Ten years ago, few technology experts could have predicted that the Internet would become what it has today. Few could have imagined the vast dependence on email, the thought of the Web becoming a worldwide auction house or that cell phones would access tiny versions of the online world. Now, a minor disruption in our communication devices and platforms makes us wonder how we ever worked without them.
Technology also makes this a great time to be in a small business. Accessibility and rapid advances of technology, coupled with changes in the traditional corporate career ladder, have spurred a change in the small business community. Many people are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and are starting their own businesses as sole proprietors. These entrepreneurs and their businesses are leveraging the Web to move more and more of their business functionality to the online community.
We hear more and more of small business owners who compete with the big boys on a newly leveled playing field. From hosting their own Web sites, to accessing hardware and software that can cut down on
A new generation of American businesses, the so-called Web-Driven Entrepreneurs, make up 25% of all
As consumers embrace technology, so too must small businesses to be successful. In 2005, a study by Harris Interactive found that more than a quarter of consumers say that they have become much more accepting of technology over the past year. More and more are going to the Web for product information, special limited time offers and how-to instructions.
In many small businesses, many hats are worn we are both the CEO and administrative assistant and other roles in between. The goal is to spend as much time as possible being the CEO. Efficiency is a key to success, no matter how small or ordinary the task may be. This used to come at a higher price either of time or money. But there are plenty of examples of technology reducing that margin. For example, small- and home-based business owners do not have to choose between buying an expensive postal meter system and standing in line at the Post Office. DYMO a company that has long provided great solutions to small business earlier this year introduced DYMO Stamps, which enables printing of U.S. Postal Service approved postage without a monthly fee or contract.
Additionally, advances in accounting software have made small businesses able to build and track inventory assemblies, customize their pricing levels, track job costs, create and customize business plans, create sales and expense forecasts and assess company performance trends. Five years ago, a company with a Web site was considered ahead of the curve. Now, its no longer enough to have a well-designed site. Business owners need to take advantage of every advantage they can find. Web analytic packages are helping find out whats going wrong (or right) with a site by determining where potential customers are leaving, as well as where customers are coming from and why. This data not only increases efficiency but can make or break a business.
There are also great organizations that are resources to the small and medium-sized business owner. For example, the United States Federation of Small Businesses (USFSB), which consists of 50,000 small business members, provides support, networking opportunities, group health insurance and political advocacy for each of its members.
It is an exciting time for small businesses. Never before has there been a greater opportunity for expansion and growth. Most of this is accomplished by the tremendous advances in Web technology. The time is now to seize this opportunity, but always remember the little things that can make the transition and change better for you, your employees, and, most of all, the consumer.
Joseph R. Caradmone is president of the