, period. Now, you can find people that are knowledgeable there, but that is not the average person that is working there. Now I can tell you, it is possible to get some great deals on equipment from them, but advice, not so much, at least not so that it is a reliable place to head for advice.

Every decision you make for your company is important. Everything you do, create, and sell has some technical need behind it. You should never decide on a printer to print your product without considering what effect your computer will have on making that purchase.

Software to design your next creation? Well, your computer needs to be taken into consideration on that as well. Oh, your cell phone purchasing decisions should also be considered. I have seen so many Direct Sales friends come to me after the fact and say “why won’t this work?” Well, because you didn’t buy the right thing, and now you have taken it out of the box and attempted to use it so, in most cases, you can’t take it back. Or even worse is “look at a great deal I got” (Um…I could have saved you a significant amount and gotten you better equipment).

Even a direct sales business owner should consider each purchase and verify that you know what you are getting before you dive in and spend money. So how do you make those decisions? Where do you find the information you need? There are a couple of options. A forum like this (Become Limitless Society) has a place for you to ask these questions about computers in, and MANY other categories as well. I am a 25 year IT pro and our admin here has been in IT about 10 years and we are both here to help. You do have a few resources that aren’t going to pick on you or stare at you cause a girl is talking to them ;).

Also, make sure you know what your actual needs are when you ask a question. Know what you are going to use your computer, software, and peripherals for. Do not listen to advertising cause let me tell you, 99% of the time you do not NEED to spend LOTS of money to get what you need.
Everything you do on a machine will affect what you purchase, so really think about it. Make a list if you need to, to figure out what you need from your device. Your machine is part of your team and an integral part, usually. So make sure you give it the same consideration that you do for your products, blog posts or your personal life.

IT should not be an afterthought in your business. Most women do not hesitate to spend money on a haircut or color cause they aren’t able to fully do it themselves. So why should an important part of your business be any different?

So how do I know if I need to find an IT person to help me? Are you able to answer the question: How will I use my machine day today, and I know it needs to run x, y, z? Then you might be able to make decisions on your own, with just a little research and guidance; but let me warn you, just because another business owner has new Dell desktops with dual 27” screens doesn’t mean that is what you need to use. Every business is not created equal. Now don’t panic cause you already bought lots of equipment. An IT Pro will be able to help you make the most of what you already have as well. A quality IT Pro shouldn’t be making any money off of sending you out for new equipment; just advice and physical help setting things up.

As a business owner (outside of IT), I am pretty lucky to know what I need, but even I try to cut corners because I don’t want to invest in that part of my business. But it has bitten me back a few times when I have done that. Make smart, money-conscious decisions, but do them in a way that your business can continue to grow without major upheaval or “thrash” as I like to call it. If you choose a piece of software to use now because it was free are you able to grow with it and if not how easy will it be to move off of it? I had a customer about a year ago who had chosen to use a free piece of software about five years ago. When it was time to migrate, he learned it wasn’t possible to move his old data from the old software to the new. He ended up paying about $20,000 dollars to manually the move data, when for a little extra effort and a cost of $5/month 5 years ago, he would have been able to not only spend only around $300 over the course of 5 years, but the cost of migrating would have been more like $1,000, not $20,000. Being frugal today does not mean you have saved anything in the end.

We can’t always use exactly what we want, in the business season you are in now, but if you are prepared for that eventuality, then it won’t be a shock if it does happen.

No question is a stupid question when asked well. Be honest and say “I have no idea what I need to buy, but I know I need it to do a, b, c.” If you ever need more help than posting on a forum will give you, feel free to ask me. I am always willing to work with you and help you learn what you do need, and the path to get there. IT doesn’t have to be confusing; it can be the cornerstone for your flourishing business.