It is no secret to anyone that the economy is affecting every portion of the business sector. But most of the so called experts are ignoring the backbone sector of our country….small business owners. It is these small business owners that collectively employ the most employees, contribute the most to the spending channel of our economy and provide the most services that other small business owners need.
As a small business consultant, I continue to wonder in amazement the number of business owners who do not or refuse to leverage available technology to not only run their own business efficiently but also use technology to actually reduce costs. I recently was asked to consult with a local, yet popular optician who has been running a well respected and successful business for over 20 years. Why did he call me? He was looking for a way to bring in more customers and increase business as a way to offset rising costs for his products and services. Here is just a sample of what I found after interviewing the staff for a few hours.
- A junior clerical was working overtime to handle each and every insurance claim form by hand. The business owner was never presented with ways to use a computer and internet to submit claim forms online. You have no idea how many times I have heard the expression “computers are too complicated.”
- The office had one computer using a dial up connection to check frame availability with a vendor. For a small hardware investment, this business owner could have computer stations at multiple counters to check frame styles and availability from multiple vendors thereby offering a larger menu for customers. For a larger investment, there is practice management software available that handles scheduling, accounting, benefit submission, etc.
- The business owner was relying on repeat business to fuel his growth rather than reach out and look for new customers. A simple web site linked even to the local telephone book could offer possible customers information on location, hours of operation, types of insurance plans honored, and on and on. This is information the potential customers need to make purchase decisions.
While this example may appear simplistic, it is a very real scenario alive and living in this age of commonplace technology for the small business owner. In this economy, it is time for small business owners to stop and examine the “this is the way we have always done it” philosophy and use forward thinking to make critical business decisions. What type of small business owner are you and can you survive without technology?
John Miriello is a partner in the firm Intrepid Technology & Consulting. The firm specializes in the needs of small business owners.