Posted: Tue 23rd Apr 2013
Some 723 start-ups and growing business took part in the first Enterprise Nation Quarterly Small Business Survey throughout March - and among the topics we asked about was the tech you use in your small enterprise. From mobile devices to preferred methods of communication with customers, colleagues and contacts, this is what you told us.
What IT do you use in your business?
Laptop Smartphone Desktop PC Tablet 665 responses
79% 63% 49% 34%
What other tech do you use?
Printer Digital camera Scanner Specialist equipment* Sewing machine Photocopier 569 responses
76% 62% 58% 26% 7% 3%
*Specialised machinery and equipment included a variety of specialist printing, photography and video equipment, power tools, plant machinery, tools related to a craft (such as silversmithing), and soÂ on. Respondents also mentioned card payment machines, voice over internet protocol, Kindles and iPods. Just four of 569 respondents mentioned a fax machine.
Do you have a CRM system of any kind?*
Yes* No 665 responses
Do you use webconferencing in your business?**
Yes No 665 responses
*There were several mentions of Sage ACT and Salesforce and a number of respondents also said they used bespoke systems. Quite a few said they were using Microsoft Outlook or Excel as their CRM system. **We're currently running a poll with a more detailed version of this question. Take a look at the top right of this page to cast your vote.
What communication media do you mainly use with?
Other (eg, in person)
No. of respondents
Can we draw any conclusions from the survey?
It's obvious that modern small enterprises are utterly reliant on digital technology to help them start and grow, writes Enterprise Nation editor Simon Wicks (left). But is it possible to draw any specific conclusions from the survey? As ever, I'll give it a go. Here are some of the thoughts that sprang into my mind while I was putting this post together.
1. Small enterprises prefer mobility to being stuck in one place - more use laptops than desktop computers, and a third of businesses have a tablet. Only around half are still using the 'traditional' desktop computer. 2. A digital camera is becoming an essential piece of tech for the modern small business. This provides an example of how important imagery is to modern businesses who need to forge an online presence. Whether the camera is used for product shots, staff portraits or to illustrate social media and blog posts, it's becoming an essential part of the marketing and branding armoury of a modern enterprise. It also shows how businesses are taking these functions into their own hands. 3. A very low number of start-ups and growing businesses have a proper CRM system in place to keep track of customer details and their communications with customers. This could indicate a worryingly casual approach to customer relations or it may simply reflect the character of our respondents - a high number were in their first year of operation and may not yet have built the customer base to warrant a CRM; and a good proportion were freelancers and contractors who may only have a handful of customers, thus little need for the full capability of a powerful CRM system.
"Digital technology is the great enabler that allows even the smallest enterprise to function efficiently and professionally. But how well are we using the tech at our disposal?"
4. Email is overwhelmingly the most common channel for communication with customers, colleagues and contacts. This is no surprise given its convenience and the fact that most people nowadays can pick up emails on the move. There are two surprising figures here, though: social media is more popular than the phone or face-to-face conversation for external communication with customers and contacts; and very few enterprises are doing business face to face nowadays. In other words, the modern start-up and small business sector is driven by the internet, which offers low-cost opportunity, convenience and visibility. Doing business face to face, it seems, is going out of fashion and we've become a nation of remote typists rather than talkers. But are we missing out on conversational nuance? Is this a missed opportunity? Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones only recently wrote about the impact of face-to-face networking; and I've written previously about the importance of picking the right medium for the message when doing business. It's so easy to get this wrong. 5. Small enterprises are taking advantage of low-cost, accessible technology to start and run their businesses. It's fair to say that modern communications technology has transformed the small business sector by putting powerful, sophisticated tech into everybody's hands. We can build our own ecommerce websites, market ourselves for next to nothing, take our own high quality product photos, operate from front rooms, business lounges, cafes and co-working spaces - and keep it all running around other commitments such as full-time jobs and families. Digital technology is the great enabler and leveller of the modern business that allows even the smallest enterprise to function efficiently and professionally. But how well are we using the technology at our disposal? And what's the cost if we're all sitting behind computer screens and not actually meeting our customers, co-workers and colleagues in the flesh? I'd be interested to read your thoughts in the comments below. Meanwhile, take a look at our first article inspired on the Quarterly Survey where we asked What does a UK small business REALLY look like in 2013? Simon
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