23 January 2021

How SMEs Capitalize on the Opportunities of Digitalization

by Volve Team

The chances of a multi-generational family-run business surviving beyond a second generation of ownership are pretty low. Yet there are many small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) bucking that trend and continuing to flourish thanks to an effective small business strategy. The path toward SME digitalization in the 2020s is offering these businesses a chance to reach new heights. These companies have the possibility to grow and compete like never before.

In this article, we will explore the following:

Why Some Family-Run Businesses Survive for Generations

All SMEs are exposed to the threats of falling revenues, emerging competitors, the difficulties posed by succession planning, and hiring the right talent.

Yet some seem able to shrug off the challenges and continue to thrive. Their success can be attributed, in part, to the pressure to emulate or exceed the achievements of their predecessors. Leaders know that they’re in charge of a business that’s been established and run by hard-working family members. Hence, they take more care over the decisions they make, as they look to secure the success of the company for the next generation.

But, despite this long-term focus, the most successful SMEs are not overly conservative. They know they must change with the times. Adapt or die, as the saying goes. They know that there’s no time to waste when it comes to investing in new technology. Waiting for a competitor to invest in a new app or platform and seeing how they get on is the wrong approach. While you’re being risk-averse, you actually risk giving your competitor a crucial advantage, enabling them to steal a march on your business.

Adaptability Is Key for Small Businesses

Leaders of many successful family-run SMEs appreciate that new technology won’t change business strategy. However, digital does have the power to let them focus on the factors that are key to driving business growth. Namely, delighting more customers and giving their teams the tools they need to work more efficiently with fewer resources.

Of course, not all technology innovations out there are winners. But taken as a whole, these innovations are enabling start-ups and SMEs to compete with the big players like never before.

Soon, size won’t matter anymore. Advances in tech are going to help SMEs reach new markets and expand into new sectors more easily and effectively than ever. The big multinationals aren’t looking forward to it. But there’s little they can do to stop it. Every leader of an SME should be rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation of the opportunities in the next decade.

Growth Driven by Technology

For this new technology to be effective, it must deliver positive benefits and experiences for customers, employees and stakeholders.

In the past, the organizations with the biggest budgets and largest resources tend to have greater access to the latest technology. But, all of that is changing thanks to the emergence and continuing development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning.

These technologies are democratizing the world of business, allowing small organizations to access computing power on a scale previously the preserve of larger companies. And being smaller gives these SMEs the advantage of being more nimble and agile when it comes to seizing the opportunities these technologies present.

A business no longer needs a huge IT department, or access to IT expertise to be technologically advanced. New digital tech is bringing IT solutions, applications, and computing power within reach of all businesses. And it’s accessible on-demand, bringing the cost within reach of the smallest start-up. There is no call for the complex and costly establishing or migration of new or existing IT infrastructures and systems.

SME Digital Transformation Can Help Find Opportunities in Experiences

What are the tangible benefits this new technology can bring? And why is it in such demand? Much is down to the fact that more and more consumers base their decisions about products and services on their experiences with those businesses.

As a result, organizations of all sizes are seeing the benefits of adopting an experience-centric approach. And, at the heart of delivering that business model are the powers that data, automation, and AI bring to the table.

Family-run SMEs wanting to benefit from this approach must seek to deliver experiences at the right time to the right people. Are you responsible for managing and growing the fortunes of an SME? Read our list of the key actions that you should take to help make that happen.

6 Actions SME Business Leaders Need to Take in 2021

  1. Focus on Delivering Experiences, No Matter What
  2. Understand That Size No Longer Matters
  3. Make Plans for Digitalization With the Future in Mind
  4. Appeal to Millennials
  5. Be Ready for Remote Working
  6. Stay Human

1. Focus on Delivering Experiences, No Matter What

Much of the world is still in the grip of the pandemic. But putting customer experiences on the back-burner during such times of upheaval and uncertainty is a bad move for SMEs. Instead, they should capitalize on the big advantage they have over their larger competitors—using their agility to make faster changes to their operations. And using their entrepreneurial spirit to engage with their target audience during such times.

2. Understand That Size No Longer Matters

That much-desired level playing field is becoming a reality due to the power and accessibility of new digital technologies. Start-ups are getting access to the same latest tech at the same time as the huge multinationals. There are no more excuses for saying a business isn’t big enough to be competitive.

3. Make Plans for Digitalization With the Future in Mind

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that technology will have a more important role in business throughout this decade and beyond. Here are some innovations that are already here and destined to grow their influence:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Voice-driven tech
  • Robotics
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

When drawing up digital strategies, business leaders need to focus five years into the future. They need to analyze the impact every digital investment they make will have on future success. Make no mistake, there are businesses investing in this tech today. And they’re not necessarily the big-name businesses we’ve all heard of. But by making their move today, they’re increasing the chances of becoming the big-name businesses we’ll all know about tomorrow.

And these investments aren’t based on what’s best for those companies today. The focus is on ensuring they are ready to deliver experiences consumers and employees are going to want in the future.

Recommended reading: From Expense Management Software To Digital Banks: 5 Fintech Tools That Can Help Businesses

4. Appeal to Millennials

Speaking of employees, Millennials make up the majority of the workforce. And they have different expectations compared with their predecessors. For them, work needs to be an experience that’s more of:

  • Freedom to work the way they want
  • Choice
  • Meaningful opportunities
  • Connectedness

This is a generation that’s way more open to new technology than Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Family-run SMEs that want to hire the best Millennial talent will need to meet their demand for more freedom. More freedom over how they work and where they work.

Digital technology exists to facilitate that, and it’s going to get better. The businesses that adopt it fastest are likely to be the businesses that attract and retain the best talent.

5. Be Ready for Remote Working

This point follows on from the last. The future of work isn’t like the past. Remote working, flexible hours, the gig economy—they’re all going to impact operations of SMEs and big organizations. Businesses that recognize this will be the ones attracting the top candidates.

The technology exists for work to take place outside the same-old four walls of an office and the same old standard office hours. A great example is Volve’s expense management solution. It allows you to record, submit and approve expenses on your mobile phone from wherever you are. The future of work is anytime, anywhere. It’s remote. Virtual. Flexible. And many of the best candidates will expect their employers to provide the tools to make this future a reality.

Recommended reading: Guide to Managing Company Spend in the Remote Workplace

6. Stay Human

Digitization can be a revelation for many SMEs when it comes to delivering the power to grow. But all tech strategies should be based on hiring the right talent and keeping the human needs of customers and employees front of mind. It’s vital to have the right people in place in order to drive long-term success. The right digital solutions combined with the best human talent will give you an awesomely powerful combination that’ll get your competitors worried. No matter their size or well-established they are.

Define Your Small Business Strategy Ready for the Next Generation

The 1920s were known as the Roaring Twenties. A century on, there’s a good chance that the 2020s will be the Soaring Twenties. That is because businesses of all sizes get opportunities to grow like never before. This decade is likely to see change to the way people work and where they work.

Multi-generational family-run businesses will have seen and survived dramatic changes before, of course. To continue to flourish, they must embrace digitization. Not only because their customers and employers will expect them to. But also because it will offer them opportunities to compete with bigger players on a scale never seen before.

About Volve

Let Volve help you focus on your small business strategy. From sales to human resources to finance operations, management can look forward to shifting resources from repetitive manual practices to realizing strategic goals that create more value and deliver higher returns.

Volve’s corporate card comes with an automated expense management solution and reporting tool. This enables all functions of business to capture productivity growth potential from time-cost reductions, greater accuracy, increased visibility and control.

Experience how one single solution can improve accountability, accuracy and efficiency. Test drive Volve today free for 30 days. Simply a smarter way to work.

Volve Team
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