The biggest challenge that any new business will ever have is surviving. 20% of first-year businesses fail. It gets worse for the second year. By the time five years come and go, 50% of start-ups will have shut down. There are clearly a lot of problems in those first five years that go unaddressed. One interesting stat that often gets overlooked is the fact that businesses with at least one employee have a dramatically higher success rate than those without. It is too bad that hiring is one of those problems that most new businesses have.
Consider all the problems inherent with hiring. First, it is expensive to hire the full-time services of another human being. You can barely pay your bills. But you are supposed to somehow pay someone else enough money to pay theirs. If you don’t pay enough for a good worker, you will end up with a bad worker. That is worse than no worker.
Then, there are the challenges associated with management. You have to provide technology and train and set expectations and provide support and encourage and hand-holding through the process, and… You get the idea. The first person you have to hire is a middle manager, which is utterly ridiculous with no one to manage. Hiring is a mess. And that is just one of the problems all businesses of a certain size eventually face. Here are a few others.
Regardless of whether you’re a new business or have been around for generations most of the onboarding of a new employee is training them to do the job for which they were hired. They might know how to do the job generically. But they still have to learn the way you want the job done. It is a documentation-intensive process. Depending on the line of work, some of that documentation will be quite technical. When you can answer the question, “What is technical communication?” then you will be well on your way to solving one of the thornier issues most businesses face.
Generally speaking, technical communication (or technical documentation) is any type of documentation that conveys useful information about the details of a technical system. It could include everything from instruction manuals, to schematics, to properly commented code. In general, companies are not very good at documentation for a few reasons:
- Most people aren’t very good writers.
- Most documentation does not get updated in a timely manner.
- When documentation is provided, there is a company culture of not following it.
Training materials are essential to the onboarding process. The same is true for technical documentation that serves as a reference. Make sure you do it right even if that means bringing in a third-party consultant.
Assembling the Tech Stack
When you are a new business, you really have no idea what technology you need. It is very likely you will need more technological help than you think. If you were not a technologist before going into business for yourself, you can be forgiven for making a few mistakes when it comes to the tech you will ultimately need. Much of it is so complicated that even IT pros get it wrong.
When exactly will you need a server? Will you go cloud or on-prem? If cloud, which company will you use? What package? SaaS? Do you even know what that stands for? Good, because that’s one of the easier ones. These questions only address one small aspect of business tech. You can avoid some of the pitfalls by bringing in a consultant just long enough to help you get it sorted. A one-time consultant’s fee is a lot cheaper than a big tech miscalculation.
Knowing When To Expand
Expanding your business should be based on something more than a gut feeling. If you wait too long, you could pay a huge opportunity cost. If you push things too soon, you can lose everything. What you need is a business plan that includes a growth plan for 2, 5, and 10 years. You need to have a good idea of where you want to be in each time interval. You might think that staying the same is a good option. But in business, if you are not moving forward, you are probably falling behind.
All companies have issues they have to overcome. You can overcome the most basic issues dealing with training, assessing your tech needs, and growth by bringing in one-time consultants and preparing a good business plan that accounts for the future.