Concerned about losing SMB customers to smaller, more involved providers, larger companies are developing products and services specifically to help Australian small business. Provided you know where to look and what to look for, this is great news for you.
Small business owners typically run their companies on a very tight budget, and can’t really afford to hire a chief financial officer, opting instead to take such responsibilities into their own hands. Many banks now recognise this, and are modifying their services to include online resources that help with responsibilities such as finance management and accounting. These services are excellent sources of free information for business owners on a wide range of topics, such as how to analyse sales patterns, manage customer databases, and interpret market share.
Larger banks are also beginning to introduce measures that allow small businesses to take more control over their finances remotely, so business owners can manage their companies wherever they are. The growing popularity of cloud computing has prompted some banks to create interactive online dashboards. These services allow business owners to process transactions, monitor foreign exchanges, and even manage their accounts, all on the internet. For a business with limited resources,this kind of functionality can be invaluable.
The smaller a company is, the more precarious its operations are and the more essential a functional insurance policy is to its ongoing success. Accordingly, insurance companies are now placing a strong emphasis on staff devoted to small business. Just as with banks, it’s likely that there will be a small business specialist near you.
As Allianz Australia’s managing director Terry Towell explains, a major issue with small businesses is underinsurance. Many small businesses simply rely on their personal insurance to cover their business assets. This arrangement isn’t enough for even the smallest company, as consumer policies only cover an individual’s assets.
A business insurance plan can include a range of other types of insurance; things such as compensation for the interruption of your business, theft of stock, and public and products liability aren’t available in consumer level plans.
A significant drawcard to seeking out the small business department of major airlines is that many offer ‘itinerary management’. Through these systems, you can book and manage travel arrangements for the entire company through an online content management system. Flights purchased this way typically accrue benefits and rewards, which you can use on further services as you see fit. As a business traveller, you should investigate the benefits programs of a number of airlines before you settle on any particular one. Many airlines offer rewards systems that are indexed according to your annual travel budget. At the higher end of such arrangements, some carriers offer up to 75% of the amount you spend with them in benefits.
Carbon impact and sustainability is currently a big issue for small business. Many utility providers have taken this in their stride and now offer services to give small businesses a clearer idea of the impact their operations are having on the environment. These services are then tied to a performance outcome for environmentally pro-active small businesses. The benefits associated with this vary from company to company. Some tie your sustainability improvements to sizeable rebates.
Small business departments in major computer hardware companies are usually well resourced, and particularly well informed as to what it is that smaller companies need. According to Chris Kelly, director of small business at Lenovo, reliability is of great importance to small businesses in terms of their products.
“Small businesses focus on tools that can keep them productive, and their business running,” he says. “If one person in a company of 20 has a problem that renders their PC inoperative for just two days, that’s a 10% loss of productivity for those days.”
In addition to SMB-tailored customer service, it’s common for these providers to create entire lines of products that incorporate the firepower and reliability of enterprise-standard machines with the connectivity and functionality of consumer-level products.
Connectivity plays a vital role in the operation of Australia’s modern small business, empowering even the smallest of companies just as extensively as their larger competitors.
“Increasingly, small businesses want access to solutions that enable them to act like a large corporate, while helping them save money and be more productive,” says Phil Offer, marketing director for small and medium business at Optus.”
Most of the larger service providers offer bundles that incorporate a number of different services (broadband, VoIP, mobile) under a competitively priced business cap plan. This can save money and provides the convenience of rolling all of a businesses’ communications costs to a single bill. If you’re unsure of what your business needs in the way of communications, any service provider worth its salt will have a business centre staffed with SMB specialists located near you, irrespective of where your business might be situated in Australia.
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