Technology reduces barriers for small businesses

by Mark Zweig ([email protected]) 387 views 

It’s easy for an older guy like me — 63 now — to complain about not being able to keep up with technology. Younger people expect us old folks to be technologically deficient. The truth is, I’m not as bad as some. Using Apple-everything these days eliminated my part-time job as an in- “house” (I am referring to our home) computer technician.

That said, my wife recently questioned why I like old cars as much as I do when new ones are more reliable and always drive so much better. The reason is that I understand them. For example, we just got rid of a newer-model BMW that had features such as self-parking and snow mode — that I never used or even tried because there were just too many knobs and buttons to figure out how to use them.

Not to mention the classroom technology I had to learn how to use at the Walton College over the COVID pandemic — technology that allows us to have live classes and seamlessly incorporate virtual students from anywhere at the same time. It was a struggle at first but turned out to be a game-changer.

When it comes to business, today’s technology has shredded barriers and given options to new and existing small businesses that make it easier than ever to do amazing things with less capital and successfully compete with better established or much larger organizations.

There are many examples, from free business plans in a can to online accounting packages that cost as little as $12.50 a month and do everything from bookkeeping, tax payments, billing and collection of electronic payments, and much more.

Website design and hosting are available for as little as $4.95 a month, a price that makes having a website affordable to anyone who wants one (and who in business wouldn’t?).

Platforms such as eBay and Amazon allow one to sell their products anywhere globally with no upfront costs. Customer relationship management programs that facilitate the building of customer and prospect lists for targeted marketing are available in some cases for free.

Online conferencing is available for free. Online graphic design services allow one to tap into low-cost talent anywhere in the world to create their brand. Crowdfunding platforms make startup fundraising or raising debt or equity capital open to anyone at little to no cost. There are a plethora of free options for training virtually anyone on how to do darn near anything.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Today, there are so many free or super low-cost resources available to business founders or owners that we didn’t have 20 or even five or 10 years ago.

One thing I have learned — and of course, there are exceptions to this statement — is that young people are often much better-versed in the tools available today than the rest of us are. Make sure you are tapping into that knowledge base.

Mark Zweig is the founder of two Fayetteville-based Inc. 500/5000 companies. He is also entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.