U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Administration and Microsoft Address Importance of Technology in Small Business

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 1997 — Today, Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Aida Alvarez, administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA); and Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corp. joined to address important trends in small-business technology adoption. The leaders came together at the launch of a 30-city road tour titled Small Business Crossings, produced by the Chamber of Commerce and Microsoft to reach more than 70,000 small businesses. Alvarez, Donohue and Gates outlined key trends in which technology is becoming essential to meeting the demands of customers and business partners, and presented guidelines for adopting the right solutions.

“Small business is the engine of America’s economic growth and creates the vast majority of new jobs,” said administrator Alvarez. “In an increasingly global and technology-driven economy, small business must get current or be left behind. The guidelines we are providing today will help entrepreneurs start, run and grow their business with technology.”

Gates agreed, pointing out that, among other things, the Internet is increasing the need for small organizations to take full advantage of technology resources. “Personal computers have helped small businesses by leveling the playing field in many ways. But an increasingly sophisticated marketplace, along with the Internet, is expanding many small organizations’ dependence on technology just to meet basic customer and partner demands.”

Small Businesses Approach Technology Reactively Rather Than Proactively

Rising customer expectations top the list of trends forcing small businesses to increase their use of technology, according to research commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Microsoft. The Business Research Group Inc. study shows that attracting and keeping customers are the top concerns for the majority of small businesses, and most small businesses feel pressure to increase their technology use because of customer demands. The research also shows small businesses rate technology as most effective when used to improve customer service.

However, nearly half of small businesses said that this concern isn’t going to increase their use of technology. “According to our research, small businesses use computers reactively rather than proactively,” explained Donohue. “Many just don’t interpret problems with customer service as a technology issue. But they often are. Moreover, the current labor shortage, increasingly diverse competition and a growing reliance on key strategic partnerships are all additional factors contributing to this growing need for technology, just to survive.”

Guidelines Introduce Key Technology Concepts and Reduce Barriers

Five guidelines were outlined to give small businesses direction on proactively finding and deploying the right technology solution. Each guideline includes a minimum level of technology use suggested for today’s business environment.

  • Get help. Most small businesses lack internal IT expertise. A qualified, local partner is essential to help to define a technology strategy and an implementation plan, as well as identify the key areas of the business that could be improved by leveraging technology. Minimum: Get to know a local technology provider you trust. Find someone who can advise you on a variety of issues, is willing to get to know you and your business, and is available to help you implement an overall technology strategy.

  • Get current. Many small businesses are using outdated technologies that weren’t designed for more than a few specific purposes. Current technologies are more user friendly and more suitable for the diverse kinds of communications and data processing tasks essential to business today. Minimum: Talk to your local technology provider about your current technology and get a feel for how any upgrades might better serve your business. If an upgrade is appropriate, formulate a step-by-step plan that is within your budget to achieve your technology goals.

  • Get networked. This incredibly important technology has long been limited to larger companies that could afford the expense and maintenance of a network. Today, most small businesses should be networking their computers in order to maximize their technology and personnel assets. Minimum: Talk to your local technology provider about the kind of network that would be best for your business, as well as the potential benefits. These might include e-mail communications, sharing expensive data or hardware resources, or remote access.

  • Get online. The Internet is having a huge effect on the business market. You can use it for communication, research, marketing and sales. All businesses should be on the Internet in some way. Minimum: Get Internet access and begin exploring. There are a number of ways to do this, and a good book or your local technology provider can answer any questions you may have.

  • Get your partners and customers involved. Investigate ways to use technology to improve your key business relationships. Your bank might offer online services to help you manage your finances better. Your employees might benefit from remote access that allows them to access critical information while on the road or from home. Your customers may require that to be a competitive bidder you need certain information exchange capabilities. You may be able to lessen your inventory by integrating more tightly with your suppliers. Minimum: Talk to your customers and vendors about how you could better serve them and share this information with your local technology provider. It’s likely that there’s a technology solution already available that will help you.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft to Reach 70,000 Businesses With Technology Symposium

Small Business Crossings: Seminar and Expo for Strategic Decisions is currently scheduled for 30 cities across the country and will reach approximately 70,000 small businesses over the next eight months. Designed to help small businesses discover for themselves the value of technology, the event includes presentations and break-out sessions by leading technology companies and small-business experts on common technology issues and barriers. In addition, each event incorporates an exposition where local technology providers and national technology companies will showcase solutions designed specifically for small-business users.

More information on the event, tour schedule and registration is available on the Microsoft® Small Business Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/smallbiz/ and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Web site at (http://www.uschamber.org/) .

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