During National Small Business Week, we took the time to celebrate growing businesses, connect them with one another, and learn. We hosted a webcast, The Future of Small Business Innovation, with some of our favorite minds in the space: small business experts from the SBA, SaaStr, Square, and Zenefits. Here are our top three takeaways from their conversation, or watch the webcast for yourself to find more.
Our panelists agreed that too many small businesses lag on technology adoption, which means there’s a major opportunity for the ones that embrace technology to work smarter, build closer connections with customers, and drive innovation. According to SaaStr founder Jason Lemkin who works with many companies with small business customers: “I talk to so many startups that are selling to SMBs—and the SMBs are still using paper. Or they’re using Excel.”
Our own Jamie Domenici shared the results of the Salesforce Connected Small Business report, which highlighted small business adoption of new technologies. While the majority of small business owners (62%) say they trust the cloud, fewer are actually using cloud-based technology services to their full potential. Most small business owners still track their customer information via outdated tools and processes, such as email and spreadsheets.
Kevin Burke of Square concurred, noting that in the past, small businesses who wanted technology didn’t have access to the same solutions that bigger companies did. Companies like his are focused on providing solutions to small businesses that don’t have the same resources as bigger companies.
Burke continued by pointing out that small businesses need analytics to understand how their businesses are performing, so they can make informed decisions and compete more effectively with other small businesses as well as larger competitors. It’s been transformative for companies that previously relied on paper.
According to Mark Quinn, District Director for the SBA, many small businesses are good at a craft or talent or skill that doesn’t include technology, but if they don’t understand how to incorporate technology they won’t succeed. “It’s just too competitive out there,” Quinn said. “You need to incorporate technology into an early stage of your business. It’s as fundamental as funding your business.”
Carr from Zenefits added that with technology, small businesses could save time and money from a lot of the administrative work and be in better position to focus on other areas of business, such as attracting better talent.
Participants agreed that providing a free software period is an effective way for vendors to work with small companies to drive innovation. Quinn explained, “It helps companies understand the value of something.” Small businesses need to be able to educate themselves on how they can utilize a new technology and see how it will help their bottom line.
Burke of Square concurred. “Accessibility is important. Free trials are a great way to get tools and technology into the hands of small businesses so they can see how these things will impact their businesses.”
The automatic updates provided by today’s cloud companies can also help drive innovation. Carr from Zenefits added, “We come out with updates every few weeks. We innovate very rapidly and get features out as quickly as possible.”
Domenici introduced Trailhead, a free interactive learning path for Salesforce. “At small businesses, the owner is often the head of sales, marketing, and IT. At Salesforce we have a free online tool called Trailhead. Small businesses are so grateful for this because they don’t have the time to invest in getting to know a new technology and how to make things work.” Easy, accessible training is key to helping small businesses utilize technology to drive innovation.
Watch the full webcast on demand on Salesforce Live to learn more about the state of small businesses.
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