Last week, a colleague and I attended an industry networking breakfast in Melbourne’s CBD. The event was titled The Future of SMEs, and was hosted by business news outlet SmartCompany. Attended by over fifty professionals in Australian small business, accounting, and financial services, the breakfast was an excellent opportunity to hear findings from SmartCompany’s latest report on changes facing Australian SMEs, and participate in a discussion with a panel of experts on what the next ten years might look like.

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SmartCompany’s Future of SMEs event in Melbourne

The event was extremely insightful as a whole. The information I learnt has helped me better understand our agency’s corporate clients, and the networking opportunities were highly valuable. It seems that while SMEs face many emerging new challenges, there are some fantastic opportunities small business owners can harness now to reap the rewards in ten years’ time. Here are some of the main points discussed at the event.

Sales will always be the lifeblood of any business

Sales is an uncomfortable idea isn’t it? We bare teeth at the sound of a telemarketer, and nail “no hawkers” signs to our front doors. We millennials have almost boycotted traditional television because we just can’t bear advertising. SMEs feel this discomfort too, I’m sure. Digital media has made it easier for small business to market themselves. Facebook posts, Instagram, hashtags and brand journalism on owned channels. These amazing new marketing channels allow small businesses to speak directly to the masses. But do they replace the traditional role of sales? No.

While marketing speaks to a large audience, sales always speaks to the individual. Since sales directly impact your business’ cash flow, it is vital to your business’ success. You can be comfortable and have great social media, but ultimately small business owners need to be picking up the phone and talking to the people they need to be talking to. Simple as that.

Technology has changed the invoicing process

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Invoices by Cybrgrl (CC by 2.0)

Almost-gone are the days of mailing out hard-copy invoices to stakeholders. As you can imagine, the rise of the Smartphone and digital platforms has meant a whole range of changes not just for invoicing, but the accounts system as a whole.

While the traditional invoice isn’t going away in a hurry, many small businesses have taken measures to improve accounts through using Cloud accounting software to manage their accounts, adding “pay now” buttons on electronic invoices, and setting up alerts when due dates arrive. Diligently chasing those missed payments still remains as important as ever!

Cloud computing as an enabler

Owning a small business, particularly in those early months, is rarely a stress-free experience. In reality, SME owners live with a lot of risk and liability resting on their shoulders. It is therefore a desirable situation to be able to make a lot of sales with minimum investment in depreciating assets and expensive overheads. For this reason, Cloud computing may be a great solution for your business.

Cloud technology replaces expensive IT infrastructure. It can be used as a training tool for staff, to manage accounts, and even as a point-of-sale (POS) tool for hospitality and retail businesses. The bottom line is, cloud technology is a cost-saver and an enabler. It looks like we will be seeing a lot more of it in Australian small business.

What will the future look like?

The next ten years will be particularly interesting for small business, but one thing I noticed was that nobody could confidently predict what small business ownership in 2027 might look like. We have only had the smartphone and cloud technology for about six years, and they have already revolutionised the way we do business.

The smartphone will change the world
The Smartphone will continue to play a large role in small business

Some of the predictions agreed upon are as follows. The smartphone will continue to play a huge part in small business. Cloud computing will also play a huge role, and in particular will enable flexible workplace options for business-owners and staff alike. Sales will continue to be the number one priority for business owners. And while the exact nature of the next ten years is unclear, there are certainly indicators that need to be acknowledged now.

You can download SmartCompany’s survey report here.

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