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As small business owners, we’re told the first hire should be accounting — now, it’s IT

By Denise Lee, Vice President, Product Marketing Strategy, Cisco

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and it’s no secret that their success and livelihood is tied directly to their cash flow. In fact, findings suggest that small businesses in the U.S. can add $1.8T to the Global GDP growth by 2024. 

Conventional advice for small businesses was to first hire an accountant to help manage their cash flow. However, technological and modern-day shifts are redefining every industry around the world. This acceleration to an automated world has shifted the need for the first hire to now be in IT.    

Investing in IT talent enables small businesses to better reach customers in this digital-focused economy, and help employees work from anywhere. Although hiring an IT person may not be top of mind when starting out, it’s one of the most important investments – if not the most important – that a small business can do to ensure its future. 

Here are three critical reasons why small businesses need to make IT their first hire.

1. IT can help bridge the small business digital divide

The onset of the pandemic made change a matter of survival. As the need to work securely from any location became vital, those that lacked the proper networking infrastructure were left scrambling to implement the connectivity to get employees back to work. From the grocery store to the doctor’s office, small businesses that already invested in the right technology solutions were able to keep supporting their communities.  

According to a recent IDC survey, 70% of small businesses report they are accelerating their digitalization to address the challenges created by COVID-19 by investing in remote work, online sales and digital strategies. Staying connected and transacting through applications are redefining how small businesses can bridge this digital divide. Small businesses need to implement the right infrastructure to safely and securely keep employees connected and customers engaged from anywhere. Those that prioritize a digital-first strategy will become resilient to the next disruption.

2. Make IT a true partner, not an outsourced afterthought

The same IDC survey cited the top seven challenges small businesses face when planning a digital transformation; nearly all stem from a shortage of skillset or knowledge about technology. This shows a shift in how small businesses are redefining core business operations, which traditionally did not include back-office functions like IT. 

Having in-house IT “one call away” ensures implementing, updating or resolving issues is a secure and seamless process. Once an individual is assigned to an IT infrastructure, a small business has built in a much simpler and faster environment to add new technology, install updates and pivot or scale as needed. While it may seem easier and cheaper to hire a contractor, consider the alternative: farming out a new project for every one of your security or connectivity concerns. 

Likewise, an IT staff member is your best asset for growth as they have the expertise to carefully select and manage a partner to help scale in any market or meet the demands of any pivot.

3. IT heroes help you avoid downtime

Studies show hackers often target small businesses with the assumption that they’re not as technologically advanced as larger organizations. With this increased threat, any situation in which the network is vulnerable could lead to stolen data or information as well as disruptions in infrastructure that would halt business or require ransom payment.

Enter your IT hero. As someone already familiar with and who has access to company infrastructure, they can readily address issues to get things and people back up and running. Who hasn’t encountered a frustrating moment of losing connectivity during this past year? Imagine if you had one person to help you identify and resolve your issue.

Minimal downtime also prevents disrupted customers experiences. Broken websites or faulty services can alienate customers. This can lead to complaints, loss of a sale or the perception that the business is not reliable. Real transformation comes from a proper IT roadmap that is used to continually reassess the available technologies and consider how adapting them can give customers a better experience. 

IT will transform your business

There is no business “too small” to benefit from making an IT commitment. A skilled IT person can develop a staged roadmap to help small businesses understand what technologies they need to adopt, when to integrate them and how they’ll impact the business. 

Investing in technology and people who understand the potential of the technology will be the differentiating factor for businesses that will survive this disruption and the next.

Learn more about what solutions are available to your small business, and why it’s more essential than ever to have an in-house IT hero.