Years ago, Pink Jeep Tours, a Sedona, Arizona, company that offers guided Jeep tours through nearby red-rock formations, booked tours by entering basic customer information into a DOS-based program and then scheduling and organizing tour lengths and party sizes on magnetic boards. Unfortunately, if someone brushed up against the boards, magnets would come tumbling off, tour guides wouldn't have a clue which parties were scheduled when, and chaos would ensue--that is, until the company installed a new Windows-based reservation system that electronically schedules each day's tours.
A retailer of fine wine, food and gift baskets with six locations, Merchant of Vino Corp. juggles immense quantities of inventory. The Southfield, Michigan-based company used to run out of customers' favorite wines. But thanks to a new bar-coding system and a customized software program to capture detailed purchasing information, wine connoisseurs nearly always find what they want.
The Las Vegas owner of Gotcha Covered Wholesale notices he's spending far too much time re-entering invoices into his home computer for products purchased right off his truck--and too little time on the road getting orders for his cut flower business. The solution? By using a laptop computer, he slashed his invoicing time in half.
These are just a few examples of the small businesses reaping the rewards of the technology revolution, from higher productivity and improved customer service to increased sales, a better image and greater professionalism.
Twenty years ago, far fewer technologies were available for small businesses. And those that wanted technology had to pay dearly for it. Today, however, most small-business owners wouldn't dream of opening their doors without a computer, voice-mail system and fax machine. Indeed, the last two decades have seen a metamorphosis of the small business from a low-tech enterprise into a lean, mean, high-tech machine--and the future promises only more of the same.