Can I afford public or private school for my family? Should we purchase that larger home next year? These are the types of questions small and mid-sized business owners must ask themselves. The division between personal and professional is often unclear and the business consumes most of their day- and their future. Much is at stake. Given this, what can a business owner do to ease the burden of their worries?
Don't Supersize Me- and then charge me for it
In the modern world, a variety of tools are available to help a small business run smoothly. But small business owners often draw boundaries between what they view as tools for "big business" and the tools they believe are relevant to their needs. Even the naming of some of these tools can be confusing: How can software known as enterprise resource planning (ERP), for example, be a good fit for a one-person operation, or even a 10-person operation? Instead of viewing business software as a single entity, it's helpful to frame it as a collection of individual tools. An enterprise-level business may be able to afford the whole tool chest at once, but small businesses often don't need quite so much right away. Instead, they focus on being able to purchase technology in "bite size" pieces, choosing tools as needed, rather than all at once. While software isn't a cure-all for a small business, at the end of the day it simply helps life run more smoothly, by making it easier to manage finances, employees, and the never-ending regulatory changes, among other concerns. The freedom to mix and match is key, using only the useful tools with no obligation to explore the entire world of enterprise-level software right away.
Compliment my “Gut Feel” Decision Making
Software is often the tool that allow a business owner to keep their personal and professional worlds separate, while still ensuring both worlds are well managed. Whether it's bookkeeping, taxes, marketing or more, being able to turn to software that holds objective, unbiased information is a blessing in many forms. It provides data-based decision making and encourages less reliance on the inconsistent "gut feeling" that so many business owners have relied on for years. In particular, it's vital to be able to turn to data that has no relation to the often-subjective world that characterizes a business owner's personal life. Whether a business manager or employee is calm or upset, stressed or relaxed, tools will present clear, unbiased information, making it easier to pivot back into the objective business owner mindset and make smart decisions. Notably, medium sized business are often better at making use of technology than small businesses, as research shows that only 18 percent of small business owners use "big data" analytics to make informed decisions, in comparison to 57 percent of mid-sized businesses. This indicates that small business owners may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of using technology tools, when they should embrace the potential for that technology to make their lives easier, instead.
By leveraging the right tools, and using them in the right way, business owners are able to find some solstice in their decision making. Since the risk of success sits squarely on their shoulders, any comfort they can find via greater insight and data, as well as tools build for them (that can grow with them) are key. They allow for planning and data to accompany the gut feel. Together, these are a powerful combination.
"Every time I get another data point, I've added another piece to the jigsaw puzzle, and I'm closer to seeing the answer. And then, one day, the overall picture suddenly comes to me."- Joel Pittman, founder, MTV
About the Author: Jennifer Schulze is a small business owner and VP of Marketing at SAP. She drives her company forward with not only gut feel, but also by leveraging the benefits of technology whenever possible. In her SAP role, she leads a global team of marketing experts to ensure partner demand generation, awareness, and go-to-market success. She has more than 20 years of experience in consumer and technology marketing, with expertise in software, services, and consumer and business products.