“We live inside boxes every day”, said futurist and keynote speaker Steve Sammartino at the launch of the Victorian Small Business Festival’s launch last week.
“I wake up and hop in my car box, go to my office box, get in my cubicle box, and turn on my computer box. I’d sell some boxes, and at the end of the day, I’d get back in my car box and go back to my suburban box,” he said.
“And I’m going to do it until I’m 120 and I end up underground in a box.”
At the event, Sammartino spoke widely about the future of business and how small businesses in Australia are uniquely poised to take advantage of the various technological advancements and disruption to come.
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Here are four nuggets of wisdom from Sammartino’s speech.
1. Think outside each and every box
Referring to the aforementioned boxes, Sammartino said each “box” within the economy now has the “seeds of technological disruption” within them, and he urged SMEs to seek out and take the opportunities this incoming disruption will produce.
Using the example of the smartphone, which he described as “NASA in your pocket”, Sammartino said we’re not in the midst of “a tech revolution”. Rather, we’re experiencing “a connection revolution underpinned by technology” and business owners were living through it.
“If [a phone] has that much power, how are you going to use it for your business? You’ve got the world’s knowledge right here connected to you,” he says.
“Jobs and growth don’t happen because we say they do. They happen because we solve people’s problems in new and interesting ways with the tech we’ve got.
“The businesses we are in are the problems that we solve, but what happens is that they change the way they get solved with technology.”
2. Don’t cheat, collaborate
“It’s not cheating, it’s collaboration,” said Sammartino, when referencing a piece of work by famous UK street artist Banksy that used artwork from an album by rock musicians The Clash.
“Banksy stole The Clash’s album cover. He took a template from someone else’s work just like we do on the internet. We take other people’s templates and we mash them together and we create something new,” said Sammartino.
“Banksy is considered a criminal, and he’s also the 43rd highest paid artist of all time. Banksy didn’t wait for someone to choose him, he didn’t put his art on a nice rectangular piece of timber. The stuff from the fringe is ending up on the front line.”
“All he has is a spraycan — $7 at Bunnings. And that’s the world we live in today.”
3. SMEs “invent” money
“Once $100 enters the economy it never leaves, so businesses need to think where will the money go and what places it will move to,” said Sammartino.
Nominating the Internet of Things as the “biggest opportunity” for businesses today, Sammartino urged businesses to grasp at opportunities to develop with these new technologies in order to “invent” money.
“If everything knows where everything is and what it is, how do we mash it up? How can we put this with that and create new value? We have to invent money,” he said.
“Investing in earning is fine and good, but inventing money is what small business people do. Put this thing at this cost together, put that thing at that cost together, and end up with more money.”
“It’ll cost you $50, and you’re going to sell it for $100, you just invented $50.”
4. It’s not just the tech
Technological advancements may be what is driving these changes, but Sammartino implored business owners to “think beyond the tech”.
He believes the impact of the new technology, such as driverless or electric cars, often outweighs the technology itself, and SMEs should be seeking ways to capitalise from the exposure of new industries and new collaborations.
“The first one is rolling commerce – e-commerce in a car. Rolling commerce is going to be an amazing opportunity,” he says.
“House prices in cities will go down because these cars don’t get stuck in traffic. At the same time, car owners will be sleeping in business class driverless cars, so some craftsman will be out there building beds for cars.
“All of sudden we have more rural business because its easier to get out there. All these changes are coming, but its our job as small business owners to imagine them and understand the implication of industries that didn’t interact with each other starting to interact.
“The big do not always eat the small, but the fast always eat the slow. And small is fast.”