I was asked this simple question in a round-table discussion of business owners recently, and to my utter surprise, a very lively dialogue carried on into the night as the group of us debated the challenges and opportunities that affect small business today in comparison with “the way it used to be” just 15-20 years ago.
My opinion, and that of several others that specialize in online business, was that indeed, small business has changed dramatically for those that have discovered and subsequently embraced the new technologies that empower the small business owner.
Of course, the Internet comes to mind as the “killer” tool that has changed the way business is done today from what it was just a few years ago. Certainly there are other tools and innovations like smart phones, tablets, and a host of automation tools that enable the small business owner to leverage her time and work load into a greater “execution” effort during a single day than ever before.
There are other advancements that have had a huge impact as well. It’s a real eye opener to ponder what the “mom and pop businesses” of the last century looked like and how they were “forced” to struggle with mostly local traffic and customers. A solo business owner today can spread her brand around the world and offer products and services anywhere there is an online connection. Amazing!
The very nature and foundation of business, however, continues to rest upon tried and time-proven business principles that have always been important to this industry – such things as honesty, value for the money, quality products, timeliness, outstanding customer service, and a host of others. Sometimes we business owners forget that the very most basic principles of the vendor – customer relationship are still in place. These principles, when neglected or avoided, can have a disastrous effect on the money generated by the business.
I doubt that the importance of these principles will ever change. Of course, there will be many advancements and strategies and tools that will come on the business scene, but they will most likely be the icing on the cake of solid business practices.
The tools that are available to every business owner are certainly important … but they must be used in combination with a solid business foundation, the “cake” (in our example above) which is the basis of what the owner will offer. These new tools can provide the owner with assistance in small business execution … that is, the daily activities that must be accomplished in order for the business system to run smoothly. They help the owner:
- leverage her time,
- reduce her operating expenses,
- research and produce quality products,
- source manufacturers and networks set up to aid distributors,
- make frequent contact with her prospects and customers,
- reach targeted and passionate buyers around the globe,
- handle licensing, taxes, regulations, and compliance in an automated way,
- collaborate and coordinate activities with peers and joint venture partners,
- sell and consummate financial transactions without a hands-on presence, and
- collaborate with other business owners in synergistic alliances (joint ventures).
These capabilities make a huge difference in the way a small business can be executed. How many of these “advantages” have come upon the marketplace scene over the past twenty years or so? Believe me, small business never had it so good. There is little longing “for the good old days” of solo business back in the day.
It is quite amazing that these tools and innovations can be harnessed by anyone at a reasonable cost to add immediate and measurable value to a small business venture and to multiply the owner profit on products and services sold. The expense of starting and running a profitable small business is no longer a barrier to entry for the entrepreneur like it was in the last century. Anyone with a good game plan, a willingness to work, and an observant mindset can get into this game!
Just keep in mind, long-standing business principles are still critical, and always will be. They are at the very core of free enterprise.
But how they are brought to bear on the operation of the business (via the new technologies) can often be the difference between wild success and dismal failure. Embrace the future without giving up the past.
Think of it this way: How would you like to be competing directly with businesses that have and are maximizing the use of technology — while your business has no computer, no Internet connection, and no web site?
To your online business success!