Boil a frog slowly and it won’t sense the danger, and it will slowly die. The slow boiling frog metaphor for creeping danger feels outdated in these times of high-speed digital disruption.

But rather than fall victim to subtle undetected environmental changes, today’s business owners are more likely to be whacked over the head, Uber-style, and left on the side-lines wondering just what the hell happened.

Don’t get me wrong – small business owners are a smart bunch, wearing multiple hats and acutely tuned to market changes and emerging threats. But few can predict the exact form of a disruptive force, like Uber.

The threat of disruption motivates, a rare number of small businesses to go on the offensive in a bid to become the disruptor. But most believe they aren’t resourced for the creative destruction this strategy demands and instead adopt a more defensive position, staying lean and efficient to keep prices sharp.

The trouble is, ‘lean’ doesn’t go far enough, because selling the same thing at a lower price is a race to the bottom usually won by bigger players with the scale to do things more efficiently.

The good news is, small businesses can change the game and increase their odds of survival by digitising core customer systems. It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Small businesses go digital to outwit the competition

Look no further than Australia’s vocational training sector – a category once dominated by TAFEs and now brimming with registered training organisations (RTOs), many of whom launched a digital-first service model that got them to market quickly and catapulted their growth. Australia’s once dominant model of vocational training is consigned to history because the incumbents failed to adapt and keep pace with more nimble RTOs. Operators like Ivy College – ranked by BRW as the fourth most innovative company of 2015 and named Australia’s top medium-sized business for service excellence by the Customer Service Institute of Australia – show just what’s possible when the right blend of services is hitched to a scalable customer-centric platform.

And how is it that a little-known payments company founded in 1998, called eWAY, today processes approximately 25% of Australia’s online transactions. On-boarding 10,000 customers a day – “totally do-able,” said eWAY founder Matt Bullock. But only with the right technology. eWAY recently got acquired, such was the scale of its success in digitising every step of the customer journey for a frictionless experience. (We wish Matt all the best in his new venture!)

Giddy stuff, right? Sure. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to bet the house to gain a competitive advantage. The expensive leap of faith once required to retool a business with new technology is a myth of slow-cooked frog proportions. The subscription economy has lowered the barriers to entry for small businesses to take on digital technology. Think OPEX rather than CAPEX.

It’s time to dip your toes into the warm waters of digital technology subscription services. Don’t just take my word for it – research shows quick gains await small businesses willing to deploy digital technology.

ROI the Right Way from Salesforce

 Stay tuned for my next post where I lift the lid on research that shows why staying still is not an option with digital technology.