The word ‘entrepreneur’ tends to conjure up images of business tycoons and vast billion-dollar empires, but reality, for the most part, is rather different.
Step out of your door, walk down your local high street, and you’ll soon be surrounded by them. From the independent health food café on the corner, to a shop that makes and sells its own handbags to the mechanic – we encounter small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the entrepreneurs that fuel them, at every turn.
In an effort to really understand these businesses and the driving force of the entrepreneurs behind them, we set out to see the world from their perspective, conducting a survey of 13,000 SMEs and spending an entire day with 20 different businesses, with the support of Ipsos Mori.
By observing and talking to them and walking in their shoes, we wanted to truly understand what drives them, their concepts of growth, and how they tackle opportunities using technology.
Motivation, passion, and drive
It will come as no surprise to hear that growth is a key goal for SMEs – but not in the simplistic terms of focusing purely on making more money. We have found that the majority of SMEs would like to grow, but in a more controlled, fun way, rather than continuously striving for ‘hyper-growth’.
A total of 43% of SMEs in our study define growth as refining a craft or passion, making room for other things in their lives, and having more fun. Achieving this balance is key for the happiness and growth of many SMEs – in fact, the number one motivation across Europe for setting up a business in the first place was to achieve an improved work-life balance.
“I feel it is vital to do something we enjoy and that makes us proud” – Cher, PietersZoon, Netherlands
The hurdles to happiness
Our research has shown that while SMEs are motivated by passion for their craft, interacting with customers and helping their employees develop, administrative, repetitive and often mundane tasks have the highest likelihood of curbing entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm.
Teresa Olea, who runs Teresa Olea Design (which makes shoes and fashion accessories), for example, describes administrative tasks as a “waste of time and energy”, keeping her from other creative and enjoyable activities.
Veljko Tatalovic, who runs Playground Coffee in Hamburg believes that that optimizing repetitive work tasks would give him and his colleagues “more time for important things.”
We have seen, then, a clear pattern in the motivations of what drives these entrepreneurs, and the main obstacles present on their road to their definition of success and growth. So, what can they do to overcome them?
How technology can help
With new technology, SMEs can punch above their weight. By introducing new technology into their businesses- affordable and with similar scale, quality and security as large enterprises – SMEs can automate the mundane and repetitive tasks which hold entrepreneurs back from doing what they love the most.
Office 365, for example, can allow entrepreneurs to work on and share documents with their staff. Its cloud-based storage and real-time collaboration tools mean that all changes and edits are made in real-time, removing the need to constantly send updated versions of documents back and forth between employees.
Skype, too, is another valuable collaboration tool, allowing employees to connect with each other (and even customers), in a more practical way, even if they’re away from their desks.
Technology can, however, go deeper than simply saving people time. It can be an essential, formidable tool for growth, and increasing customer satisfaction.
Take Microsoft Dynamics 365 – a cloud-based service for managing customer relationships that combines and analyses large amounts of data, before converting it into useful intelligence, resulting in more insightful customer interactions.
Using it, people like James Cadbury (founder of Love Cocoa, a UK-based online chocolate company), can understand their customers on a deeper level, helping plan targeted promotions, inventory predictions and much more.
Our study has uncovered the passion and motivation of the people behind businesses, and for the majority of them, their work is an extension of their life. With the help of technology, entrepreneurs can spend more time doing what makes them happy, while improving their growth and success in the process.