Abandon the abacus

March 9, 2015
Technology could be the answer to that which ails your business

Whether your operation is growing, struggling or somewhere in-between, adding some form of technology could provide benefits. Consider what technology is used for and it can solve common business programs. It can make management more effective and employees more productive. It can identify profitable products and the effectiveness of marketing. It can make a business bigger, without adding a single employee.

Reinvestment hard to quantify

I’ve heard operators ask, “How much of my company’s revenue should I reinvest by adding technology?” That’s universally difficult to determine. The technology that works — and therefore the investment needed by that company — varies not only by type of business, location and company size, but is also based on the structure of the organization and how it determines the amount of products and services it supplies and buys. Therefore, the amount of computing power needed to support production, purchasing, administrative and selling efforts would vary a great deal per dollar of revenue. Regardless, in today’s business environment new technology is increasing important across all companies.

The National Small Business Association (NSBA) did a 2013 survey on how business has changed from 2010 in regards to technology. A key finding was that in 2013, 70 percent of business owners said technology, and keeping up with new technology, was very important to the success of their company. That was up 5 percent from three years before, when it was still a majority. While NSBA covers different industries, I see this happening in the vending area. When a company is large enough and invests in technology like telemetry, vending management systems and pick-to-light systems, it allows them to harness more than companies not utilizing as much technology. Our Big Data article on page 22 goes into what data can mean for the vending industry and ways to use it.

When a small business stalls

What about increasing customers? Surely technology can’t do that. Wrong. Many businesses today make purchases online. In the NSBA survey, 85 percent purchased supplies online. That means your customers are comfortable buying via the Internet or email marketing. Make sure you are giving them the opportunity with a well-designed and working Web presence. That is the first place today’s consumer goes to research a new company or business partner.

If your Website allows purchasing online, don’t forget payment security. It’s a must in this world of data breaches and identify theft. Most small businesses contract that out in order to ensure their customers’ data is well protected.

Social media counts

In addition to a good Website, don’t underestimate the power of technology to create a publicity snowball effect for your company. Companies like to work with businesses they know and can learn about (most often done online). Social media gives them an opportunity to learn about your company. LinkedIn is one of the most popular among business professionals for both companies and people. Facebook is also quite popular for sharing the happenings and story of a company. Publicity is important – learn how to use it right by reading Ben White article on page 28.

Technology does come with a cost, in both dollars and time. Researching, implementing and learning how to use new technology can’t be overlooked. However, on the end of the learning curve, technology offers huge potential. Computers allow instant research to be done on any topic. Email and chats offer dialogue within seconds rather than 3 to 5 business days. Communication platforms like Skype and WebEx allow people and companies to live in different places, but talk and meet as though they were in the office together. Smartphones allow all these capabilities wherever the user goes. Taking these into your business and using them to be more effective is a benefit whether you are looking for ways to add more business without hiring more employees or gain better profit margins with the business you do have. It’s worth a good look and deep consideration.