In Praise of Regular Maintenance

Confession Time: I’m not a very good flosser.

Over the years, several dentists in several states have gently (and not so gently) encouraged me to be better. I go through periods of being good, then backslide into my regular, wicked ways.

My favorite movie scene from 1986’s “Peggy Sue Got Married” is this one:

Peggy Sue: Grandpa, if you had a chance to go back and do it all differently, what would you have changed?

Barney Alvorg: Well, I would have taken better care of my teeth.

But no matter, I still go dutifully every 6 months. In fact, during the pandemic, I got myself a Water Pik at Costco. It has changed my life — I use it nightly, take it on trips, and my Dentist and his hygenist have changed their tone. Which makes for a much nicer experience.

But I digress…

Information Technology at your small business is every bit the same. You gotta make time to do the small yet important maintenance on schedule, or else you’ll find yourself faced with a bigger mess. Software upgrades, whether they’re Operating Systems or Applications, are necessary due to security concerns. If you don’t do them, eventually you’ll find yourself unable to work as you used to. No teeth, you could say.

For example, the heightened security requirements of email mean that you have to do more to ensure that your business email doesn’t wind up in your recipient’s spam folder. What worked before for years doesn’t work anymore. And if you’re contemplating upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you’ve perhaps learned that the old rig won’t cut it if it doesn’t have TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chips — Windows 11 knows that a dedicated chip is the best way to deal with encryption and security without bogging things down.

As someone for whom small business and entrepreneurship are near and dear to my heart, I still remember the words of Professor Lyle Trueblood at Tulsa University in his courses on Entrepreneurship: “Inadequate capitalization causes more businesses to fail than any other. You can have the best idea on the planet, but if you can’t reliably make payroll, you’re not a business. You’re a hobby.”

Run rates of your business, covering all the costs of rent, salaries, utilities, internet, phones, etc. are important. Don’t forget to put regular IT maintenance in there.

For years, national surveys have placed IT costs of corporations near 10% of the annual budget. Working in higher education and nonprofits, I can safely tell you I’ve never had such a luxurious budget. But we’ve found a variety of ways to make lesser amounts go farther. Ask me how if you’re curious.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go floss…

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