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Pop-proofing the small business bubble

Apps excite greater interest in smartphones and make a great marketing tool for
Apps excite greater interest in smartphones and make a great marketing tool for small businesses

US estimates for the failure rates of small businesses are as high as 50% in the first year and up to 95% by the fifth year of operation. Contributing to this and one of the challenging side effects of global connectivity for small businesses in T&T is that they can no longer see their competitors as the other businesses on the street or in the district. Small businesses can no longer “fly under the radar” to avoid competitive challenges faced by their larger counterparts. Even if local small business owners do not see how technology can improve their business performance, without a doubt, those that make the appropriate investments are coming out ahead of those that are still “waiting to see”.

Blink|bmobile’s investments in nationwide digital infrastructure to place communication systems like smart devices, broadband data, IPTV, video conferencing and the like in the hands of the mass market has gone a long way to making consumers ready for digital engagement. So what are small businesses waiting on?

The first hurdle to overcome is the notion that technology is beyond the scope of a small business, because these types of organisations do not have enough scale for technology to have any effect. The reality is that technology evolves to solve problems. Business problems come in all shapes and sizes and tech solutions have evolved to match. A starting point for a small business to determine the most appropriate technology for them is to honestly look at what problems they need to solve. Companies that do not see any problems in their business or do not see the need to resolve these, more than likely have an address somewhere in a fool’s paradise. Your problems are opportunities for both you and your competitors.

Do you know your customers and what they like? Can any processes be done more efficiently? What are the opportunities to grow your business? What are your competitors doing? These questions are as relevant for a local bakery as they are for a car manufacturer. In an article on Forbes.Com touching on the subject of tech solutions for popular small business problems, writer Lisa Wirthman pointed out how inexpensive mobile apps could help small business owners keep a hand on the reins of the business and be available to customers even when they were not physically in office. Cloud computing provides versatile, economic IT assets that spare the small business owner the need to acquire hardware and IT personnel. Online analytics tools are available to help business owners make commercial sense of the volumes of operational and consumer data that could be captured.

Being a small business only means that you have to do what big businesses do on a smaller scale. Accounting, shipping, marketing, payroll and other complementary processes are all functions that need to be done. Online services and apps for these put expert best practices in the hands of small businesses. When this data is fed into business information systems, it puts the small business owner firmly in the pilot seat. At the same time these tech tools give him or her a better vantage point on trends in the industry and how, if necessary to outflank competitors or to avoid being outflanked by them.

Entrepreneurship is always a risky proposition and the high failure rate of small business start-ups could readily be ameliorated by using technology to gain access to better and more timely information without bursting your bank for that privilege. An infographic by top-business-degrees.net lists 8 keys to success in small business: start small; know your market; maintain quality merchandise; listen to your customers; set company goals; plan and control your inventory; market your business and keep the business simple and focused. Did someone say there are apps for that?

 Whether small business owners chose to see it or not, technology is an essential tool. With mobile phones in the hands of over 140% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago and more than half of the population using the Internet and social media, consumers are prepped and ready to be digitally engaged. As such, there is no better time than now for small businesses to switch their tech mantra from “wait and see” to “get it done”.