How ‘bout them SOHO’s?
One thing is for sure, as a small business owner we are not alone! There are millions of small businesses across the United States traveling the same road as you each and every day. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration we are the backbone of U.S. business.
- The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
- Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
- The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
- The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.
- Furthermore, the small business sector is growing rapidly. While corporate America has been "downsizing", the rate of small business "start-ups" has grown, and the rate for small business failures has declined.
- The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982. Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.
Just because we are small doesn’t mean we don’t have big plans and even bigger needs to get where we want to go. Consider the evolution of technology and the power all the advancements in this century represent. Do I invest in servers and all the security that goes with it or do I move everything to the cloud? Is my data protected and if I am audited will I be OK? What if my data gets destroyed, what happens to my business? Do I build a mobile app for my customers? Do I have the proper web presence?
The questions are endless and most of these questions were not being asked 5 years ago. With technology changing exponentially, we don’t even know what questions we will be asking in the next 5 years. With the constant and rapid growth in technology, a typical freshman student in a four year IT program will have studied obsolete technology by their junior year.
From smartphones to souped-up servers, a plethora of technological tools can help small businesses as they expand. Yet with so many options — and so many business demands that need to be met — technology can be daunting for even the most experienced entrepreneurs.
"It's this feeling that you're falling behind constantly," says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association, the country's largest IT trade association.
"There is so much change out there," he says, and business owners often have much "fear and frustration" as they try to keep up.
There's the cost: Growing businesses often have to shell out big bucks for equipment that could quickly become obsolete. There's also the time factor: 43% of business owners spend more than two hours a week on technology problems, according to a National Small Business Association (NSBA) survey.
In addition, many have the constant worry that pertinent information could accidentally be erased or fall into the wrong hands. Business owners must also be prepared to show that their data wasn’t changed or corrupted if audited, says Andy Monshaw, an IBM general manager who specializes in servicing small and midsize businesses.
"The big issue in the industry is the ability to respond to audits," he says. "Data protection and data security are very important."
About one-quarter of small-business owners handle tech support for the entire company themselves, according to the NSBA report. They're taking on duties such as upgrading software, overseeing hacker- and virus-resistant e-mail systems and updating Facebook pages.
Consider seeking help...
What Small Business can afford a seasoned IT Professional?
Small businesses can’t have a $70k full time IT professional on staff. Conversely, having cousin Eddie hacking on your system can cost even more. “We decided to build a model for small businesses to bring top tier IT professionals support within reach,” says Jack Akin CEO of Tech By Request. We have built a membership based model that is affordable and allows just in time access for our customers. Now small businesses can have a thoughtful use of technology to optimize their operations, protect their data, reach more customers and create a better customer experience.”
Membership based is what Sam’s Club originally sold us. We buy a membership and we get the lowest club price on all the products and services they offer. Profit was derived from the retention of happy customers renewing their memberships and the store “broke even” on everything else. Consider that for a business model. You must challenge yourself to provide everything the customer needs at net zero. Then you ask a fair “membership fee” annually. The customers vote with their retention and you thrive or die on those results as well.
This is what people want. They pay the least for the most and if they don’t like what they get, they can walk away. Accountability is built into the program.
When we buy from the big guys we are paying for more than the service or product we are getting. The brick and mortar, administration, overhead are all built in to the cost. A small business can offer services for less with the benefit of less overhead. “At Tech By Request we provide unlimited $30 service calls for 90 minutes per visit for our residential clients with a membership of $139 per year, conversely; Geek Squad covers one third the devices for $50 a service call and $199 per year,” says Jack Akin. “I believe with all the decentralization of corporate America and the reinvention of our workforce this model is a way to bring services to the most significant sector of customers in the U.S.”
The formula requires proper execution on search engine optimization, search engine marketing and technology thoughtfully utilized for efficiency. You also need a passion for service and an understanding of your niche and customer expectation. Then you have a model for this century that anyone can leverage.