Whether you are just starting out in business or need to upgrade your equipment to accommodate growth, it is imperative to have the tools and resources necessary to get the job done — and get it done well. Manufacturers, retailers, and service-based companies all have unique equipment needs, but there are five fundamental tools required by any business: telephones, computers or word processors, printers, fax machines, and copiers. But even among comparable businesses, there is no right suite of equipment that will ensure success. So just how do you determine what tools you need? Surprisingly, one of the best resources may be the competition. Don’t be shy about asking competitors basic questions such as, what equipment they use, who supplies their equipment, and what works for them. The key is taking what can be learned from those and other sources and asking one question: “Will it work for me?” Ultimately, the nature of your business will dictate the type of equipment you’ll need.
GET THE BALANCE RIGHT
Company: McNeil Technologies Inc.
Revenues: $25 million
Cost per employee: $4,500
When James McNeil, CEO of McNeal Technologies Inc., needed to equip his office with the proper technology, he decided to first brainstorm with his staff. “Our management team has a considerable amount of experience, so we started with our own ideas about what we wanted to use technology for and the functional roles we wanted technology to play in our business, both in terms of internal use and in supporting the development of various products and services,” he explains.
Based just outside of Washington, D.C., McNeil Technologies is a 16-year-old management consulting company that employs some 400 people with a specialty in program-management support and language services for government agencies and private corporations.
From the start, McNeil knew that in order for his company to be successful, he would have to develop a sound business plan that addressed the firm’s structuring needs. He did not hesitate to look to other companies for ideas. “We looked at how similar businesses were set up, the technologies they used, and the functionality and benefits they hoped to achieve,” he says.
And since the company also assists the Department of Energy with locating alternative energy sources, McNeil studied businesses he felt were trendsetting. “We looked at companies pushing the envelope. This helps us refine our thinking about how we want to employ technology productively and cost-effectively.”
McNeil Multilingual, another arm of the company, translates Websites and provides language assistance in training sessions, seminars, meetings, negotiations, and business transactions. It also provides cultural training programs for government agencies and corporations.
REALITY, LINE ONE
With such a large business undertaking and limited resources, “we are continually assessing priorities and new technologies to implement,” says McNeil. “The most painful reality is that cash and cash flow control the development and implementation of the technology [we use].”
McNeil says he’s often tempted to implement the “latest and greatest” simply because it’s available, although not always economical. “One of the hardest things to do is to decide to keep a proven system that’s