Bootstrap Entrepreneur? Focus On Your Startup & Ignore The IT!
In opinion / By Guise Bule / 16 November 2016
Greetings entrepreneur and welcome to Nasstar's homage to Global Entrepreneurs Week !
Our CEO asked me to write something up especially for you entrepreneurs out there, I suspect because I constantly refer to our marketing department as a startup, tell my team that we are bootstrapping it (we have to, I blew our budget on this fancy blog) and refuse to plan anything properly, telling him good CMO's (like good startup founders) steer by feel when building things and thankfully our Marketing Manager is hugely competent, so I get away with it :)
You see, despite working for a PLC, I consider myself an entrepreneur and have never managed to shake the mindset. I have spent decades in startups of one kind or the other, wearing many hats and wandering the cubicle corridors of Silicon Valley incubators, mentoring startup founders as a member of the Founders Network.
It may seem strange to you that I am telling you to ignore the IT when most startups these days revolve around technology, but believe me, I know a thing or two about bootstrapping a startup and I have been running on fumes more than once in my life while valiantly fighting to get traction in my target market.
I wish I knew to ignore my IT back then, instead I struggled with it daily.
In a pre-finance startup when you are bootstrapping it, there is no IT department, its all on you. You manage your own IT, you are responsible for making sure the email works properly, that the VoIP phones have a decent quality of service, that your file shares are secure and that your website is working properly.
Im most technical startups, its not the most technical people doing this work, its usually the least technical members of the team, because your engineers are super focused on coding whatever platform you are trying to build and really don't want to break their workflow to do sysadmin grunt work (software engineers can be snobby).
In my experience, its usually the founder who finds him or herself messing around with HTML5 to get your webforms working properly and your content SEO'd, its the founder who has to set up the O365 accounts so your email, calendars and IM work properly, who changes passwords when needed, configures the SIP phones when required and makes sure the startups IT is humming smoothly.
This is normal in startup land and I see it time and time again, we tell ourselves that we cannot afford to hire somebody to take care of our IT, because we need to spend money on the important things first. In startup triage, basic IT needs come last when it comes to distributing what little operational funds you have at your disposal.
Stop doing this, it inadvertently cripples your business without you realising it.
You see, you may think you are saving money by configuring your own SIP phone, or working on your website HTML, but what you are actually doing is removing your focus from your startup and focusing it on mundane IT management that does nothing to move your business forward but everything to keep it running smoothly.
As a non-technical member of a startup, your valuable focus is better spent talking to prospective customers or partners, its better spent talking to prospective investors and worrying about raising finance, better spent working with your team to make sure you are all on track, on target and moving forward as a team.
As a technical member of a startup, your valuable focus is better spent on coding, developing whatever web app, platform or piece of software you are trying to build, god knows there are not enough of you coders on team as it is and they expect you to configure O365?
In a bootstrapped and understaffed startup, the absolute worst thing you can do is down tools in order to focus on something as mundane as making sure your IT is working properly, time IS money in startups, as a co-founder your time is worth money and in startup land you just don't have the time to focus on the small IT things.
For sure its easy, for sure its something you know how to do, for sure its not as difficult as generating new revenue or raising finance, but thats exactly the problem I have with it, its a way for inexperienced founders to procrastinate while feeling like they accomplished something, I speak from experience and I have been here myself.
In all the years I have spent in and around startups, one thing has never changed, we sometimes spend time on things we know how to do, rather than focus on things we do not know how to do. The problem with this is that in a startup, normally everything is new and you don't know how to do anything usually, especially if its your first startup. You are still figuring everything out, your market, your product, your strategy and execution, all of these things are worthy of your focus, but IT is not.
At a time when you should be learning how to do everything, mastering your startup, perfecting your investor pitch and polishing your sales presentations, there you are managing your Office 365 account, fiddling around configuring your Linode instance, or twiddling with your domains DNS settings. What the hell are we doing?
We think its cheaper see, but its not.
When you actually sit down and work out how much all of that lost time costs you, how many prospects you didn't talk to in that time, how many investors you didn't pitch and how many real startup issues you didn't focus on, you realise that time is priceless.
Then, when you actually bother to get some quotes for proper managed IT services (for your still very small team), you realise that it was not half as expensive as you thought it would be and much more cost effective than the alternative, being your own IT manager.
Better still, all that IT expense is tax deductible, your IT costs suddenly become OPEX, predictable and regular, you get all of your IT installed, managed and supported technically without spending any of your capital because MSP's (managed service providers) operate on a per user, per month billing basis.
Best of all, you get to keep your focus on what is most important to your startup, surviving !
Good luck out there you guys, its never been easy to get your business started and off the ground, I know you need all the help you can get and if you ever do find that you need any help supporting or managing your operational IT, please get in touch with me.
Here at Nasstar, we love a startup, we love entrepreneurs and we will work hard to help you survive and prosper. On behalf of our CEO and the entire team here at Nasstar, I wish you a happy Entrepreneurs week and the very best of luck in your startup endeavours!
GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURS WEEK DISCOUNT : To celebrate #GEW2016 we will be waiving all setup fees on any of our services for any startup that has been operating for less than two years. Quote #GEW2016 to claim your discount now and stop managing your own IT !