Tracy Sheen is passionate about helping small business owners understand and embrace tech. Author of The End of Technophobia: A Practical Guide to Digitising Your Business, Tracy joined editor Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to explain how businesses can ditch their technophobia and make digital solutions work for them.
Having worked in the tech space since the 1990s, Tracy has noticed that despite the numbers of millennial business owners rising in recent years, the Australian small business community is dominated by business owners over the age of 40.
And many of them are shy to embrace technology and the digitisation of their business.
Tracy Sheen, digital solutions expert and author of The End of Technophobia: A Practical Guide to Digitising Your Business
What is holding older business owners back from embracing digital tech?
“We didn’t grow up with tech, so technology has happened to us,” says Tracy. “But we recognise that it’s going to be the thing that makes a difference to the way our business operates, to providing resilience to the business, to future-proofing the business.
“Around 63 per cent of all registered ABNs in Australia are aged over 40. So there’s still the vast majority of business owners in that Gen X age group.
“There’s a digital divide that is opening up here, and if we don’t plug it, small business in Australia is in a world of pain.”
Struggles for regional business owners
Tracy says that there’s an uneven playing field when it comes to regional and rural business owners taking advantage of the digital revolution.
“I’m based in the NSW Northern Rivers area, and I’m passionate about regional Australia in particular.
“There’s still great swathes of regional Australia that are only now just getting reasonable internet coverage to be able to begin the digitisation process; versus a metro business that has had 5G capabilities and the ability to upskill themselves with workshops, webinars and a whole lot of other stuff, during this pandemic.”
Listen to Tracy Sheen on the Flying Solo podcast:
How can business owners identify the right digital solution for them?
Before deciding where to start, Tracy recommends that business owners conduct a digital audit.
“What are you already using in the business that’s already working?” Tracy advises. “Once they can see how much tech has already bolstered their business, the next thing to do is identify what gaps we could plug that would make a big difference in their business.
“It might be a marketing or HR solution; maybe it’s understanding your numbers better. Do I need something to manage a project or track all of my tasks? Whatever that is, you need to identify and pick one thing that would make a big difference in your business if you invested some time, money, and energy.
Tracy says the choice for new digital and online systems can be overwhelming, so it’s important to compare apples to apples.
“Every other day, there’s something new coming out. There’s another platform, another software service, another piece of tech that they ‘should’ be using in their business. So there’s a sense of overwhelm – how do I even know what I need?
“I’m always cautious about asking other business owners for recommendations. If you’re going to crowdsource information, ask people in the same industry as you and are looking to achieve the same kind of results as you are. If you’re an accountant, there’s no point asking a business coach what CRM they recommend – you’re probably looking for different things.
“There will always be two or three that will float to the top as the most recommended, or the ones that are talked about consistently – run those couple through your matrix and identify the ones that tick the boxes. Then pick one, because guess what? Most of those that float to the top are pretty much the same.
“Invest some time, give yourself a month or three months – dive into it and figure it out. And at that point, ask yourself, is it ticking the boxes? If it’s not, pause, evaluate and have another look.
“It’s like when we start at a gym; you want to set yourself goals – at the end of 30 days, I want to be able to do ten crunches. Set yourself that target – at the end of this period, here was my benchmark and here’s where I want to be.
“Acknowledge the fact that you are giving it a go – just by being open to what’s available to you as a business owner these days, that’s half the battle.”
How vital is it for businesses to have a social media presence?
Tracy says the pandemic has accelerated the adaptation and adoption of technology and social media within small businesses.
“Yes, you need socials, absolutely. But it needs to be part of a bigger strategy,” says Tracy.
“The one thing I would say is we must have our presence that we own – a website, client portal, or whatever that looks like. Because at the end of the day, you do not own your social media presence.
“As much as your business might rely on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, you need a strategy in place that is keeping your clients engaged in ways that you can control, such as email lists or website. Because if your Facebook page goes down – and we’ve seen it time and time again – Facebook will suddenly switch your page off.”
If a business only had the opportunity to digitise one aspect of their business, what would you recommend?
“If you’re an eCommerce or transacting online, then you would want to make sure that your marketing and sales process is nailed and that the customer journey is seamless. Put your customer in the centre and build that out properly. That would be the one part that I would focus on and get right.
“If you are still bricks and mortar or in some way face to face, then I would say get a CRM (customer relations management) system in place. Start really focusing on collecting information about your client base. Then you can start creating niche targeted comms, so you’re not sending out these blasts of information that are completely irrelevant to 90 per cent of your database.
“I’d also say all tradies need to have CRMs. I’m blown away by the amount that doesn’t because you have such an opportunity to form a lasting relationship with your clients.”
Tracy’s most significant piece of advice for small business owners who are hesitant about embracing digital technology?
“Stop trying to do everything! Figure out what’s that one thing that if I got that right in the next three months, it would make a big difference to my business? And do that.”
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