The trouble is that most business owners will only upgrade an ageing system if it breaks down, which in turn can limit the business’s potential.
A lot of this stems from the perception that new technology can be hard or expensive to implement. But the reality is new technologies have become increasingly simplified and user-friendly so everyone can benefit from them regardless of age, physical ability or type of business.
A good Point of Sale system, for instance, can be a lifeline for a number of small business operations, but for a long time these were prohibitively expensive. With the proliferation of new technologies such as cloud-based software, coupled with smartphones and tablets, POS systems have become affordable, leaner and easy to use. It’s not just bricks-and-mortar stores that have benefited from this democratisation: Solo operators who sell their wares at market stalls and trade professionals working on-site can now process customer transactions directly without insisting on cash only.
Cloud-based software in particular provides a more cost efficient and less risky alternative to the old and pricey one-off software license locally installed on each machine. Instead, a subscription-based pay-as-you-go model makes the latest and greatest software affordable for more small businesses. It’s easier to trial different options – often without the headache of lock-in contracts – and you never have to worry if you’re working with out-of-date software.
Whether it’s email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), accounting, POS, productivity or data backup, it’s likely there's a service that can meet your business needs. With cloud-based software, you’ll never run the risk of your business getting left behind with ageing software. Plus, with most services offering a tiered plan structure, you always have the option to try the cheapest plan and scale up as and when you need to.
On the hardware side, there are a number of leasing and other financial arrangements that could reduce the upfront expense of new tech. For one, all of the major carriers allow you to lease the latest smartphone with an option to upgrade halfway through the contract. Telstra’s 24 month My Business Mobile Lease plan, for instance, allows you to return your handset in good working order after 12 months and upgrade to a new 24-month handset and service plan with a once off upgrade fee. Whilst this does mean you’re effectively extending your contract by two years every time you upgrade, the overall savings could be worth it in the long run, especially if you have a fleet of smartphones in need of an upgrade.
Of course, privately selling your tech gear through eBay or GraysOnline will almost always net you a better return, which you could then use to fund your next smartphone, tablet or computer.
If you have a fleet of computers or other office tech in the need of a regular upgrade, then renting the equipment for a small monthly fee could be a worthwhile option. Renting also moves the expense from the Capex (capital expenditure) to the Opex (operating expenses) side of the ledger, which may help at tax time. Some rental companies also allow you to pay a small amount at the end of the lease to keep the device(s) outright.
Alternatively, some retailers offer up to 50 months interest free with minimum monthly repayments that might be worth considering. Keep in mind that some of these schemes have a number of hidden fees and charges so it’s worth reading the fine print before taking the plunge.
And then there are the no frills options that might be just enough for you to experiment with a new technology or trend before deciding whether to commit more of your budget. For example, Virtual Reality (VR) is an exciting new area with a lot of potential for a number of businesses. The last few months have seen many new headsets and systems come onto the market – some costing hundreds of dollars – but that doesn’t mean you need to need to break the bank to try it out for yourself. For just a few dollars you can purchase a Google Cardboard – literally a foldable, disposable cardboard headset – that works with your smartphone, with a number of virtual reality apps already available. Alternatively, if you own a top-end Samsung phone, then the Gear VR headset offers a more comfortable option for relatively little money. If you do find a suitable use case to use VR in your business, then you can always invest in premium tier headsets such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive later on.
Regardless of whether it is hardware or software, there are cost effective ways you can make your business sing with the latest and greatest tech.