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John Findley Blog

John Findley is a China specialist having lived, off and on, in China for around 30 years. He now lives in Newcastle. He is a highly experienced senior executive and now runs his own migration business (a genuine independent contractor) supporting high-end executives to work in Australia.

Are small business people tech dopes?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This survey by Deloitte Access Economics suggests that small business people are low tech adapters. John argues there are other reasons. He asks: are SMEs tech savvy?

I believe there is a huge gap in the development and distribution of computer-based solutions for SMEs.

The Internet usage described in the research seems to be mostly for advertising.  Thus, one's target market must be frequent Internet users, those who would do some form of Internet search for a product.  And if one is not using the Internet for advertising, one is not "engaged".
 
My 20-year-old daughter, as an example, shops this way and there is a fairly constant stream of fashion items, interesting books, etc., arriving by courier.  By comparison, I use the Internet for specific matters, such as  travel bookings.
 
My main use of the Internet is in execution of my service. One segment of my business provides an example: last calendar year I wrote 53 business plans for immigrants;  this year I'm on track for a similar outcome.  That would be totally impossible without the ability to search the Internet.  I have gigabytes of current research data on my hard drive.  Nothing in this business strand is done in hard copy: the order, the research, the product, the delivery and the invoicing, accounting and payment are all digital.
 
On the other hand, my sales efforts are made by face-to-face meetings with partner organisations in China.  Internet advertising is not going to work for me in China.
 
My competitive advantage is my long nose and white hair. Those advantages cannot be effectively projected by the Internet.
 
Knowing what works in China, I abandoned my website about five years ago. It was not generating business, not covering its costs and the competition web positioning was so far out of my reach without very large investment, that it was better to just close the site.
 
By the measures of the Deloitte's study,  I'm an unengaged Luddite.
 
I believe that the thinking about "what it is for business to use the Internet" is at a naïve level.  The Internet's worth is more than as an advertising medium as assumed by most research that I can find.  Advances in productivity are more important and are more likely to come from operational use of computing, rather than use of the Internet for advertising.
 
What we need is for some guru to show us what operational matters lend themselves to automation. At the SME level, it is likely that these advances would be implemented at the local level on a PC or laptop, without going to cloud computing and the consequent need for NBN type speeds.  The Big Data searches and information handling that demand NBN speeds are unlikely to have attractions for SMEs.  How would we possibly use Big Data when we are operating a panel beater's shop or a pre-school kindergarten?
 
I abandoned my Internet site for simple, compelling reasons:
  1. The competition, being quite large organisations, spend vastly more to achieve web positioning than I could spend and recoup.
  2. My website would need to be in Chinese, so I needed to hire web-competent Chinese speakers.  See the next point as to why that is not desirable.
  3. My competitors use the client connection made on the Internet as the lead for a face-to-face meeting. I don't speak Chinese so can't do that, I would need Chinese staff for follow up.  Unfortunately, it is a defining characteristic of Chinese staff that they would take the job for themselves.  And not even thank me for getting them the lead. My organisation is too small to be able to compartmentalise the web contact/sales/operational functions to keep hands off my business.
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