As the CEO of a large company, there is nothing I enjoy more than meeting visionary entrepreneurs and seeing their small businesses take off.
Two that come to mind are “Cakes by Darcy,” a bakery in Roswell, Georgia, that makes the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted, and “The Oilerie,” a rapidly-growing retailer of extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars.
These businesses are run by passionate entrepreneurs with bold dreams and the work ethic to make it happen. I’m not surprised both have seen big success.
However, as the CEO of a company that serves many small businesses, I know the very role of “entrepreneur” might get in the way of implementing the best technology to succeed.
After all, the founder of a start-up small business often serves as CEO, clerk, accountant, PR manager, and salesperson. “IT manager” often gets lost in the shuffle and sometimes, busy entrepreneurs think they don’t have the time or financial resources to arm themselves with the best digital technology.
The emphasis should be on “think.”
The reality is, thanks to the cloud, small businesses can benefit from much of the same technology that their larger counterparts enjoy. A boutique store manager, for example, can instantly see their customers’ preferences and offer them digital loyalty discounts at the point of sale.
A restaurant owner can quickly see what’s selling -- and what’s not -- to make real-time changes, from the shop, at the market, or at home. The digital transformation, with the right knowledge behind it, can actually be a smooth, highly-profitable transition.
My company understands the shift to a digital economy better than others. More than 130 years ago, NCR’s founders invented what became the modern-day cash register and initiated the ubiquitous paper receipt. With the birth of the internet, we transitioned our business to support a new, omni-channel world, where people place orders in-person, online and by phone. And we help our customers navigate this world today.
Helping small businesses make this transition is crucial. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses account for 60 percent of all new jobs. Even more impressive, companies with fewer than 20 workers account for 90 percent of all U.S. companies. That’s a lot of jobs! See these facts and a litany of other statistics that underline the importance of start-ups and small businesses for the U.S. economy here collected by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.
Small businesses are now investing in readily available software solutions and mobile technology that make their products and services easily available to tech-savvy millennials. According to McKinsey, 86 percent of technology startups today are building their businesses for a global market.
But to work, technology needs to simplify omni-channel commerce where consumers demand the ability to shop, book travel and manage their finances in a seamless fashion across their laptop, tablet, phone, watch and more. It’s not surprising that research shows that 85 percent of online shoppers start their purchase on one device and finish it on another.
Companies like Google help small businesses with the transition, with very little tech savvy required. Google Ad and Search Ranking offers small businesses easy-to-use analytics platforms, while Alibaba and Amazon can facilitate online sales.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of these services. Alibaba, for example, has 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises on its platform doing business globally. Amazon, meanwhile, serves two million small businesses.
This is a good start. But there is much more on the horizon. With the right help, the digital transformation does not need to be expensive, or difficult.
With easy-to-use business tools, omni-channel technology is about buying a great cupcake and a delicious olive oil. It’s about working smarter. It’s about breathing new life into the businesses that are the backbone of the American economy.