Technology is rapidly reshaping how virtually every business operates, and is even changing industries traditionally regarded as stable. Healthcare, education at all levels, and finance are operating under the continuous threat of disruption, and it is easy for a budding entrepreneur to get lost among all the available options.
Millennials have founded many of the firms doing the disrupting among various industries, including such high profile examples of Airbnb, Facebook, Uber, Slack, WeWork, Blue Apron, and are continuously finding new ways to disrupt the establishment. With all of the buzz and competition in the technology field, especially for entrepreneurs, it can very easily become quite expensive to assemble the technology platform you need.
As a CPA, I am always focused on finding ways to deliver value to clients and customers in a manner that is cost-efficient, scalable, action-oriented and relatively simple to understand and use. To put it simply, as an entrepreneur you should be focused on building the business, attracting clients, and generating value in creative ways for new and existing clients. Technology is a tool, and a great tool at that, but it does not have to eat up your profits.
Let’s take a look at some tips to keep in mind with technology to help scale your business, add value to clients, and do so without breaking the bank.
1. Focus on your goal
Technology is a tool, but even the best technology will only get you so far if you have scattershot focus. Just like anything else, whether it is training for a marathon or starting a business, you need to be focused on what you want to accomplish. Once your plan is at least sketched out, you can start looking at what tools you can use to achieve that goal.
2. Add value
You can have the most sophisticated and integrated technology platform, complete with a dynamic social media presence, but if you are not adding value to your customers it won’t matter. Figure out what 1) you are good at, and 2) can add value to the market with, and build you technology plan around that.
3. Have a technology strategy
As a millennial myself, I know thinking in terms of traditional strategy and long term strategic thinking might not sound terribly practical sometimes, but this is important. As you are experimenting and testing out which technology tools to use to bootstrap your idea, you have to do so in a logical and well- thought out manner to avoid burning cash.
4. Leverage free
The best friends to a budding millennial technology entrepreneur are the many methods that you can leverage free, or relatively cheaply, technology platforms to help you scale your business. Speaking directly to customers and clients on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is free, or if you want, with a nominal advertising fee — replace some of those technology dollars with sweat equity.
5. Use social media
Social media is perhaps the most disruptive and important technology tool for budding entrepreneurs, but it is not just a one way street. Social media may be free, but it requires you to exert energy, sweat equity, and some time in order to make the most of it. Embrace the “social” side of social media, and use it to both speak directly to your potential market, and link up with other entrepreneurs.
6. Keep current (BONUS)
Technology goes obsolete fast (when was the last time you bought a CD), and business moves even faster, so a technology startup and entrepreneur must always keep learning and keep current. The best part of this is that keeping current and learning new skills and competencies does have to cost an arm and a leg. Just search for a MOOC (massively open online course) in whatever technology are you want to learn more about, and get to work.
Technology presents a ton of opportunities for millennial entrepreneurs, allows you to build a business virtually for free, and lets you engage with customers and partners on a global basis.
That said, something I have seen too many times is a focus on the tools themselves, instead of the business itself, and this can cost you time, energy, and money. By really thinking about how to use technology strategically to bootstrap your business, you can get more out of it, grow your business, and do it in a way that adds to your bottom line.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.