What better day to go to a sold-out small business technology conference than the morning after the Australian Federal Budget – a day when small business is on everyone’s lips and the government has pledged $300 million to cut red tape and use technology to streamline compliance?
Because there are many efficient technological tactics that small businesses are working out for themselves – as we heard at Wednesday’s event, hosted by Shannon Smit and Nadia Hughes of Smart Business Solutions.
Here are some of the day’s key takeaways:
1. You’re not alone in favouring efficiency
“What do small businesses actually want?”
That was the question posed by Trent Innes, MD of Xero Australia. ”We do a lot of research around this; we asked hundreds of small businesses just recently. Sixty-eight percent said they want to improve efficiency. You might expect growth to be up there at number one, but it wasn’t. It was efficiency.”
Indeed, the small business panel hosted later that day focused on being more efficient. “As any business grows, you start to notice cracks in your processes,” said Matt Bebe, who uses Xero in his role as Managing Director of the Mornington Peninsula Brewery.
“The cracks will only get bigger, and you need to work out how to make the processes more efficient before they impact all your hard work. You have to put systems in place – and that’s when we started with Xero. Don’t think of it as less labour, think of it as increased productivity.”
With the ability to connect to banks, advisors and hundreds of third-party tools, the local small businesses learned how cloud technology can help them select solutions that will smooth out their process pain points; to be more effective and more efficient.
2. Think big; go global from day dot
The ability for small businesses to go global was another recurring theme.
“See that little dot there in the middle of the ocean?” Trent said, pointing to a small glowing light on a heat map of Xero customers. “That’s there because we have a customer on Lord Howe Island. He can run his business from there. He’s connected to the entire world.”
“There are no ‘global businesses’ – there are only global businesses,” said Andy Lark. “You can reach the planet from day one.”
As more keynote speakers took to the stage, speaking about innovation, social media and self belief, small businesses heard one resounding theme: you have the tools to build global companies that can take on established markets, to import or export products and grow the Australian economy.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Trent said. “Technology is breaking down walls.”
3. Do more of what you love (because you can)
Most small businesses don’t go into business to do their accounts; they take the risk because they want to do something that they love.
“That’s exactly why we take all those big scary-sounding trends that you hear of – big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example – and make things easier for small businesses,” Trent explained. “Accounting can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
“We’re using technology to automatically code invoices, for example. We can use virtual reality to help you build an efficient global market for your goods and services. That’s where accounting can be beautiful.”
And Australian archer Alec Potts, a 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and founder of Eliza Archery, capped off the spirit of the conference with his personal story.
“I missed the target by a metre. I was told to be more realistic in my goals; to go back and study instead of trying to be an Olympic medallist,” he said. “Three hours later I went out and set a new record. Only you know what you want to be – and what it will take you to get there.”