There’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to running a successful company, and things like performance and growth can depend on some strategic, careful decisions that don’t always have an obvious path to take. One of these decisions is investment.
Hopefully, ideally, your company is making money. Then, if you want performance to go up, you should put that money back into the company. Simple, right? Well, there’s no magic “insert money here” slot in your company, you have to make careful decisions as to where funding needs to go, and why it needs to go there. This can be a difficult decision, and there’s no one right answer, but there are a few rules of thumb to follow to make sure you’re making the most productive decisions.
Your People Come First
When it comes to any line of work, it’s the workers getting the work done. It shouldn’t be rocket science, but that important fact often gets lost in translation. This means that no amount of investment is going to do a significant amount of improvement if workers’ basic needs aren’t being met first. A great place to start if you’re looking to make meaningful investments is investing in your workers.
This perspective might be more holistically described as servant leadership. Workers, naturally, have their own professional and personal interests and goals outside the trajectory of the business—we all do. And, even for current business owners and managers, we’ve all had jobs before that were simply stepping stones in our professional careers. There’s nothing wrong with this, and so expecting workers to fully invest in the company mission for the sake of productivity just isn’t realistic, and it isn’t fair.
As a servant leader, it is just as important to take a real interest in your workers’ aspirations, whether or not they are super aligned with the business trajectory. Often, when workers’ needs are met, aspirations are thoughtfully considered, and individuality is respected, there is a greater voluntary dedication put into company efforts. It’s the same human nature that makes the world go round—we help those that help us!
Security Before Design
Before you get to the bells and whistles, it’s important to make sure you’ve got your bases covered across infrastructure problems. Perhaps most importantly, you always want to make sure you’re investing enough in security. The truth is, as long as technology continues to advance at increasing and impressive rates, so will technological risks.
This doesn’t mean you have to be pouring fortunes into security necessarily, but it can be easy to slip into too comfortable of a position. From deciding between cloud and on-site data to nailing down the appropriate security teams and protocols, modern security measures are far from just an afterthought, or something you can set and forget about.
Being serious about security in these uncharted waters takes a significant degree of attention and creativity, and the individuals that you entrust with this responsibility don’t just need to be brainstorming, either. From training to the proper resources and funding, it would be tough to overstate the importance of an adequate security budget.
Finally, the bells and whistles—sort of. Once your people are taken care of and your security is nice and patched up, it’s a good idea to check on your technological debt. In short, technological debt refers to how far behind you are from the cutting edge of the relevant tech and, importantly, how much of that you have to make up. By no means does every company have to have brand-new hardware and software every single year, but old enough resources will start causing problems at some point. This absolutely includes security, but it can also include a variety of other issues.
As far as security goes, keeping things updated is crucial. Whether this means literal software updates or just moving on from older software and hardware, sticking with older resources opens you up to plenty of risk. Current, modern software and hardware is being worked on and fixed regularly, hopefully. Older or discontinued resources, however, are often not being maintained. As a consequence, if there is some vulnerability that was not patched before, that security risk is never going to be resolved. Further, if that security risk has been present for a long time, malicious actors are more likely to know about it.
In similar ways, older resources just put your team at a disadvantage for many reasons. When it comes to productivity, for example, few tools are really worth holding onto forever. Technology improves, and newer tools are simply faster, more efficient, and easier to work with. Plus, as times and contexts change, the same old tools aren’t always going to keep making sense in the new market. At some point, old tools are simply going to hold your team back in a variety of ways, and you’ll be overdue for an update—which is exactly what we mean by technological debt.
Investing in your own company can be a complicated process with a lot of nuances to consider, but a pragmatic approach is almost always bound to turn out good results in one way or another. Even if it’s not the flashiest purchase or procurement, making sure you’ve taken care of your workers, security, and you’ve caught up with your technological debt is a great way to make sure your investments are meaningful and pointed in the right direction.
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