Last week I chaired a panel discussion for CPA Australia on the future of small business in Australia.
The panelists were Russell Evans, chief executive of Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific, Dean Chadwick, vice president of consumer acquisition and loyalty at American Express and Michael Ossipoff, director of capability and innovation at Telstra.
Evans highlighted the recent rate of change in the last 15 years in particular the rise of the sharing economy.
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This rapid transformation is evident when you consider that Uber, the world’s largest ‘taxi’ company, owns no vehicles, Facebook, the world’s most popular media distributor, creates no content, Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory and Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.
Evans predicts the pace of change over the next 15 years will be just as fast-paced.
For Ossipoff the future of small business will involve “thinking like Kim Kardashian”.
Ossipoff says Kardashian works hard to build and promote her own brand and SMEs need to do the same.
But the panelists warned small to medium businesses are getting left behind due to slow uptake of technology.
CPA Australia’s 2014 Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey revealed many small businesses still can’t sell their products online.
It found 54% of Australian businesses don’t use social media compared with just 4% which don’t in mainland China and 6% which don’t in Singapore.
The panelists called on SMEs to embrace technology in order to meet future challenges.
In particular they highlighted the importance of mobile for business, “all roads lead to roam, not Rome,” Ossipoff says.
He says technology can be used to improve your existing business and it doesn’t have to involve large scale change.
“Use technology to reduce friction in business rather than for true disruption,” Ossipoff says.
The future of small business may lie in technology but it’s not all bad to be a bit slow on the uptake.
Many savvy SMEs sit out the first technology releases so any glitches are ironed out and to ensure the tech is the right fit for their business.
Then when the time and the technical issues are right they engage with technology to complement and improve their existing business.
That’s not slow, it’s smart.
Perhaps Kim Kardashian could learn a thing or two from SMEs.