In the rapidly changing and increasingly precarious world of the late 2010s, young people are beginning their careers with the deck stacked heavily against them as a result of political decisions that they had absolutely no say in.
Under the advisement of a report by Lord Dearing, the New Labour government saw fit to do away with student grants in 1998, substituting them with student loans. Resultantly, students began their careers with debts that many of them will never be able to pay off within their working lifetimes. If Tony Blair started the ball rolling, David Cameron’s Conservative /Liberal Democrat government picked the ball up and threw it into the stratosphere with a student tuition hike that led to the UK having the highest tuition fees in the world, with British undergraduates spending 25 times more on tuition than their French peers. The problem was then compounded when Theresa May scrapped maintenance grants and bursaries for nurses (after just having given an impassioned plea for social mobility) in 2016.
In this climate, many young people choose to eschew a position on the bottom run of the corporate ladder in favour of a career path that represents the ultimate form of self-expression and self-determination … Entrepreneurship!
The wonders of the digital age allow people to develop, maintain and grow successful businesses from their own homes, relying on their wits and their teams without the need for expensive overheads like office space. In the overcrowded and fast-paced job market, where so many bright young graduates begin their careers in dead-end jobs or unpaid internships that seem to go nowhere, entrepreneurship is a risky but logical choice.
Although operating within digital realms can be liberating, it’s also important to remember that start-up businesses often share a market with huge multinational corporate giants in whose favour the deck is heavily stacked (thanks to favourable tax cuts). Today’s ambitious young entrepreneurs face a never-ending battle to keep down the costs of their operations while making sure their productivity is optimal. The only way they can do this is by constantly evaluating the efficacy of their technical solutions.
Waste is a thief
Whether you operate a small home-based business alongside your day job or have an SME with premises and several members of staff, as an entrepreneur you face a daily battle against waste. While many think of waste in monetary terms (such as paying for paper and printing that are unnecessary in a digital workplace) practices and equipment that impede your productivity are every bit as wasteful and damaging. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs, especially sole traders, tend to find a formula that works for them and then become so engrossed with their daily operations that they either don’t have time to evaluate the efficacy of their practices or simply become set in their ways.
Businesses that exist solely in the digital realm will become more and more reliant on chatbots with each passing year. For years chatbots were the tool of choice for Fortune 500 businesses. Now however, they are widely used by SMEs with many predicting an exponential rise in chatbot use across small businesses in a range of sectors throughout the year.
For those unfamiliar with the term, Chatbots are a form of AI that can essentially be used as digital receptionists. They are autonomous and able to handle rudimentary customer services. They can answer basic questions and direct customers to information relevant to their queries. Though early adopters and enthusiasts view this as a way of scything down personnel costs, the technology is still in its infancy and most users would prefer to deal with a human customer-service agent. While chatbot technology will likely become sophisticated enough to supplant human receptionists, they are at present a useful supplement to lighten the workload of your frontline employees by filtering out callers with very rudimentary needs.
Faxes are unfairly relegated to the dustbin of dead technology along with VCRs and the Sinclair C5. Nonetheless, if you run a B2B enterprise, you’ll know just how many businesses and public sector organisations not only use but rely on faxes as part of their daily operations. In the digital age, however, sending a fax can be a time-consuming and costly affair. Through digital faxing solutions, however, you can send and receive faxes online without the need for dedicated equipment or ancillary costs like paper or toner cartridges. Sending a fax online is quick and easy and can even be converted to email or sent through a dedicated messenger app. If your enterprise sends a lot of faxes in a day, you’d be astonished how much time is spent simply typing and printing cover messages. eFaxes have a dedicated text box for cover messages. Great for productivity, great for saving money, and since they don’t require paper use or harmful office waste like discarded toner cartridges, you’re even doing your bit to help the environment too!
It’s highly unlikely that your business has no word processing needs whatsoever. If you find yourself writing a lot in the course of your daily duties you’re hobbling yourself if you continue to use Microsoft Word. It’s expensive and it’s unnecessary. Measure for measure, Google Docs is a superior word processing solution and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s interface is simpler and more intuitive than MS Word (which seems to get more convoluted and obtuse with each iteration) and allows for far simpler collaboration between team members. Rather than sending, editing and receiving documents, Google docs allows collaborators to make real-time changes and annotations to a document which are colour-coded so that it’s easy to see who has contributed what.
Entrepreneurs have a need to be able to quantify absolutely everything, and with good reason. Their businesses and their livelihoods depend on it! Thus, it’s no surprise that the digital app industry has risen to the challenge of the need to quantify and aid productivity with time-tracking software. Whether you’re a sole trader or an SME you can benefit from implementing measures to boost your productivity. Even self-employed bloggers can benefit from software that will aid productivity by preventing the use of time-wasting applications like online shopping or social media, that way writers can concentrate solely on writing.
Collaboration can be a messy and inefficient process for SMEs if they don’t have the right tools to collaborate productively. A conversation between collaborators can begin in person, then continue via SMS, then go on a little more on WhatsApp, which then leads to back and forth emails and then a phone call. Thus, it becomes difficult to return to any one idea or part of the conversation since the collaboration has taken place over so many different media.
Collaboration tools like Asana and Slack are great because they allow entrepreneurs to manage tasks and assign them to collaborators. These collaborators can then communicate with each other exclusively in one platform enabling them to recall ideas and contributions quickly, easily and efficiently.
If you haven’t heard of neuromarketing, you’re likely to soon as it seems set to become one of the most ubiquitous words in business throughout the coming year.
Neuromarketing hinges on the fact that while most businesses are extremely reliant on market research, it is an inherently unreliable tool. Market research polls users to gauge their reactions to marketing materials, but sometimes user testimonies can be misleading or inaccurate, which has resulted in some high-profile companies making some pretty tone deaf decisions with their marketing campaigns. Neuromarketing aims to circumvent this by measuring respondents’ neural activity when they are exposed to marketing materials.
While it has been met with some controversy, improved technology and better understanding of how the brain works means that marketing departments can glean completely objective and accurate reactions of respondents to marketing materials, enabling them to make decisions about their marketing campaigns with pinpoint accuracy, thus eliminating the risk of spending a fortune on marketing campaigns that fall flat.
Digital subscription services
From Netflix to Amazon prime, to Microsoft Office, to subscription box services like Loot Crate; the 2010s belong to digital subscriptions. Why just take one payment from a customer when you can take a smaller payment month after month after month, turning customers into a constant stream of revenue. Subscriptions allow you more opportunities to engender customer loyalty and build your customers’ relationship with your business.
Remember! Embrace tech … but don’t upgrade for the sake of it
Many outfits consider themselves at the cutting edge and lean on this heavily in their branding. It’s important however to walk the fine line between embracing new technologies because they will facilitate faster and better operations, and embracing new technologies just for appearances’ sake. While there is certainly PR value in appearing to be one step ahead of your competitors, this value is rarely worth the hefty price tag of being an early adopter. Though the upgrade cycle will likely never end, it’s rarely advisable to pay for upgrades from which your business will not benefit.