Globalisation and technological advances are combining to shape a world where a small business’ competitor is no longer just across the street. Technology means the UK’s small businesses now have the ability to service global markets from their dining table, but many aren’t seizing the opportunity.
According to a recent Xero survey of 1,300 UK small businesses, many deliberately remain small to stay beneath onerous government taxation and compliance thresholds. Given the economic contribution these entities make to UK GDP, this has a material impact on the overall UK economy.
But we’re heading towards a cliff. For many small businesses, avoiding technology simply won’t be an option. The services sector is one area where the old way of operating is already being completely disrupted. Platforms like Freelancer.com or Upwork have boosted competition, enabling architects, graphic designers or web developers, for example, to take jobs in almost any market.
“We’re seeing a higher level of commoditisation of services, especially when businesses realise they operate in a world where location doesn’t necessarily define them – their competitors can be on the other side of the globe,” Xero CEO, Rod Drury, said.
“The ability of small businesses to grow is hinged on being able to access capital and talent. By enabling them to tap global markets for both, you’re upping their survival chances and increasingly their potential to accelerate, just by taking advantage of how small the world has become.”
Using technology to go global
Financial forecasting growth company, CrunchBoards, is one UK business that has found itself servicing customers right around the world. It’s a situation that technology has both propelled, and played a big role in helping to assist.
Coming off a six week stint in Australia, CrunchBoards co-founder Amy Harris’ travel schedule these days is a bit nuts. After establishing the startup in the beachside city of Brighton, Harris and her co-founder, Hannah McIntyre, didn’t expect to be hitting a double-digit growth trajectory just 18 months in.
Before launching at Xerocon in Sydney back in 2014, Harris recalls: “We wanted 100 people to try this product before we launched it, we had 700 people sign up in eight weeks from right around the world.”
“When we launched in Sydney, it really hit home. We had people signing up on the spot at the stand. We needed an office and people in that time zone to support our partners on the ground. That’s why scenario planning and forecasting is so important, you have to plan and see what’s coming, instantly.”
CrunchBoards now has offices in Sydney, London and Brighton, and has signed up more than 7,500 users across 70 countries. It’s just one example of how the UK’s small businesses are now servicing global markets, and can become industry leaders in the process.
Technology has opened up markets all over the world and enabled companies to no longer be constrained by their locations. With business platforms like Xero, small businesses are also able to leverage solutions which were once only available to big businesses.