While small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) are challenged in trying to keep pace with big brands on many fronts, there is one arena where they seem to be outpacing larger organizations — and that is today’s virtual work environments.
SMBs internationally are moving at a faster clip in adapting to online technology, specifically in the areas of BYOD, freelancing, cloud-based VoIP, and social media.
John DeLozier, General Manager at Unify, says:
SMBs are more progressive, as they are forced to do more with less, be innovative, and nimble.
In a survey done with over 9,000 workers, Unify studied the future of the workplace and found that SMBs adopt and integrate technology across every aspect of their work. DeLozier declares that growing businesses are more open to trying new technology, and that the study established that:
Workers are defining how, when and where they do their jobs and SMBs are taking notice.
Antiquated Physical Offices
Physical offices are becoming dinosaurs, more so for smaller businesses than larger firms.
Approximately half of SMB knowledge workers (47 percent) believe a physical workplace is less important than in the past.
SMBs versus larger companies believe their organizations now operate and remain competitive through technology versus the physical office.
Almost two thirds (61 percent) of SMBs use their own devices at work, compared to just under half (47 percent) at large organizations. This suggests staff members of the smaller firm want to work with the devices they’ve grown accustomed to, outside of their offices.
Tied to budgetary and IT constraints, small businesses have long recognized the benefits of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and have been encouraging their employees to use their personal mobiles to manage their work on-the-go for years. Now, with the plethora of business applications and mobile devices available, small businesses are moving toward more formal BYOD programs to leverage their employees’ enthusiasm for using what they own.
A little over 25 percent of SMBs in the study noted they were currently contracting, compared to 22 percent in larger organizations.
SMB workers are keener to adopt virtual work, with 56 percent of respondents at companies numbering less than 500 considering changing to a freelance or on-demand work style over regular employment.
In larger organizations just under half (49 percent) were enticed by the same offer.
More and more SMBs are now seeking out cloud-based VoIP technology for their business phone systems since hosted offerings bring more flexibility at less cost. This migration from legacy telecom systems is not only for ease of management, but is also predicated on how employees prefer to work today.
By placing calls over the Internet, rather than over copper or fiber-optic cables, costs for calls are no longer influenced by geography, and the infrastructure needed for elaborate business phone systems is miniscule in comparison to what POT units required in the past.
Also, the high functionality and virtual interface with VoIP companies is an attractive enticement that attracts SMBs to companies such as Telzio.
However enterprise is still hesitant to adapt to this technology. While the economies of scale make all the sense in the world for them to do so, the initial undertaking to revamp a big brand’s older telecom system takes a lot of planning, coordination and training of a sizable workforce. In time this will change, but again the nimbleness of SMBs to adapt to this technology, allows them to migrate at a quicker clip.
Social media can make a big difference for small businesses with small budgets. According to Social Media Examiner’s seventh annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92 percent of marketers working with small businesses (between two and 10 employees) strongly agree that social media is crucial for their marketing efforts.
While big brands can invest in premium services and advertising on all the major social networks, SMBs have found ways to be more creative without investing in costly outlays.
SMBs focus on expanding brand awareness, increasing website traffic and building a community of loyal followers.
On the latter point, forming social networking communities can create a network of brand evangelists and potential repeat customers for small businesses. SMBs have an easier time relating to their customers than big brands, because they can be more personable and speak to them on a one-to-one basis. Within larger organizations, the staff member(s) assigned to these job responsibilities tend to push out messaging versus seeking customer feedback.
Best practices indicate when an SMB makes their customers feel like they are part of their small-business family, they’ve got a better chance of converting those customers into advocates and an extended sales force.
Small business invented the virtual office long before the term was popularized. Entrepreneurs and small firms traditionally started out in the home before gaining traction. In the beginning, they had a post office box, used their home address, and home telephone. Today they have a lot of the technology we discussed today at their fingertips, and available on-the-go, easily accessible from their mobile devices. Investments in physical infrastructure, furniture and equipment wasn’t totally eliminated, but substantially reduced.
The ability of an SMB to adapt quicker than big brands to the virtual workplace made it possible for the one-person virtual office to add staff and grow into a quick-on-its-feet responsive and productive organization. There is something to be said about being small and nimble.