Technology Can Level the Playing Field
|Jacksonville Business Journal by Dolly Penland, Correspondent
Friday, December 25, 2009
Virtually any company can use new technology to speed its business processes, run more efficiently, and be more profitable. This includes everything from smart phones to software that manages inventory.
There are costs associated with adding new technologies, and some can be expensive, but small-business owners must weigh the initial cost against the return on investment. One key consideration: Technology can put small businesses on the same playing field as bigger ones.
Take, for example, small retailers with e-commerce-enabled Web sites that can sell their wares anywhere in the world.
“You have to” add technology, said Kevin Monahan, special projects director with the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida. “If you’re a small-business owner, you are competing with less from the start. Utilizing technology can also give you a competitive advantage over companies that aren’t using technology. You can do more if you are a one-person or two-person business.”
Harold Boyett, president of Blue Streak Couriers, said technology gives his business a decided advantage and is even an integral part of his business plan.
“I worked for UPS for 20 years; I was there when the first computer was installed in the Jacksonville building in the late 1980s,” he said. “When I decided to leave UPS and buy this company, I knew technology would be an important part of what we do. Many of our competitors are still using paper methods to complete their deliveries.”
Blue Streak’s customers can manage all aspects of their accounts online, from placing an order to tracking their package as it moves down the highway thanks to GPS, “which allows me to not have to grow my office staff as quickly as volume increases,” Boyett said. “We are in the process of deploying devices that have scanning [with bar-coded information on packages] and signature capture, similar to what FedEx and UPS have. As far as I’m concerned, we will never stop adding or improving our technology offerings because it helps our customers and it helps us.”
However, it’s not enough to have technology if it’s not used properly.
“One thing I don’t think small businesses do enough of is training, either for themselves or their employees, and they need to do more of it,” Monahan said. “Larger companies spend a lot of money on training and it makes them better companies. It’s not only whether to add or upgrade technology, but training yourself to use it.”