Deciding to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship is a scary prospect, but also one that holds incredible promise – if founders play their cards right. Despite shaky economies around the world, the current digital era is a great time to launch a startup. What founders often lack, however, is a clear understanding of what to focus on to ensure the best possible chances of success. As just one example, there is a common misconception when it comes to the benefits of technology. Yes, technology is beneficial in aiding the success of a business, but it’s no silver bullet to resolve every woe you come across, and it certainly isn’t something that businesses should rely on to stay afloat.
Depending on its nature, every business will have a list of essential and non-essential technological needs that should be identified. Customer experience, service excellence, and attracting top talent should be at the core of any startup, and the success and effectiveness of these functions rest on its people, not software.
This said, to free up precious time and human resources, startups can benefit from outsourcing labour-intensive and “mundane” tasks, like manufacturing, distribution and administration, and use technology as an aid to better streamline processes and cut costs.
Technology appears to be a big factor in driving the success of SMMEs, but the heart of a solid startup is often an agile workforce, with the grit and innovative capability to work smart and still compete with bigger, and seemingly better-resourced, corporates regardless of technological limitations.
As I’ve mentioned, attracting and retaining the right people is an essential component of any business looking to challenge the top dogs. Establishing a core team of people who believe in what you’re doing is the best place to start. Smart recruitment technology is hugely beneficial to SMMEs in this respect. Most don’t have the means for extravagant recruitment strategies and bonus-packed packages, which bigger companies typically do. Using various recruitment technologies and online tools, SMMEs can effectively weed out those who don’t hold the correct qualifications, and screen a greater number of candidates than they would ever have been able to on their own. But while these tools are great for developing a core group of committed employees, it’s up to business owners to nurture and develop their human resources – something that’s yet to be achieved using technology alone.
The Mobile Workplace
One area in which SMMEs do have a significant advantage over bigger companies, is in the flexibility of their employment offers. Remote working is a trend we’re seeing more and more – particularly in regard to SMMEs who are agile and fearless in their use of new tech tools that allow employees to work wherever and however they choose. They might not be able to offer the same tempting salary packages, but job seekers are increasingly turning to companies that grant them more freedom to successfully balance work and life. This is, of course, made possible through cloud-based technology that allows for effective storage alternatives, greater collaboration and a reduction in IT spend, to name a few benefits.
Take Cloud PBX as an example – an Internet-based system that allows employees to work remotely, while still being connected to the same telephone system as the rest of the office. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is another rising mobility trend, saving businesses money that they would otherwise spend on expensive hardware, while offering employees the chance to be more productive on devices they love working on the most. It’s just important not to forget that although more affordable and convenient all-round, the remote workplace still has one significant weakness in the form of cybersecurity.
Making use of the many digital tools available opens a world of opportunity – where SMMEs suddenly have access to the same tools as their behemoth competitors. Keeping up with the Joneses, however, means that these small and medium-sized businesses need to up their game when it comes to cybersecurity, too.
Privacy and protection of data, of the business and its clients alike, is becoming ever more important in our digital age – and SMMEs who think they’re too small to become targets should certainly think again. In fact, recent research by Barclaycard proves that almost half of SMMEs have fallen victim to cybercrime in the space of a year, with 10% being targeted multiple times in the same time frame. Of course, innovative tech is here to save the day again. One tool I believe to be very effective is two-factor authentication. This extra layer of security requires not only a password and username, but also something that only the user has on them, like a personal piece of information. Google Authenticator, for example, is a great app that implements this system. In addition to your password, you’ll also need a code generated by the app, on your phone, to access any documents or information.
Apps are effective in supercharging those business essentials we spoke about earlier. It’s normal for small business owners to feel like they’re juggling everything at once, so apps are an effective way of increasing productivity and organisation, or just making your life as an entrepreneur a little bit easier. While there’s an excellent selection of business apps available, there are a few particularly worth noting if you’re to take your startup to the next level.
The Pipedrive app, for example, is a powerful sales CRM tool that’s perfect for smaller businesses. It offers incredible control over complex sales processes, customer support functions and much more.
In terms of tech-powered marketing, an app like Google Data Studio is ideal. It’s essentially a super-smart reporting tool that allows you to quickly create powerful dashboards from multiple Google sources. Another favourite of mine is PandaDoc, an automation tool that’s designed to streamline sales proposals, business contracts, analytics and CRM integrations.
There’s also Zapier, which is perfectly suited to small businesses. It’s an app automation tool that allows end-users to integrate the web applications they use, letting them then focus on the more important tasks at hand.
This is to name just a few helpful resources SMMEs could consider, especially since business owners are occupied with wearing many hats while building their business from the ground up. People and technology – if well integrated and working together seamlessly – create possibilities for operational excellence that, just a few years ago, may have seemed unattainable for SMMEs. It’s up to business owners to make the relationship work for them.
By Sacha Matulovich, Sales and Marketing Director for Connection Telecom