Why technology is the secret to small business growth

With a thriving start-up culture, Australia and New Zealand are nations of small businesses. Unfortunately, two-thirds of all start-ups fold within the first three years. To avoid becoming another statistic, you need a growth mindset from the start and long-term business plan to match. You need to create an operating foundation that is easily scalable as your business grows. Investing in the right technology is the secret to achieving this.

In the early days of running a business, you can get away with spreadsheets. But, there comes a point where such manual processes will start to slow the business down, impact the customer experience and ultimately impede growth. Unfortunately, many small businesses underestimate just how important technology is in running a successful business, when it’s actually the backbone for growth.

When a business starts to experience growing pains it typically fixes one problem at a time, often throwing new systems and technology haphazardly into the mix. But, this ad hoc approach tends to create more problems in the long-term than it solves in the short-term.

For example, you might need software to better manage sales leads, so you get that. Then you might need a system to automate your marketing, so you invest in that. But, if these two pieces of technology aren’t able to communicate with one another you’re creating silos of information, and a lot of manual work and duplication of effort.

And, if you’re wasting time on unnecessary manual processes to keep the business running, that’s time you’re not investing in growing the business. It means you’re never going to hit the KPIs you need to reach for the business to thrive.

How technology enables small business growth

The secret is to never get in a position where you’re chasing your tail. Successful start-ups are automating processes from the get-go, and investing in technology that scales with the business as it grows. As a result, they’re able to achieve those KPIs that propel the business towards a prosperous future. They’re able to bring more revenue through the door, at a lower cost of doing business, while delivering a superior customer experience.

Every single step in the customer journey – from marketing to sales to customer service – is either a link or a break in the process; a great or poor customer experience. Having the right technology in place, that can connect the customer journey from start to end, is not only about providing the customer with the best experience possible, but it’s also about running a lean, well-executed, viable operation.

The other plus side of having connected technology is that you also have a complete information source. You’re able to see a holistic, real-time view of the business, and make informed business decisions accordingly.

How do you know you’re investing in the right technology?

Firstly, any technology you’re investing in should easily integrate with your business both now and in the future. Decisions made today cannot have a negative impact on your business tomorrow. This means not jumping from problem to problem, and fixing one issue at a time.

Secondly, if the technology is forcing you to change your business processes (not for the better) in order to use it, consider this a red flag. Good technology is easily customisable to suit your business needs and processes, not the other way around.

Finally, make sure you’re planning for growth and possible future scenarios. Just because your industry or environment is a certain way today, doesn't necessarily mean it will be like that next quarter. Never assume an Uber or Facebook isn’t going to come along and completely change the way you do business. Good technology should be able to solve your business problems today, and move in whatever direction you need to go to evolve tomorrow.

Cloud technology has created a level playing field

Back at the turn of the century the technology world was very different. Businesses would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server. It was quite expensive and inflexible, and for many small businesses beyond reach.

Times have changed. The advent of cloud technology has levelled the playing field, giving small business access to the same technology that was once only an option for large enterprise. Cloud technology has democratised business software, with no initial outlay or costly ongoing maintenance, operating on an annual subscription fee instead. Small business is now in a position where you can compete with the big end of town.

Join Adrian Towsey at Australia's largest start-up and growth conference, StartCon, on 1 December 2017 at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney. Adrian will host a ‘technology for scale’ workshop. Find out more and register. If you can’t attend StartCon, but still want to learn more about how start-ups can scale and thrive, download our Small Business Growth Kit.

Adrian Towsey is Regional Vice President – Commercial Sales at Salesforce. He tweets at @AdrianTowsey. Read more from Adrian Towsey.