Continuous advancements and improvements in the various fields of technology present small and family-run businesses with numerous opportunities to improve processes and business practices. At the same time, technology and its use in the family business can evoke mixed responses, particularly across the generational divide.
Younger members of the family may be more pro-technology, and consider technological advancement as a key business differentiator. On the other hand, older members of the business may be more interested in the technology that affects the bottom line, or perhaps not interested in it at all.
Whatever the case, technology has become commonplace in the lives of contemporary consumers and should hold the same position in the workplace. In order to secure the long-term future of the family business, adoption of technological advances is essential.
On the dangers of falling behind in technology in family business, Karen E. Klein, a small business and entrepreneurship writer for BloombergBusinessweek, states:
"Unless the next generation is poised to update, and can get buy-in from longtime employees wedded to “the way we always did it,” a business can quickly become obsolete."
One cannot downplay the potential technology unlocks; it enables businesses to seamlessly coordinate critical business practices and activities, and can greatly enhance efficiency and productivity. It's important for family businesses to adapt with the changing times, and approach technology in business from a forward-thinking and long-term planning perspective.
Key to adopting this approach is an understanding that the longer the delay, the more there is to catch up on. Technology allows smaller businesses and family businesses to operate and compete in bigger markets, and has successfully assisted in leveling the playing field against larger corporations and businesses.
Through technology, there are fewer geographical restrictions in place and family-run businesses are now able to expand beyond their local markets and improve their business reach into new economic regions. Mobile, as an example, provides an amazing opportunity for businesses to connect with their consumer.
The mobile device is an always-on and always-with-you device that allows for instant and real-time engagement. Social media channels have also further widened the opportunity for connection and engagement, and offer fresh channels for communication and interaction.
Creating a consolidated and broader presence in the market further assists family business in communicating their product or service offering. Facilitated through technology, it has the propensity to deliver more business transactions, and greater affinity for the business and brand from a consumer perspective.
It enables the family business to be easily contactable and narrows the consumer-business divide. When building a brand using technology, consistency across the communication channels is essential, and creates the potential for real, sustainable relationship building. Improving the internal and external communication process is an invaluable benefit of technology in business.
From an external perspective, technology enables businesses to create a wider presence across a number of applicable channels. The internet provides a great platform for creating engagement and is often the first contact-point for a consumer in the search for fulfilling a want or need.
Technology opens up the opportunity for better engagement with the consumer by creating an environment where it’s easy to provide feedback and submit reviews. This in turn creates a positive business dialogue with the consumer. Allowing the consumer to collaborate in making the business’ offering more suited to their needs or expectations can further assist the business along the path of growth.
From an internal perspective, new technology and programmes are available to assist with ensuring consistent and open employee communication. Having available and accessible channels for employee engagement is essential to running a successful family business.
Technology can further assist in creating centralized platforms for important communication and messaging, such as the relaying of client briefs and important business-related news. In addition, technology can assist in opening the employment market and working environment for the family business.
According to Miranda Brookins, a marketing professional:
"Technology gives small business owners and their employees the option to work in the office, from home, on the road and even from across the country. Affording small business owners the opportunity to hire talent from all over the world, technology can help businesses gain a competitive edge in the global environment."
Technology has transformed the way companies do business. It has effectively created new and more-efficient means to execute tasks and activities such as record keeping, payroll, management of costs and accounting. It further assists with project management, stock count, time keeping, and distribution channels among others.
In addition, technology offers businesses the potential to create effective and secure environments for the storage of sensitive and personal information, as well as the business database. Productivity and efficiency in business go hand-in-hand, and in order to maximize business potential and profit both are very important.
"A family-run business must manage its costs to stay in operation. Advancements in computing technology have enabled these types of operations to cut costs through accounting software that calculate business spending over multiple categories to assist in calculating profit margin so that a small business can see if it’s expanding, or what it needs to do to grow." ~ Miranda Brookins
Technology often creates a means to process more information and achieve more than the traditional and manual techniques. Companies have the option to expand through introduction of new technology, rather than an increase in the number of employees.
Creating an efficiently operating workforce is of far greater value than adding additional resources using the same outdated technology or manual methods. One need not have expert-level of experience in order to embrace and benefit from technology in business.
Many of today's programmes and systems are very user-centric and focus on delivering an easy-to-use interface. This can greatly reduce the amount of training required and the number of work-hours lost in the adoption process. In today's technology driven and entrenched world, embracing technology is key to the long-term success and ongoing progress of the family business.
According to Sirena Bergman, co-ordinator at the Guardian Small Business Network:
"There is no question that getting a handle on modern technology is key for most small business owners looking to grow. With so much competition out there it’s important to keep ahead of the game when it comes to innovation and know which areas are worth investing in."
Is your business effectively using and embracing technology?