REDMOND, Wash., May 17, 2004 — In recognition of National Small Business Week and the significant role the nation’s 7.5 million small businesses play in the U.S. economy, Microsoft is teaming with other organizations that focus on small companies, including the Small Business Administration, to provide higher levels of support and services.
PressPass spoke with Cindy Bates , Microsoft general manager for U.S. Small Business about the impact small businesses have on the U.S. economy, Microsoft’s strategy for serving them, technology and services developed specifically for small businesses, local training options, the new Microsoft Small Business Center Web site, the Microsoft Across America tour now underway and a recently launched program to recognize excellence among Microsoft’s small business customers.
Cindy Bates, Microsoft general manager for U.S. Small Business
PressPass: What is the impact of small businesses on the U.S. economy?
Cindy Bates: Small businesses are a powerful force of our economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses in the U.S. will drive more than half of new innovations and create 75 percent of all new jobs this year. That alone makes the sector a very compelling one, but in addition these organizations are continuously looking for ways to expand their customer base and retain their competitive edge. One of the key ways they’re addressing that challenge is by taking advantage of technology that will support their goals.
PressPass: What is Microsoft’s strategy for serving small businesses?
Bates: My team is in the trenches in order to better understand the unique needs of small businesses to ensure they are getting the support they need. We are working to translate what we’re hearing from our small business customers into products, solutions and services across Microsoft.
In addition to product and service offerings, a key pillar in our strategy for optimally serving our customers is to work closely with organizations that are long-time advocates of these companies. Working closely with organizations such as the Small Business Administration and our channel of certified and localized business partners, Microsoft is dedicated to helping the 7.5 million small businesses in the U.S. boost their business.
PressPass: In terms of technology, what does Microsoft offer small businesses?
Bates: Microsoft has very compelling solutions for small business customers. Microsoft can deliver an innovative, integrated set of technologies and services, from the operating system to business applications, information worker applications, business solutions, services, licensing and financing. We also offer small businesses the support of our partner ecosystem. We’re building products for this audience from the ground up, and adding specific functionality targeted for small businesses to core products.
For example, Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 includes familiar, easy-to-use software that helps small companies meet the challenges of effectively managing their business processes and procedures. Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 helps small businesses more effectively manage customers and sales leads, strategically promote the business to both new and existing customers, handle e-mail more efficiently and share information with increased security.
Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 helps small businesses rise to the increasingly prevalent challenge of doing more with less. The system delivers considerable benefits, including the ability to protect critical business data, to get more done every day, to reach more customers and deliver better customer service. And Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 was developed to make the process of upgrading from a previous edition or migrating from another server system easy. Overall, Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 can make running a small business easier and more efficient.
PressPass: How does a company the size of Microsoft manage to personalize its relationship with those businesses?
Bates: Small business owners have the enormous responsibility of running a business from top to bottom, and have to eliminate distractions that keep them from concentrating on their biggest asset, their customers. We rely upon a network of more than 325,000 technology partners to bring technology to customers. This network of partners offers customers a vast choice of local resources to help them meet their business needs. It also provides them with a trusted advisor with whom they can build a relationship and rely upon for ongoing counsel and support.
The Microsoft Across America van will bring demonstrations of Microsoft technologies to small businesses across the United States. Microsoft employees taking part in the project pictured are (from left): Margo Day, Aaron Bernstein, Cindy Bates, Darren Huston, Julie Leers, and John Honeycutt.
Beyond the partner network, one of the ways Microsoft is connecting with small businesses is to take our technology on the road — literally. The Microsoft Across America van is a 27-foot mobile solutions center that is stocked with one server, two workstations, three laptops, a 42-inch plasma screen, a full point-of-sale system and a color printer. In the U.S. the Microsoft Across America van will visit 18 cities with high concentrations of small businesses so that executives, store owners and employees can experience the latest business technology first-hand without having to venture far from the businesses that depend on them. With the success that the Microsoft Across America van has already experienced, we’re planning expand the program next year. It’s important for our potential customers to be able to visualize how technology can help them, and the Microsoft Across America van is proving itself to be an ideal hands-on opportunity.
PressPass: Beyond Microsoft Across America, what else is Microsoft doing to make technology more accessible to the small business owner?
Bates: Small businesses can now access some of the latest technology tools and services at their fingertips, in the form of a new Web site — Microsoft’s Small Business Center. Our small-business customers have provided us with feedback indicating the need for a single place they can go to quickly and clearly get tailored information on how they can more effectively run their businesses. Using the Small Business Center Web site, customers can take advantage of content, tools and services, including advice-oriented articles, information, and subscription Web services that help small businesses improve sales and marketing effectiveness and extend their businesses on the Internet.
We will continue to expand Small Business Center offerings to include additional tools and resources aimed at helping small businesses improve their business operations. It also will provide the ability to easily connect customers with Microsoft partners who can recommend optimal solutions based on their unique needs.
PressPass: Does Microsoft offer small businesses training options?
Bates: Yes. We offer more than 2,400 free seminars annually to small and mid-sized businesses, IT pros and developers nationwide. The “Connect with Microsoft” seminar series not only serves as a valuable resource for small business owners, managers and decision makers, but the seminars also provide an opportunity to educate local technology providers and partners on the latest technologies and solutions they can use to better serve their customers.
PressPass: What’s the focus of the connect with Microsoft seminars?
Bates: The program offers a variety of training for various audiences.
For small businesses, the Microsoft TouchPoint Series helps small businesses, which often have little or no IT support, learn ways to utilize technology to increase their revenue generation capabilities, reduce internal costs, enhance employee productivity, and better service customers. These seminars highlight the tools and technology that can help attendees learn how to build the foundation of their business using Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server.
In addition, attendees gain information on productivity solutions and tools — the Microsoft Office System, FrontPage 2003 and more — to enhance the foundation of their business and help companies find ways to get more out of their current technology. Attendees also have the opportunity to meet the technology providers in the local area. It’s a great opportunity for these businesses to talk with local Microsoft partners and learn how these IT providers can help them with their technology decisions and installations.
PressPass: In addition to training, are there other ways that Microsoft connects with small businesses?
Bates: Definitely. In January, we launched an awards program to recognize small businesses that are using technology to more effectively manage their organizations. In conjunction with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program, we are sponsoring the Small Business Realizing Potential Award. We are presenting this award to 36 regional small business owners as well as to a national winner in November. Winners receive technology grants of computer hardware, software and services packages. The national winner will also receive a prize package. In addition, the charity of their choice will receive a similar prize. We are excited to announce several winners at the SBA Expo this week in Orlando.
PressPass: How are small businesses currently realizing benefits by using Microsoft technology?
Bates: Our small business customers are using technology in some very compelling ways. As a result, they’re seeing their time and investments pay off. For example, one of our customers, a six-person business intelligence solution provider, recently took advantage of one of Microsoft’s hands-on services — a free seminar series right in his community. The seminar allowed him to identify the opportunity to build a whole new business using technology. By taking what he learned in the seminar back to the office, he estimates he’ll be able to increase earnings and grow the business by at least 40 percent.
Another small business customer — a real estate management company with 50 employees – is hoping to attain similar results. The company is planning for significant growth, so it turned to a Microsoft certified partner for guidance. Together, they created an upgraded network infrastructure to support the addition of multiple remote offices, reduce the number of paper documents and provide remote access to create a more flexible work atmosphere. So far, the benefits this business has realized include a 40 percent reduction in shipping costs, staff accountants handling, on average, 30 percent more clients, the ability to store 20 times the amount of data online with storage capacity at only 40 percent and nearly 100 percent network uptime since the upgrade.
Today the company continues to look for new ways to grow their businesses even further with technology. We are working to help all small businesses achieve similar success stories. Our goal is to provide small businesses with the tools and services they tell us they need to run their businesses more effectively.