According to figures from the Federation of Small Business, there has been a 59% increase in the number of businesses since 2000. 89% of these are sole traders.
Alongside this growth, there has been a significant change in the way many businesses work. This change is underlined by one word – Flexibility.
This flexibility is driven by one thing – Technology
Mobile communications mean a business isn’t tied to a particular location
Cloud services mean data is available anywhere you have an internet connection
But there is a downside…
No office base means people don’t see each other so often, meaning less opportunity for discussion/planning. This maybe OK if you are a sole trader but even here, inherent flexibility can make the discipline of ‘running’ your business more challenging
Not having a permanent base can significantly reduce overheads but sometimes holding meetings at the local Coffee shop doesn’t cut it. Flexibility can also lead to a lack of structure and lack of planning.
Sometimes having a base (even part time) for your business helps give focus. There are increasing opportunities to access low cost, shared workspace which can be a great option. If you happen to be looking for such an option in the Glossop area check out our new facility – www.glossopgasworks.co.uk
Access to professional meeting space may also be just what you need – when you need it!
Don’t forget marketing and business development
Ever since I can remember, marketing has been the Cinderella of the SME business; easy to forget and deserving of more attention!
As working practices evolve and flexibility grows, it can get even harder to focus on working ‘On’ your business rather than ‘In’ your business. In BSA’s day to day work, I reckon one of our main jobs is ‘nudging’ clients to make sure that plans we have developed with them get put into action. Central to our role with clients is taking ownership of action plans to work with our clients to make sure things happen.
BSA takes responsibility but we do need input!
We also find our technical knowledge immensely valuable in getting things done. We looked at delivering effective web services from a business rather than a primarily technical point of view. Linking marketing and business development with internet/web support can have unexpected benefits –
We look for practical and effective solutions rather than ‘techy’ answers which can be unnecessarily expensive, overcomplicated and divorced from the real world of SME business.
Example Case Study
We have a new client who wants to develop their business by setting up effective marketing and business developments processes as a core element in succession planning.
The first step we are taking is recognising some of the hurdles/inefficiencies in existing processes (which are mainly IT based) and addressing these from a practical business perspective.
Key elements are:
- e-commerce website
- PC-based accounting package
- Web-based logistics/delivery service
- Web-based CRM system
Lack of integration between these elements means too much of time taken with multiple data-entry, maintaining consistency etc. We aim to connect these systems in a practical way. This will develop joined-up processes. These will free-up valuable time which can be spent on developing the business.
The important consideration is that improving these processes is the means, not the end. The goal is an enhanced and more effective approach to business development. Improved technical integration is the path to achieving this goal.
There isn’t a big budget but by seeing the process improvements as part of a wider project to implement effective business development activity the objectives are kept in perspective!
Creative use of ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions can deliver practical, real-world solutions. They may not be the most technically perfect but they can be implemented cost effectively and really work!
There is no question that technology has driven fundamental changes in SME business practice. Is it now time to look at technology as the means of delivering real business growth, rather than the end in itself?