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Callum Laing

2015: A good year for Small Business?

BY CALLUM LAING

As Singaporean businesses close the first quarter and charge into the second, it is worth a quick reflection.

This is the digital age, a time of rampant technology uptake, of flux and change and evolving ideas on business growth and the economy. Having met several hundred Singaporean business owners in the past quarter, the general sentiment for the rest of the year is positive.

Change agents proliferate in the form of Millennials (the next generation of consumers born between 1980-2000), crowdfunding, social media, content marketing, and electronic currencies all conducted in real time on mobile communication platforms.

2015 will see a shift in how Singaporean businesses select, adopt, and integrate these change agents for optimal efficiency. Understanding how to mould these change agents into efficiencies will be key to maximising new opportunities.

Here are a few efficiencies small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Red Dot should consider:

Scalability
SMEs often have the potential to multiply revenue with minimal incremental cost. This ability to scale quickly using new technologies has never been more accessible. Today, what once might have been a small back-yard business can grow rapidly to sell its products worldwide in a very short space of time.

Millennial demand for niche, customised products combined with more streamlined global delivery and payment networks mean that bespoke products are readily available to those SMEs willing to take their product to the world.

Cost-efficient marketing strategies
Millennial consumers crave authenticity, engagement, and a relationship with their products and services. Small enterprises have this in spades and are ideally suited to these changes.

Transitioning these consumer-product relationships into the digital world through sharing, blogging, tagging, liking, and strategic engagement on social media networks is actionable with little to no capital outlay. If the content is good, the reach of this free marketing knows no boundaries.

Having a strategy for how you share media and content can save SMEs unnecessary expenses. Posting watchable videos, writing engaging blogs, following and replying to forums with advice and links, and sharing in the digital community all build awareness of your business for very little outlay.

Outsourcing
Singaporean SMEs (like their counterparts in every other country) will complain about being able to find good people. Yet, by outsourcing to reach freelancers around the world, that argument just doesn't stack up. It is up to you, the owner, to define and manage outsourcing your tasks.

Outsourcing provides instant access to a vastly expanded workforce. By choosing to outsource Singaporean businesses also expand their options with how and where they want to grow. More available talent at more competitive rates frees up resources for other areas of focus.

Using outsourced, location-independent contractors from sites such as Elance and Freelancer present a host of advantages. Understanding how to manage a distributed workforce requires its own set of rules to gain maximum benefit. Luckily there are technologies such as Sococo ("a virtual office for your company") that help manage a distributed team and provide a secure online interface from which to conduct business.

Going Digital
Small businesses, no matter how disconnected from the Internet their product or service may seem, should have a digital presence. Having an online presence can boost or present a marketing strategy, save time, and help streamline your workload.

Marketing your service or product using online and social media channels is a must. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are free marketing tools, which capture the attention of Millennials.

Last year was a pivotal point in the technology curve. The volume of mobile Internet connections (Smartphones) overtook conventional desktops and laptops. Here in Asia we are leading the way and Singapore and South Korea are amongst the first countries to be considered 'Mobile First'.

This trend is accelerating and mobility will soon be ubiquitous. People are increasingly using their phones for digital transactions, online shopping, and payments. SMEs should be aware of this and adopting mobile technology as part of their business plan.

There are many efficiencies small businesses can adopt and take advantage of. As the world becomes more connected and old boundaries vaporise into the digital ether, it is small enterprises that will benefit most from these change agents.

The synergies arising from a new generation of consumers - Millennials, rampant technology uptake, mobile computing, global outsourcing, changing ideas of how we do business, and an overwhelming sense of global connectedness bode well for SMEs who want to have far-reaching success.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Callum Laing

Callum Laing

Callum invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet, a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence, a 40-week training program for business owners and executives.

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