can belong to. Associations usually have a reservoir of information on competitive technology. It will be very easy to go on the Internet and get a competitive analysis of everybody who has telecommunications in a given area and understand what the prices are. So, it’s different uses of market research or market assessment based on what you can afford. The ideal thing is to get a consultant working for you who comes back and says: Here are the prices, here is the value, here is what they offer and here is what I think is best for you.
WHITTLE: I hate to go back to the same thing but in your basic business plan, you have to fully outline the costs of goods, and that’s where you make your decision.
SALTER: Another source for that kind of nonbiased consulting and help is, in many states, state government. I attended a graduation in New Jersey of the Entrepreneurial Training Institute. [At the Institute], the state brought in volunteers from corporations to help people with their business plans and assessments. They [the volunteers] stay with them for an extended period of time until the businessowners understand those processes and where the holes are in their businesses. There are a number of places where you can get that kind of nonbiased help that doesn’t cost a lot of money. You just have to search for it.
FOSTER: On this issue of cost-benefit, you can’t become tied to a static formula as opposed to a long-term dynamic understanding of business growth. That’s critical as you look at the initial costs and the ongoing cost of those investments.
SALTER: You have to be concerned not only with the initial investment, but the cost of training, support, maintenance and qualified support.
WHITTLE: The other thin
g is to have some redundancy–to train more than one person because turnover is high. You are going to have situations where you’ve invested in a person and that person takes your investment and leaves. So the cost for the software or the technology itself is actually a relatively small percentage of the overall cost.
McKENZIE: Any solution that you buy should be scalable so that components can be added or taken away as needed.
HOWLETTE: Businesses shouldn’t be buying a technology; they should be buying a solution. There are a lot of consulting companies and vendors that sell products for problems that you don’t even have. If you have a problem, you get a solution to that problem.
BE: There is another issue: the failure to anticipate the impact of the new technology on your staff and employees. Sometimes businesses get so romanced by the benefits of technology that they fail to take into account the changes in the way they will operate.
SALTER: I think small businesses–particularly minority businesses– need to be directed by who their customers are and what kind of access to technology these customers have. If you’re a start-up and your clientele is local and not worldwide, then perhaps putting a Web page on the