You don’t have to look too far back to when these were essential to most businesses:
- A phone line and phone
- A fax line and fax
- A retail office
- Yellow pages ad (Jan!)
…are now obsolete
As a startup company, these are no longer the starting point. Technology is making life easier and harder for a startup.
The phone line
Strictly optional. Alternatives include:
- Just having a mobile phone
- Nothing – not recommended, but how many businesses are now impossible to contact via phone!
But what is probably worth considering is having a phone number that is long lasting, not a mobile, and portable. Mobile numbers tend to indicate that you are a one-man band.
1300 numbers are now cost effective. Last month we signed up with Alltel (www.alltel.com.au). It’s a pity they didn’t exist 15 years ago because it would have made moving far less painless. (BTW, if you do sign up with them, mention OnSolution so we can both get a gift voucher)
And the best things about a 1300 number is that you can redirect them to your mobile or lan line.
Mobile phones are an automatic essential. You can’t run a business without one.
The lan line, that’s debatable. It’s worth setting your self the challenge of going without one and using a VOIP solution.
The fax line
Now I would ditch the fax line totally and go with an online fax service. The faxes are emailed to your inbox and you can easily fax ou
While you don’t need a fax line to receive faxes and to send faxes, it is still convenient to place a document in a machine to fax.
But multifunction centres can do it all for you. So it’s worth investing in a MFC (more on this soon) to fax out with. Even if that’s just to have a good scanner.
The retail office
If you are selling a product you used to need a space for customers to come in, look at it, and buy. For many startup companies that’s an unnecessary luxury. A good website can easily replace floor space.
But that does mean that a good web site is now an essential startup item. And not just for product businesses. Service based businesses also need a web site to demonstrate that they are a company of substance.
It’s interesting how crowd funding is really taking off now. It’s possible to launch a new product and have orders (and payments) before committing.
Lead times are radically reduced, and shipping times are now measured in days, not weeks or months. The need for stock has reduced.
But this also works against many companies. If it is possible to get the same product from another country for less, and within a week, then why buy it locally?
We have actually received a number of orders because we ship same day and can have it to you tomorrow.
But we don’t have to carry a huge volume of stock any more.
In my first sales role we had hundreds of brochures – one brochure per product.
Now brochures are largely obsolete – provided they are on the web site.
Personally I think this works in our favour. It was very hard to make a good brochure. You had to have the right amount of text, good images, get the layout right, worry about colour etc etc etc.
But with web sites, the style already determines how it looks. So the focus is coming up with the words. Now it’s less about being a graphical artist, and more about just knowing your stuff.
The Yellow Pages was often enough to make an instant success. A big ad could instantly send people to your business.
Now people don’t even have a yellow pages anymore, and if they do it’s propping up something.
Instead Google and other search engines rule supreme. Which brings me back to the need to have an online presence.
What are the essentials that I missed?
There are the debatable ones of company car, suit, business cards and membership to professional or local groups.