DISRUPTING BIG BUSINESS: HOW STARTUPS ARE FIGHTING FOR – AND WINNING – BIGGER MARKET SHARES

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Small businesses and startups are often able to take early advantage of disruptive technologies well before big businesses do because they are lean and agile. Zipcar (now owned by Avis) thought up “wheels when you need them” before the car rental industry did. It was Uber, not a major taxi fleet, which put a personal cab dispatcher in the hands of everyone who owns a smartphone. These companies took advantage of an opportunity in order to gain a competitive advantage in a previously commoditized market.

We asked three influential SMB consultants for their take on how and why small businesses are using disruptive technologies to create big impact, here is what we found out:

Gary Bizzo, an author and small business consultant, notes that “disruptive technologies make things easier and cheaper so it’s here to stay. Rather than improving on products, disruptive technologies create a new and better alternative. True disruptive technology is coming from new players in unexpected places leaving market leaders in a scramble to either catch-up, innovate or create their own technologies.”1

Small business and technology evangelist, Ramon Ray, believes that startups have a couple of advantages over the bigs, namely that they’re faster and nimbler, which are attributes that “big companies will have to adopt.” Ray also foresees that “b

A small workforce can also help a company be more innovative. Without the burden of existing infrastructure, it’s easier to change and experiment with new tools and technology.

Jackie Nagle, the founder of Synnovatia, an SMB consulting firm, views it this way: “the majority of the older companies are too big, too mired down in process, paperwork, and red tape to leverage disruptive technology. They’re not nimble enough. By the time they’re ready to move forward, technology will have moved on.”3

Both Bizzo and Nagel agree that small business culture may also give them an edge. Being personally invested in your work (and often having a financial stake) and being on a first-name basis with the founder can help attract and keep talent.

Disruptive technology is a game changer. While big businesses have big resources, it’s difficult for entrenched organizations to innovate. Small businesses and startups have the agility to exploit the potential of disruptive technologies and, time and time again, they’re doing it.

1 Gary Bizzo
2 Ramon Ray
3 Synnovatia


         

Developing a work from home policy that works for your business

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In the 2010 U.S. census, the number of workers who work primarily from home tripled in comparison to 1980.1 Thanks to the Internet, laptops, mobile devices, and remote access capabilities, working from home (WFH) has become an option for more workers. While there used to be concerns about how difficult it would be to supervise employees who WFH, more businesses are encouraging employees to work remotely for part or all of the workweek.

But before allowing your employees to WFH, it’s best to have a comprehensive policy. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Can employees work efficiently without one-on-one supervision? There are plenty of distractions at the office – but there are even more distractions at home (kids, laundry, the dog), and all of your employees may not be able to tune these distractions out. Before awarding an employee the privilege of working remotely, you will need to factor in their ability to work unsupervised. Your HR team should be able to help structure a WFH policy that determines which positions are eligible and how long employees need to be at the company before this perk is offered. This privilege should tie into the performance review process as well.
  • Can you provide your employees with the tools they need to WFH? Employees who work from home should not have to worry about being their own IT department and helpdesk. They need to be focused on the job you hired them to do. There are automated programs that handle critical tasks – like backups and updates; and remote support tools that let your IT team take care of technical problems, without requiring employees to waste their day problem-solving.
  • Stay in touch: make sure “out of sight” isn’t “out of mind.” Especially for those working remotely, keeping employees in touch with their managers and colleagues is critical. So plan on scheduling regular phones calls or video conferences, and have full-time, remote workers stop by the office occasionally for some face-to-face time.

There are many reasons to allow working from home: helping employees juggle work and family responsibilities, letting them occasionally dodge a brutal commute, and hiring a key employee who is unable to relocate. Allowing employees to WFH can translate into a happier and more productive workforce and it gives companies the flexibility to recruit and retain employees. Just make sure that your business is ready for it.

1 2010 Census

 

         

Three ways to keep your IT staff productive during downtime

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Although “nothing to do” doesn’t really happen in well-run IT departments, there may be periods of downtime – after a major project is completed, when all the high priority tasks are checked off the checklist – that you’ll want to make the best use of. Here are three suggestions for using that time effectively and keeping your staff busy:

  1. TRAIN: Tech isn’t static. Things change fast and there’s always something new to learn. Hardware, software, programming languages. Train your employees on all the devices they’re BYOD-ing and keep them up-to-date on security matters. This doesn’t have to bust the budget. If there’s no money available for bringing in outside teachers or sending your IT folks to training classes or conferences, have employees give presentations on their strengths and areas of interest.
  2. MAINTAIN: Now’s the time to make sure that all of your company’s computers are in working order. Do all operating systems have current security patches? Are all applications on the current releases? Run diagnostic tests on all of your hardware. If you find PCs that are running hot, clean them. Check out hard drives so you can proactively fix those that are likely to fail. Test your backup system to make sure that you’re not just backing up, but that you can recover files and drive images. (Remember to use a spare drive for this one!)
  3. BRAINSTORM: Get your staff together to determine ways to improve your company’s systems, networks, databases and workflow. Outline what your environment would look like in an ideal world. Sure, some of the ideas will be unattainable and/or break the bank. But even the ideas that are pretty far out might inspire folks to come up with solutions that are both feasible and affordable.

Having meaningful things to work on during a lull builds morale, improves productivity, and can make your company a place that works better – and a better place to work.

         

Small business, sans office: how virtual office technology changes everything

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Virtual offices are helping many small businesses move away from large central workspaces. Here are five ways in which technology is making it possible for you and your employees to pretty much work from anywhere:

  1. Secure connections: With a laptop and connection to the ‘net, you’re all set, right? Not exactly. If employees are accessing company files and apps, you need to make sure they’re doing so securely. That’s where virtual private network (VPN) and two-factor authentication tools come into play to ensure that you’re just as secure as if you were in the office.
  2. Shake up support: Whether you’re providing tech support for your employees or customers, a support organization no longer needs to be run out of a centralized helpdesk or call center. With remote support tools like LogMeIn Rescue, your support experts can access employee and customer devices (including mobile devices) from anywhere, at any time.
  3. Say no to big hardware: The virtual office doesn’t just do away with the front office; it’s replacing the back office as well. Through third-party providers, you can access all the storage space and bandwidth you need, when you need it, for as long as you need it.
  4. While you’re at it, say no to big software: With so many SaaS offerings out there, you can take care of pretty much any business function you need by just signing up online. With so much available through the cloud, your employees can be productive wherever they are, and on any device they choose to use. (And you’re not on the hook for managing, maintaining, and supporting big software.)
  5. Forget about backups: Advanced, secure, centrally managed backup software now protects all your organization’s computers, no matter where they’re located. This let’s you scale up or down to easily back up all the devices in your organization. And you can forget about employees forgetting to backup. It’ll all be taken care of.

These are just a handful of the technologies that are making virtual offices viable for small business. In addition, video conferencing and smartphones are also helping small businesses grow while keeping the costs of maintaining a large central office down. Whether you’re considering a virtual office, or working remote policy, ensure your employees are set up with the right technology to be secure, efficient, and just as productive as if they were in the building.

 

         

Four tips to understanding your customers and set yourself apart from the competition

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Support is an opportune time to build relationships with customers and get a better understanding of their pain-points (and how to solve them). Whether on the phone, interacting via-mail, using online chat, or conversing on social media, we’ve got some tips to help you more easily gather and leverage customer information.

Figure out ahead of time what your goals are

There’s a lot of customer information you could be gathering – but you don’t want overwhelm the customer or end up with useless information. Knowing what your goals are from the onset will help you identify the data you need, and to strategically get it. For example, if you aim to reduce call volume by improving self-service troubleshooting content, you’ll want to gather information around what problems crop up most frequently – and who’s experiencing those problems.

Fine-tune your data-gathering strategy to each support channel

Different support channels are suited for gathering different types of data. Email and phone are ideal for customer surveys. Your FAQ page is an excellent way to gather demographic data. Web analytics can provide data on which webpages or help sites are viewed the most. If you’re providing remote technical support, having a tool that can gather a system’s information will help you pinpoint problem areas (e.g., your company’s website is not working well with certain browsers).

Be upfront about what information you want

Your customers may find data gathering invasive, no matter which procedure you use. Technicians should be cognizant of that, and be able to explain why this information is being gathered and what it will be used for. Tie in examples where such information has impacted customers (e.g., with customer feedback we have been able to improve our services and support). When your customer knows that answering questions about themselves helps you to provide better support, they are far more willing to provide open, honest feedback.

Keep an eye out for new use cases

Understanding how your product is being used can translate into new feature ideas, new ways to talk about your product, and even new market opportunities. You can gather this information from basic surveys and customer interviews even by technicians ask customers what they were doing when the problem occurred.

Develop a plan that covers your identified goals. By identifying the types of data that would be most useful, and determining how and where in your support channels to capture it, you’ll be well on your way.

         

Don’t fall prey to the hidden costs of on-premise remote support!

Vendors of on-premises remote support solutions will have you believe that their up-front charges are conveniently “all-inclusive,” which sounds enticing.  Upon further analysis, a sobering reality often emerges – along with an unexpected required investment.

We’ve created an infographic to help you gain visibility into the true costs of on-premises remote support.  We hope it helps when considering your options.

For more information about LogMeIn’s SaaS-based, remote support solution, Rescue, simply click here.

On-premises vs. SaaS Remote Support

On-premises vs. SaaS Remote Support