These days, all it takes is a stroll through the business section of your local bookstore or a quick glimpse at CNBC to recognize that women are stepping out from supporting roles, showcasing their entrepreneurial prowess, and embracing technology at record rates.
Recent data supports that theory. Currently, more than 9.1 million firms in the U.S. are owned by women, up from 8.6 million in 2013. Women-owned firms employed nearly 7.9 million people, and generated $1.4 trillion in annual sales as of 2014. In many cases, powerful technology, including the cloud, is helping SMBs scale and compete with much larger enterprises.
Even with this amazing amount of progress, we at times still hear echoes of “technology isn’t for everyone,” or “it’s just too complicated.” In response I point to a study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that found small and midsized businesses (SMBs) which use technology grow faster and create more jobs than SMBs with low levels of technology adoption. Small business owners, and the overall economy, simply cannot afford to miss out on the growth opportunities afforded by technology.
So the question becomes how do we take the mystery out of technology? Below, I’ve outlined a few simple tips for women SMB owners to get started.
Keep it simple – An investment in technology doesn’t mean you suddenly need to start speaking in terabytes or writing code. It can be as simple as investing in new, mobile hardware or upgrading your server. In fact, the upcoming Windows Server 2003 End of Support makes now an opportune time to reevaluate your technology to ensure the security of your customer data and the safety of your business.
Invest in the cloud – Cloud technology has really transformed the types of capabilities new and smaller businesses have access to. Cloud services are provided on a subscription basis and maintained by a cloud services provider, so they enable a new business to be up and running in a matter of hours, with professional email, productivity applications, enterprise-grade communications tools like IM, voice and video conferencing – requiring neither an investment in expensive hardware, nor a full time IT staff. The availability of cloud computing as a scalable, affordable small business tool is also a significant opportunity for women looking to start up their own businesses.
Keep Learning – You don’t need an IT degree to become tech-savvy. Talk to a friend or fellow business owner about becoming your tech mentor. You can also sign up for classes at your local Microsoft store that will teach you everything from Power BI to how to use PayPal for your business. Many stores also offer more personalized 1:1 training for a fee.
Know that nothing is off limits – For centuries, laws and cultural expectations excluded women from starting businesses. Even those who were courageous enough to want to strike out on their own were stalled by limited access to capital and credit. Fortunately, those days are behind us, and women are leading some of our nation’s biggest brands. Instead of letting technology be yet another thing that impedes our dreams of success, make it the thing that propels you to the top.
Disclosure: Melinda F. Emerson, the publisher of Succeedasyownboss.com was compensated to publish this article.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. She has been with Microsoft for 15 years and is a recognized thought leader in the SMB space. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMBs in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.