Start Up as You Mean to Go On

Padraig Sheerin
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On: 7 Jul 2016
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With the right approach to their communications systems, small businesses can keep costs down and prepare for growth. It just takes a little foresight.

Startup. Your name says it all. Your business may be small now, but from the moment of inception, every startup is dedicated to growth and a vision for the future that makes all the long hours and sleepless nights worth it. Of course, big dreams don’t mean big budgets, and Ireland’s emerging businesses have to be wildly creative as they balance competing priorities and scarce resources.

Being cautious with your spending makes good business sense, but here’s the catch: not all shortcuts are created equal. When it comes to your communications system, it’s worth taking the time to consider your future needs before settling for a patchwork of (largely consumer-oriented) free or inexpensive options. That’s why it’s worth considering the kind of growth you’re anticipating before you commit to a system that may cause you trouble down the road.

First, even if your business is still operating out of coffee shops and co-working spaces, the fact that you are developing innovative products or services means that you have higher security needs than most consumer-facing systems can support. You need to safeguard your proprietary information and protect your customers’ data. The last thing you want right when you’re building up a head of steam is to find yourself sending out apologies to customers whose sensitive information has been compromised on your system. You also likely need to keep records of your contacts and customer interactions to meet compliance requirements, which is difficult to do without a centralised company-owned system.

Then there’s the question of how you want to present yourself to your audience. When you and your employees make business calls, what name appears on the caller ID? The same applies to your email address. Using free email tools doesn’t project a professional image, and it doesn’t help your contacts form a connection with your business. Indeed, allowing employees to use their personal phone numbers and email addresses in their communications with your customers may present major problems after employees move on to other jobs.

Just as importantly, relying on your employee’s personal contact information for professional communications can make it difficult to institute a company communications system down the road. Once a customer has a preferred way of contacting you, it’s difficult to get them to update all of their address books and auto-fill features.

A “do-it-yourself” solution rarely comes with any centralised technical support, which means that you or your employees will need to spend time maintaining and trouble-shooting your system. Do you want your development team to focus on building the app you’re about to launch, or to spend their time tracking down the specs for an adequate firewall?

So, there are many strong arguments for adopting a professional communications system as early as possible in the startup cycle, but, there’s also still the reality of your startup budget. And there’s the undeniable fact that traditional enterprise-grade systems are overbuilt for startups, no matter how ambitious they might be.

That’s where cloud telephony solutions like 3Connect and cloud productivity solutions like Microsoft Office 365 come in. Designed with flexibility and growth in mind, they allow you to benefit from enterprise-grade systems, optimised for the stage your business is at. You pay for only what you need, with none of the traditional capital expenditure, and the service grows as you do.

Reflecting your specific business needs, 3Connect cloud telephony easily gives you connectivity and permanent business phone numbers that can forward calls seamlessly to mobile phones. You can support the mobility of your team with apps that let them turn their mobile devices into extensions of your “office” phone system, even if you don’t have an actual office yet. You can adopt instant messaging that allows you to readily see who’s available and who’s not, so you can route calls to the people who will respond most quickly. And then there’s the professional-grade conferencing, web hosting, email, secure servers, and tech support that’s always there when you need it.

With cloud-based productivity suite Office 365, you can avail of always-up-to-date Microsoft Office, business-class email and instant messaging, file sharing and features such as HD video conferencing that enable you to act like a small Big business, not a big Small business.

The good news is that most startups are completely comfortable with cloud-based systems. Unlike traditional business systems, the cloud allows you to take advantage of the exact services you need, as you need them, without making any investment in the underlying infrastructure.

Running a startup comes with unavoidable risks. It’s good to know that your communications system doesn’t have to be one of them.