Former federal minister for small business and current Efic ambassador Bruce Billson says, SMEs that ignore or delay their take-up of technology are missing out on additional revenues from exporting, and more, generally.
“A significant proportion of SMEs are still invisible on the internet. Yet, four out of five consumers are making initial inquiries using this technology,” Bruce says in an interview on the My Business Podcast.
“They'll jump on their iPhone, not to complete the transaction, but they want to know whether that dog groomer is nearby.
“That interface with the consumer is now very technology-heavy. If you're not even in that space, that can really thin your market out.”
While it can be potentially costly to integrate technology into a business upfront, Bruce says that the long-term benefits of increased profitability and access to exporting far outweigh any short-term negatives.
“We released some work that showed for those [with a higher] degree of digital engagement – and that may well be through platforms like My Business or elsewhere, where they're getting to the eyeballs of customers – the better the business is enabled by the new market opportunity there,” Bruce says.
“We see recruitment intentions are higher, profitability is higher, so I mean all those markers are there, but what we find is that most small businesses feel like at some point, they've been screwed by a technology vendor. They're like, ‘Oh, I wonder how much this is going to cost me?’”
In order to allow business owners to understand how effective technology can be for business, Bruce encourages business owners who are on the fence to speak with someone who has implemented a similar technology within their own business.
“We put on roadshows about bits to build your business and it gets people in where SMEs are actually talking to other SMEs, saying ‘No one here is a technology vendor. He is someone sharing his insights as a pathfinder on what might work for you and here is his investment, and man, isn't that the best sum of money you've ever spent?’,” he recounts.
“If we can get small businessmen and women talking to other small businessmen and women, that will really map a way forward and give some practical field evidence on how to do it.”
While not utilising technology is seen as a major barrier between business owners and success, both at home and abroad, other barriers Bruce sees for SMEs are business owners not sharing their story with the broader community and not showing up where it counts.