Last week I had the chance to take part in reviewing the results of the Fourth Annual Small Business Survey from Brother and to join other small business professionals in an intimate discussion about the results and the current state of technology and small business. Brother International is one of the premier providers of products, including multi-function center machines and printers, facsimile machines and electronic labeling machines, for the home, home office and office and focuses highly on the small business market.
One of the most striking results from the survey was the fact that 75 percent of small business owners indicated that a crashed computer, or technology malfunction, is more disruptive to their business than a sick employee. Being that these are small businesses (survey was conducted with 500 small businesses with less than 100 employees between February 21st and March 4th, 2013), whose major investment and resources are typically their employees, that is quite the finding and reveals that technology is playing a larger role in the small business environment than ever before. Taking that finding one step further, the survey also discovered that 31 percent of respondents indicated that they would be willing to give up a week’s worth of vacation to ensure tech malfunctions never happen again in their business.
“This year’s small business survey found that technology is just as important as a healthy workforce,” said John Wandishin, Brother Vice President of Marketing. “The results emphasize the importance of delivering reliable and easy-to-use products to promote a productive working environment.”
Here’s a look at the infographic which outlines key findings of the survey:
Another interesting finding of the survey, and one that was highly discussed during our conversation, was the fact that 66 percent of small business owners say the are overwhelmed by the amount of technology available to them to help run their business. A staggering 86 percent claimed that office productivity suffered in the past year due to technology not working properly. This leads to an interesting question: Is it the fact that the technology isn’t working properly and malfunctioning or is it possibly that the technology is not the right solution and/or not being used properly for the application?
Regardless of the answer, it’s a definite issue within the small business space. Lack of understanding of technologies, such as cloud computing (only 28 percent of small business owners said they completely understand cloud computing), or mobile applications, impedes a business’ productivity and efficiency – two elements that can be detrimental to a small organization with limited resources. Many of us who are submersed in the technology world will often say that using technology for the sake of using technology is a bad idea and can often cause more harm than good. But, when technology is understood and applied correctly, it can be a small business’ best friend and boost them to the next level. How does a small business do this? There are many ways. Look to professional consultants who have an expertise in the field to help you or, if you are not understanding a technology that you have in place, you can often turn to online forums or YouTube videos to help you.
And while the economy is still uncertain, the survey found that the majority of small business owners, 52 percent, will invest in their business this year to give themselves an advantage over competitors versus the 42 percent that will be stockpiling cash to help guarantee they can survive through the economic downturn and anything else that may occur. And not surprisingly, of those business investments that they’ll be making, 51 percent will be putting them towards technology tool-related capital investments such as new software, mobile apps and cloud computing services.
Small business owner and noted expert Gene Marks, who led our conversation that day, agreed with many of the survey’s findings and offered “While running a small business is still tough in this slow economic recovery, I’m seeing that small business owners are more optimistic about the future.”
So, while stress remains high among small business owners (58 percent stating they have high stress, which is up from 55 percent in 2012), extreme stress is down almost half from last year, at 13 percent and overall small business owners have a positive outlook going into 2013.
So, how do you stack up to the results of this survey? Are you among the technology confused and overwhelmed? Or are you embracing technology in your small business and allowing it to help you grow and be more efficient? Let us know in the comments below!