When it comes to business success, does technology really make a difference? On May 22nd in downtown Los Angeles, California, small business owners and leaders gathered to discuss just that. Hosted by PayPal, NAWBO National and Small Business Roundtable, the event focused on ways small businesses can leverage technology to develop their businesses, as well as tools and trends that are especially beneficial to underserved businesses.
We spoke with several women business owners who span different generations and business sizes and took part in the event to get the inside scoop and find out their key takeaways. Read on to hear from Emily Griesing, Chief Strategy Officer at Bossible, Bonnie Nijst, President/CEO at FIDGET Branding and Robinne Burrell, Founder/Chief Production Officer at Redflight Innovation.
Q: Why was it important for you to be a part of this event?
Emily: I was happy to offer my perspective on this panel as I’m in the unique position of being a Millennial woman running a small business while also dealing with clients, vendors and contractors of all ages and backgrounds who are approaching technology through very different lenses. Also, as a marketer, I understand that it’s critical for small business owners to stay nimble in adapting to the ever-changing digital space in order to thrive, grow and stay competitive.
Bonnie: It was important for me because our mission at FIDGET Branding is to enable small, mid-sized and diverse businesses to compete and thrive in a rapidly changing sales and marketing environment. And that requires “leaning in” to new technology. The fact is, you’re not doing anyone any good, you’re not really leading, if you’re in denial about the impact technology is having on your business.
Robinne: It’s important to be one of the voices that represent women business owners in the Greater Los Angeles area and speak to the challenges and roads to success that I’ve encountered along the way.
Q: How has technology/the digital marketplace served you as a woman business owner?
Emily: I’m a recent transplant to L.A. and without technology, I would not have been able to expand my business here. With so many of my clients on the east coast, being accessible via email or messenger, as well as being able to access platforms like Google Suite, Dropbox, Mailchimp, Twitter, etc., is critical for me as I can now work from anywhere. The ease and flexibility of this makes my business run more smoothly while also allowing me to live the life I want to live without being tied down to one office in one location. Due to technology, I can run a company that serves a diverse array of clients nationwide, which is financially, intellectually and emotionally fulfilling for me.
Bonnie: Technology has served me as a business owner by helping to make me more effective in growing relationships, creating results for our clients and managing complex communications among far-flung team members. It’s evolved and totally transformed parts of our business. In fact, there are things that we do now for our clients that didn’t even exist as products and services 10 years ago. It’s also helped us to more efficiently scale our business and more easily connect with resources that enable us to provide levels of service that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.
Robinne: Every part of my business touches technology and the digital marketplace in one way or another. I have dedicated a great deal of my career to being at the forefront of those technologies and helping others to benefit from digital platforms.
Q: Why would you encourage small business owners to leverage technology to grow their business (especially if they’re not already doing so)?
Emily: If you are not leveraging technology (or not to the extent you could be), you are missing out on huge opportunities for a number of reasons. First, email and apps have allowed us to outsource partners for various services, as contractors and employees, and to generate new clients or customers. This interconnectivity is key to expanding your reach and making your business scalable. Second, the more we can automate as small businesses, the better—technology can help us reduce human error, take tasks off of our plates and expedite processes. In short, technology allows us to 1) run our current business better and 2) help us get to the next phase more easily.
Bonnie: The biggest reason why I would encourage small business owners to leverage technology to grow their businesses is, quite simply, that they can’t afford not to. That as risky as change may feel in the moment, the even greater risk is standing still.
Robinne: We live in an age where the paradigm shift of offline to online has made its full transition and so it’s almost impossible to succeed as a business owner if you don’t know how your customers are connecting with brands and their desires in a digital space.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the Small Business Roundtable?
Emily: Don’t be afraid to ask for help in areas that aren’t familiar to you (e.g., I still constantly ask friends of mine to break down blockchain for me!). Crowdsource all sorts of people in your orbit about what trends they are seeing (even if it’s not in your industry) as well as what industry-specific leaders are doing and how you can learn from them. Also, a simple Google search will answer every basic question a small business owner would want to know about technology.
Bonnie: My biggest takeaway from the event is that everyone is being impacted by change. Resilience and adaptability are muscles we all have to continue to develop. Whether we’re dealing with multi-generational workplaces, trends in B2B buying or new technologies, in order to succeed we all have to get comfortable with our own discomfort...and then move forward anyway.
Robinne: It’s wonderful to see so many other business owners navigating the future of connecting with customers, building revenue and maximizing efficiency with digital tools. PayPal is no different—they continue to evolve their services to find a way that breaks through the clutter of options into the best solutions for each business. It was great to see businesses both micro and massive in the same boat.