Entrepreneurship And Beyond – Time For Technology
Originally published in Entrepreneurship And Beyond supplement in the Irish Independent on Thursday 28th June.
Technology for new businesses is freely available and relatively cheap – start-ups just need to ensure they invest enough time to develop the right strategy.
Advances in technology have made it easier and cheaper to set up firms today. The start-up community has been buoyed by technological developments, which have allowed firms to work smarter, leaner and more efficiently. Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Irish Internet Association, says technology has become fundamental to the operation of all kinds of business.
“For business-to-business firms, it provides an online presence, customer relationship management and the ability to operate affordably if they are looking to the cloud when setting up a new company. For business-to-consumer businesses it’s a platform for how they do business, establish communication differentiations and do their marketing,” she said. Mulvihill recommended that start-ups give much thought to their technology and platform from the start. “Find the technology that will best suit your business. It’s so intrinsically important that it can provide many opportunities immediately and going forward,” she said.
Avril McArdle, digital and marketing director with Sage Ireland, said as the internet has changed how companies communicate and promote themselves, ecommerce has changed how they operate. “Sales processes, overheads and target audience can all be positively affected by having a strong online presence and ecommerce offering,” she said. “Selling online not only reduces the cost of overheads, but collecting payment up front means less time is spent on credit control and chasing outstanding invoices. Selling online also allows start-ups to do business 24/7 and to attract visits and sales by optimising search engine terms,” said McArdle. The rapid rise of smartphones and tablets is also influencing how people do business, according to McArdle. “Business owners need to embrace this development as their customers can now access information anytime, so they need to optimise their websites for mobile viewing.
“The Sage 50 accounts software has a free BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad app, letting customers take control their accounts and access them remotely,” she adds. There is also an increase in the number of businesses, in particular small firms, using cloud offerings, said McArdle. “Businesses are less likely to feel the need now to ‘own’ their software or services. Cash flow is really key for new businesses so the ability to pay little and often rather than initially investing heavily will often prove attractive,” added McArdle.
Start-ups should consider a few areas before deciding to go down the cloud or hardware route, said McArdle. “The business model, current business needs, future business needs, current hardware, access to broadband, integration needs and available funds will all have an impact,” she added. Digital marketing must also be an important consideration for firms, both Mulvihill and McArdle agreed.
“The first and most important benefit of social media is that there is no cost to get involved and create a presence for your business so this is good news for all companies,” said McArdle. The biggest investment is time, she added. “Doing social media badly is worse than not doing it at all so it is important that business owners take time to decide what their objectives are, what they are going to measure, what success looks like and how they plan to engage with and respond to their target audience and customers,” said McArdle.
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