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The Future of SMEs

After reading the findings of a recent SmartCompany research study, titled ‘The SME of the future’, I found the shifts in key trends for business owners that they highlighted, fascinating. The study acknowledged that the nature of work has changed and as a result, so has our notion of personal time. As business owners we seem to be ‘always on’ and time ‘off’ can seem to be an elusive concept. So, what does the future hold for SMEs? Here are some key takeaways that we have to look forward to:

The Flexible Future

“More signs are emerging that flexibility is a massive, systemic change in Australian business. Flexibility and the freedom to work remotely isn’t just a benefit, it’s necessary”. It is important to not, however, that working ‘flexibly’ may also mean that we aren’t switching off, especially if you are running your own show.

Cloud computing

“There has been a paradigm shift in small business to cloud computing which provides low-cost, flexible and highly scalable IT solutions that supports growth and expansion”. What this means is that you have access to everything, everywhere, all the time! Which is great… but I notice myself habitually looking at my dashboards on my phone… again, ‘always on’.

Content Marketing 

“The content/digital marketing survey revealed the most pressing need (above the cloud or cybersecurity) was sales and marketing – including articles, blogs and any video content including live video content – FB Live, Snapchat and Instagram stories.” At the Logies this week, one of the people at our table remarked ‘you seem to be on social media a lot’, he said it as a criticism, as I streamed #behindthescenes. He absolutely had a point – but for me the Logies is ‘work’ so I am okay with sharing what I am learning, however at family, friends and social events, I need to be truly present.

Artificial Intelligence

“Tech advancements most likely to disrupt business in the next 10 years: big data and artificial intelligence. Businesses not ready to exploit the growth of that data will be left behind.” Most business owners I know are fearful (even a little bit) of their future commercial success – the question often asked is ‘will I still be relevant to my customers in a few years?’. Living in a state of fear is particularly unproductive for a business owner.

Research & Development

“SMEs still need to focus on R&D and it will be the third largest investment in year ahead”. The most critical thing is to ensure is that you are asking the right question. Without true inquiry into ‘the right question’ a lot of energy can be lost (and worse than that it is the opportunity cost).

What skill do businesses want from their people?

The survey said that “Australia and global economies are in a state of dramatic transition. Older skills will make way for new ones: data analysis, coding and a working knowledge of machine learning are some of the most sought after traits of employers in this new economy. Despite this, marketing was the skill most wanted by business, followed closely by leadership. Most businesses are suffering from a skill shortage”. As the 457 visa programs ends and a new skills based program replaces it, there is much discussion about what this really means. What I do know is that when people ‘earn’ they also spend, which is one of the reasons why I am really interested in the JobActive program, how we get older – and really experienced people – into into paid and fulfilling employment. 

As artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to rise, let’s not forget about the importance of human connection in business. Although automation can allow business owners more time freedom than before, it is just as important to actively cultivate your customer relationships in a more personal way. It is the connection to you, to your brand, that keeps them coming back.

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