Small businesses are affected by a number of things. They are affected by inflation, climate change, financial rollercoasters and especially technology. One area where this is apparent is the “Travel” department. Why would a consumer pay an extra percentage to pay someone for research when now it is so readily available? You can rarely turn on your television without seeing an advertisement for a hotel or flight specialty website. One of my favorite sandwich shops now has a POS system that replaces a person taking my order. You just tap on the screen what you want and options pop up. It is convenient, but it did cost someone a job at some point. Technology is a wonderful thing; it makes our lives easier, it does exactly what we need when we need it. It is instantaneous and that is gratifying in the society we live in today. But technology should also be feared by small business owners and employees alike. Who knows who it will replace tomorrow! Here are five ways to prepare yourself and your income for the future.
LET YOUR COMPUTER USE YOU
It sounds strange to hand yourself over to artificial intelligence, but in the long run if your computer runs better without you, there will be no demand for your services. Stay on top of your game in this aspect. Take classes, know what is coming and continue with the flow of technology. Becoming stale in knowledge is not an option in the future when someone in India or China is competing for your salary (albeit at a wonderful cut in percentages for services that you have experience in) and you will have to show that you don’t need your computer, it needs you.
NETWORKING IS IMPORTANT – AS MUCH AS ALWAYS
Since it is obvious that the financial gap is ever-expanding, your skills at advertising, selling and ultimately networking will need to be honed. With more jobs becoming automated the rich will get richer and the poor will be out looking for jobs. Not to scare you by any means, but what was true ten years ago is still true today; it’s not what you know but who you know. Communication and out-reach is important and with social networks and workshops to help there are ways to stay on top of this game as well. Don’t get lost in the fray, be creative and competitive and never stop evolving.
KNOW YOUR CONSUMER
Whether your small business has actual purchasers or clients, they are all consumers. Buying your products or services make their lives better. Consumers today have done what generations past thought would be the downfall of humanity; they are giving up freedoms for lower-cost products. If someone goes to a website and leaves something in the “cart” they will most likely get an e-mail from that store with a coupon or some other promotion to complete the sale. How did the website get their contact information? It was not necessarily volunteered, but your GPS and your basic personal information are all over the internet. It is not difficult and big companies have been accessing this information for years (remember telemarketers?) and now it is small businesses’ turn. The information, like automated site-movement (looking at what product consumers look at compared to what they buy) or even other sites or prices that they passed on, can help small businesses figure pricing and keep consumers coming back for more.
GOOD PERSONAL SERVICE IS TIMELESS
Since the beginning of time, when the first job became available, the best customer service survived the rest. Am I going to buy my goat’s milk from the wench down the street with a constant scowl on her face? No thanks, I’ll go to the nice man who always throws in a little extra. That’s where I would rather trade my chickens!! And since the beginning of time the nice man has had more eggs than the disgruntled lady. It is the same today and the trend will most likely continue until the end of time. Right now it is a fast-growing, low-tech trend. Jobs like drivers, or service-employees (maids and gardeners) and even assistants are becoming even more important to the wealthy that can afford them. If you are great at your job, you will be paid top-dollar. Companies that provide impeccable personal services should capitalize on this “trend”.
HEIRARCHY IS IMPORTANT
Employees can be wonderful. They are energized, they are hopefully ambitious and they have a reason to work; providing for their families. They are not, however, always on their P’s and Q’s. You can ask any long-term employee and they will admit to taking short-cuts on projects. Then those short-cuts tend to get shortened. Managers can set businesses apart as long as they are given the proper power. I know what you are thinking… “I run a small business and am now expected to hire a middle-man from me to my employees?” My answer is simple; absolutely. Having an empowered manager with the right head on their shoulders can really save you headaches, albeit maybe costing a bit from your wallet. In the future, hierarchy will be very important to you and your business and can even keep it afloat in hard times. Hiring computer-savvy, social creatures to do your bidding can very well put you ahead of the competition more than you can realize and saving your personal life in the process.
These small changes to your small business can really prepare your small business for what’s ahead. They may not be clear-cut directions but they will input ideas in your brain for when you’re stressed about what you are spending or what cuts you must make. The knowledge of your own business will allow you to know what it needs, but the future is tricky and the reliance on or defiance of technology could set your place in history in stone. Don’t live in fear, revel in the knowledge that you are certain of your tomorrow and no robot can take that away from you.