I despair sometimes whether small business has any hope at all against big business competitors. Not only in terms of operational costs (lease, labour and cost of goods sold) but also in terms of advertising buying power and brand discipline.
The independence of small business, while admired by many, kills small businesses. The cost of reinventing the wheel in thousands of businesses even in the same sector daily makes of a debilitating overhead.
My biggest concern relates to decision-making. Whereas national and international companies centralise decision making and base it on accurate and timely data, small businesses rely more on gut feel and while this may win on some situations in many it does not.
I am concerned about this today because of another client on the phone and in trouble. While we will do everything possible to help them, the problem was evident six months ago in two or three crucial management reports available through our software. When asked by they don’t even look at such basic reports the response was “if I wanted to look at reports I would have stayed working for someone else”. I have looked at their data from six months ago as represented in these three reports and I can see falling traffic, the categories affected and even why the sales are falling.
Now it may be too late because they have let one thing pile on another to the extent that they are in default with several suppliers. This business is their only source of income and it is backed by all of their assets.
As I said, we will help them in every way possible. In the meantime, a question we have for ourselves is what could we do to have alerted them about the problem and if we had done whatever that is, would they have acted sooner? We have considered alters in the software and a range of other measures. However, it comes back to one key point – whether people using the software are businesspeople. Not even using some basic reporting tools is like driving a car while not looking at the road.
We figure the best next step to encourage engagement is to tell stories like this one to our clients – to encourage engagement.