We started MegaNet almost 15 years ago. Back in those days we were working off 6ft banquet tables with our 486 PCs and 13” monitors. We kept the overhead florescent lights in the office off most of the time to avoid screen flicker headaches. We were in start-up mode, sending out direct mailers, putting brochures under windshield wipers, and most importantly, offering the most personable service we could deliver. We slowly developed a small enthusiastic group of subscribers, most of whom I could identify by the sound of their voice over the phone. Our “support queue” back in those days was 3 or 4 phones in a hunt group manned by us business partners and two unpaid high school students who were dropped off by their parents after school.
The years in this business give a unique perspective on how technology has developed and how best to leverage it. When you are starting up a business your first mistake could be your last. You just don’t have the time or money to survive a bad decision and that brings me to the point of this article. Communication technology has evolved the point where the memory of my own start-up experience is literally quaint. Today’s entrepreneur has a wide array of purpose built services and applications to choose from that can make those early months in business much smoother. I’d like to highlight a couple of these applications and how I would use them if I was starting up a business today.
Let’s face it, most start-ups are underfunded. You’ve got a great idea, a business plan, and very little money to make it real. You’re probably still working at a job you can’t wait to leave while you try to get your business off the ground. You need technology solutions that make financial sense now and provide maximum benefit as they scale in the future.
One of the first enabling technologies I’d have on my list is a virtual PBX. It provides vital communication features and it represents a large portion of your customer-facing presence. Along with your website, the virtual PBX will complete your professional “business presence” for 95% of your customers who will never set foot inside your place of business. A virtual PBX with a simple auto attendant will handle call routing (and screening) to a single employee or entire departments, conversion of voicemail to email for easy tracking, conference calling, inter-departmental transfers, and toll-free call termination all at a fraction of what traditional phone services cost. A virtual PBX eliminates the immediate need for dedicated office space and allows you to work remotely through your smartphone as efficiently as sitting in a brick and mortar office. Because virtual PBXs are not restricted by hardware capacity, as your business grows, the system can reliably scale with you. While the vPBX solution offers immediate cost deferments, it helps set the crucial first impression and shows you take your business seriously by professionally attending inbound calls.
Next on my list is an effective web presence. A website does not automatically draw visitors to itself. If your site does not have relevance to a prospect’s keyword search they will never see it. If you are not already web savvy the website facet of your business can be quite daunting and could represent one of those mistakes you won’t get to make twice. When you are just starting up I don’t think it makes a lot of sense blowing the budget on a professionally designed website right away. In all reality, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to put together an effective website with today’s tools and applications. A hosting package with CPanel, WordPress, and an appropriate website template is going to fit the needs of most new businesses during the early stages. This combination is going to give you features and ease of use that we could only dream about 15 years ago. WordPress is a free blogging/content management application that can be themed to create a professional looking web presence. It’s an easy application to learn and use effectively. WordPress is also search engine optimized and will actually notify various search engines when you update content on your site thus promoting your site’s relevance to keyword searches. WordPress combined with budget conscious use of Google’s Adwords and you’re off to the races. CPanel is a control panel application that provides virus-protected email and website usage statistics on the same easy to use interface. Until CPanel came along domain email and website statistics were charged as add-ons to standard hosting packages and while CPanel’s incarnation of these features may not be bleeding edge, they adequate serve the purpose. Down the road this web presence can be incorporated into a professional website design as the blog section of your new website. By retaining all of your past information and blog articles you will keep traffic on your new site and retain accumulated relevance in the search engines.
If you are thinking about starting up a business give us a call. Over the years we’ve helped many business meet their initial goals and eventually scale beyond.