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The great small business adventure

How tech helps small businesses think big

Starting your own business is probably the biggest adventure of your life.

The good news is you’re having this adventure in the right place at the right time. America’s small businesses are creating the majority of the nation’s new jobs —and we’ve seen more businesses open than close every year for the last five years.

The reason small businesses are thriving may well have something to do with their advantages over bigger players. As a small business you can be closer to your customers and aren’t weighed down by internal hierarchies and cumbersome processes. When something needs doing, you can act without delay and respond more easily…with a more personal touch.

Another huge advantage that really levels the playing field for small businesses is technology. Modern tech removes barriers to market entry and lets you take advantage of the same distribution channels, regardless of your size.

Here are five ways that technology levels the playing field for small businesses:

 

  1. Communications on-tap through the cloud

Big companies spend a fortune on communications every day. Think clunky, legacy systems, hefty servers and employees dedicated to keeping it up and running. Enter nimble, cloud-based services like Dialpad that give you technology-on-tap. They’re light, secure and allow you to connect everyone without costing a fortune. Small businesses can now get the same type of communications as the big guys…without owning any hardware. Just the apps you need, when you need them.

At Boston-based startup Spotlight Parking (think Uber, but for valet parking), the team has always used Google Apps (now G Suite) to keep costs down while keeping everyone connected.

Spotlight uses Gmail and Google+ to keep in touch, and Google Drive to manage documents across the team. And when they have a big meeting? They do it in Google Hangouts, of course!

 

  1. Everything else on-tap (…that’s through the cloud, too)

Cloud-based communication is a great thing for small businesses—but what about putting everything in the cloud? Now that would really take the weight off your business.

It’s what they’ve done at Coupa, a procurement services business that’s so tech-light it’s practically floating.

 Email? That’s from Google.

Customer relationship management? Salesforce brings that.

Some heavyweight computing power to deliver (cloud-based) software and services to customers? Step forward, Amazon Web Services.

With all the technical heavy lifting done in the cloud, Coupa’s team can get on with running their business, not managing their tech.

 

  1. Turning manual process into automated processes

When you already have 24 hours of work to fit into an 8-hour day, you can use all the help you can get. Modern technology can automate almost anything, from emailing your customers to paying the bills, and make managing your business a lot more…manageable.

At Ears of Experience, a travel concierge business for Disney Destinations, they’ve automated almost all their admin functions, freeing up more time to focus on planning and personalizing every customer’s vacation.

Less admin, better service—that’s how the most agile businesses stay that way.

 

  1. Connecting assets through the Internet of Things

One of the biggest ways tech is changing how we live and do business is what techy types call the Internet of Things. With an internet connection and some low-cost sensors, almost any “thing” can be hooked up to the web—opening up a market for big ideas that solve everyday problems.

Take EllieGrid, for example. This startup is creating a smart medication box that organizes the patient’s meds, reminds them to take their pills, and tracks whether they’re following their regimen. For people who need to take multiple medications at specific times of the day, this could be a genuine life-saver.

 

  1. Powering the unicorns 

Of course, we couldn’t write an article about how tech helps small businesses grow without mentioning the unicorns.

We’re talking Uber. We’re talking Airbnb. These guys have used technology to create marketplaces with no inventory. Uber doesn’t own any cabs. Airbnb doesn’t own any property. They just provide the tech that lets other people do business together.

And by completely redefining entire markets, these companies have grown from nothing to billions very, very quickly. In Airbnb’s case, it took just seven years to go from sleeping on friends’ couches to a business valued at $10 billion.

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