Small businesses often start out lean and mean, with the founder handling the lion’s share of the work. If your company is growing, you will need to hire new employees to meet the needs of your customers as well as to provide the expertise to be competitive.

Technology is one key area where small businesses typically need specialized support. The use of technology to do business is expanding exponentially, and companies large and small continue to invest in equipment upgrades, cloud-based services, and digital communication platforms.

While larger enterprises may have fully staffed IT departments, owners of small and medium size businesses often struggle to find a balance between their technology needs, budget, and the right type of IT support. It’s no wonder that nearly two-thirds of respondents in a Brother International Corporation small business survey said they were overwhelmed by technology and lacking in resources to help deal with it.

Small businesses like Summit Financial Resources often have someone on staff to handle day-to-day IT duties and outsource high-level support. This solution currently works well for our small business, but as your company evolves, it may become inefficient or risky not to add a professional IT manager to your team.

Here are some indications that your small business may need more sophisticated IT support:

Rising Headcount

The bigger your organization gets and the more employees you have, the more IT expertise you will need. Having the right computers, servers, hardware, and software to meet your needs is critical, as is ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible. Some tech experts say the tipping point is when your headcount hits twenty. The security, networking, system administration, and daily desktop support become too complex to rely on part-time support. Having an experienced IT manager who can anticipate change and take care of your systems as you grow will allow you to concentrate on other aspects of running your business.

Increased Complexity

For some companies, it’s not the number of people but the complexity of business operations that drives the need for change. Handling multiple systems and evolving hardware and software requirements can be intimidating, even for tech-savvy business owners. If you have IT help but still find that you are regularly stopping or slowing operations because they don’t have the knowledge to meet your expanding needs, it’s time to consider hiring an experienced manager.

Evolving Technology

New technologies are constantly hitting the market making systems and software that were cutting-edge yesterday obsolete today. IT managers can help your business navigate the ever-changing tech landscape and make smart choices, handling everything from software upgrades and license updates to hardware requirements and vendor relationships.

Continuous Growth

If your business plan calls for future growth, it may be time to consider your IT support as integral to achieving your goals. In addition to troubleshooting or providing on-call support, you can benefit from a manager’s experience in IT architecture planning to help you make a solid and efficient plan to support your operations. They will also provide you with reliable system implementation and monitoring as part of your day-to-day business practices. Part-time staff or consultants are not as likely to be invested in your company’s success. Having an IT expert onsite rather than working remotely allows them to develop solid relationships with you and your staff and develop a greater degree of trust.

Tips for Hiring an IT Manager

For many small business owners, bringing a manager on board to oversee information technology is a difficult and expensive hire. Here are a few key things to consider when making this important decision:

Pinpoint your IT needs.

Before you begin your search, determine your company’s top IT needs today and tomorrow. Think beyond desktop support to include planned projects and specific business challenges. Relocating or adding a new facility, switching to cloud software, or re-launching your website are strategies that require expert IT knowledge, and you can narrow your search to candidates who are experienced in these areas. Ensuring that your new IT specialist has the skills to tackle future needs will help you avoid another round of potentially costly hiring.

Consider a generalist.

Small businesses that have trouble identifying their specific IT needs might consider hiring a generalist. Look for a manager with a versatile resume who is well versed in database management, information security, network and system administration, and multiple programming languages. He or she can help you source new hardware, advise on third party database software, and configure servers for email, web hosting, and remote access. If data security is a primary business concern, make sure your job description includes responsibilities such as providing risk-assessment reports and implementing security protocols and technologies.

Go beyond job boards.

Internet job search sites are useful for finding candidates in a cost-effective way, but keep in mind that IT experts are in high demand. This means that an “average” manager typically gets offers as soon as they post their resume to a job board, and talented IT specialists may be recruited from their current jobs. This makes it difficult for small businesses to gain access to top candidates, even if you are using technology-specific sites like Dice and TechCareers. A recruiter is an option that may be worth the extra expense, but going through professional referral networks may be your best bet. Consider offering referral bonuses to incentivize your current staff to engage in the hiring process.

IT must be a good fit.

Integrating IT into your operations, organizational structure, and company culture is critical to maximizing your investment. As a small business owner, you have to make your IT manager feel welcome and engaged. Encourage them to build productive relationships with your team so they will rely on them for more than just troubleshooting slow-downs and fixing crashes. In addition, keep in mind that your IT manager’s communication skills are as important as their technical expertise. He or she must be able to listen to and understand your staff’s issues, clearly explain the solutions, and provide advice and training as needed.

In today’s tech-reliant world, effective IT management plays a vital role in the overall performance of your small business. As you review your business plans and set your goals for 2018, be sure to assess whether or not to make hiring and retaining the right IT support a top priority.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.