Technology and Small Businesses

By on September 30, 2014

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In the last 25-30 years, technology has done more to start and grow small businesses in America than any other factor. In many cases, it has leveled the playing field for smaller companies going up against their larger competitors. It’s as if David found a fully-loaded, highly-accurate slingshot to do battle against Goliath.

In a 2014 Harris Poll of small business owners conducted for Staples, email ranks as the top software tool for running their business, followed by financial management software. Overall, the small business survey shows the growing importance of technology to small businesses of all kinds.

“More than ever, small businesses rely on technology to make more happen every day,” said Alison Corcoran, senior vice president, North American stores and online, Staples. “Staples offers an expanded assortment of the latest technology products in store and online, as well as Staples EasyTech™ services to help our small business customers so they can focus on running their business.”

As a business owner, and an advisor to other small businesses, I recently partnered with Staples to promote their EasyTech Total Support program. I brought my laptop into a local store to get a first-hand look at how the program works. It was an eye-opening experience. I know how much I rely on technology to run my company. What I didn’t realize was how little I do in terms of maintaining and taking care of the technology that I rely on so heavily. From the Staples survey results, I now know that I’m not alone. Over 70% of small business owners said that their computers are the most crucial piece of office equipment. The only surprise there is that the number isn’t higher.

Other tidbits from the Staples Small Business Owners Survey included:

  • Drive profits: Small business owners want to improve business by increasing promotional marketing (26%), developing social media (21%) and managing inventory better (14%).
  • Going Somewhere? 63% of small business owners don’t have a five-year plan.
  • Omni-channel shoppers: More than half of small business owners like the convenience of shopping both channels with 82% shopping in store and 66% shopping online.
  • More efficient:  Small business owners plan to “get smart” this fall by focusing on marketing and advertising (28%), cash flow management (26%) and social media use (26%).

There were definitely some alarms in the findings. I’m not sure how or why every business owner doesn’t have a five-year plan. It’s akin to not having a GPS system in your car when taking a trip to an unknown destination. You greatly increase the odds of not getting to where you want to go with your business in a timely manner and with money in your pocket by not having a specific plan.

On the flip side, it was good to see that business owners plan to “get smart” this fall. Better cash flow management should be a priority on every owner’s plan, while learning and using social media for business purposes means you recognize how the new medium has changed the way customers communicate and gather information about your products and/or services.

The one constant in being a small business owner is change. Innovation and evolution are catalysts that allow us to compete and thrive in today’s economic marketplace. If your business isn’t staying on top of the changes taking place and doesn’t understand the needs of your customers or how your competitors are using technology to service their needs, then why are you in business? Put on your running shoes, grab your slingshot and get in the game.

Check out the Staples Small Business Center with tips, deals and products to help make more happen at your small business every day.

Photo courtesy: Thinkstock

About Brian Moran

Prior to rejoining the world of entrepreneurship, Brian was the Executive Director of Sales Development at the Wall Street Journal where he oversaw the sales development and marketing programs for the financial and small business categories among the many Journal brands. From 2002-2010, Brian was President of Veracle Media and Moran Media Group.

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