Overlapping Needs of Enterprise and Small Business
There are similar needs and demands between the world of enterprise and the world of a small business. If you consider that an enterprise is often broken down into multiple divisions and within those divisions multiple departments, each department could be considered similar to a small business. Each department has a budget to prepare and financial responsibilities, specific goals to reach, and tasks and roles required to meet those goals. In some enterprises, each department has enough empowerment that it also determines the vision and direction for its group and chooses the technology tools to meet those goals. These department requirements overlap with similar demands in the small business but are also unique in their own right. In an enterprise, SBS can be deployed, but when it is, the software tends to be a department-specific solution detached from the overall infrastructure of the firm. SBS is not designed to be part of a bigger infrastructure solution; although, it can work with proper configuration in that model. The key to remember about SBS in an enterprise is that SBS is a round peg in a square hole when used as a solution for the much larger firms, and this creates problems that result in customizations to make it work. For the large enterprise it makes more sense to deploy a different solution.
According to the National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) one of the most intimidating aspects of starting and owning a micro business is the record keeping required to produce the accounting information necessary to evaluate business goals, provide financial statements to lenders, and accumulate the appropriate information to prepare a tax return. Another key issue for the small business owner is getting all the jobs done with limited human resources. This includes marketing, sales, finance, technology utilization, administration, and product development. We must also consider that a small business owner might not have the flexibility to leave a store untended or have backup resources if a computer or product is unavailable. The following sections look at each role in a little more depth.
Marketing Within the World of the Small Business
Marketing in the micro business culture often takes the title of "grassroots." The business owner uses her creative energy to come up with every possible avenue for word-of-mouth marketing and low-cost advertisement that she can muster, while also staying within the business's vision. A small business often invests in professional business cards, brochures, and a web page (hopefully), but rarely has the budget to invest one-third of its profits to increase sales through marketing. SBS offers the marketing niche of a small business the capability to integrate the power and affordability of the Internet with the marketing plan. SBS features that might appeal to the small marketing team include the capability to send and capture faxes remotely and the capability to send and receive emails through a specially defined email address or path. Additionally, Microsoft Office and the Microsoft free templates significantly increase the marketing power of the small business. When thinking about meeting the marketing needs for the small business owner, remember to mention items such as Microsoft Publisher and the Microsoft website of standard templates located easily through the Office software or through the office.microsoft.com website. The direct link is http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/default.aspx?Application=OF&Ver=11.
The Sales Impact in the World of Small Business
In a micro business, with a sales team of one or two, which often includes the business owner, a small firm must stay organized. Each member of the team must handle more responsibility than just sales while also efficiently communicating to the other multitasking members about who has been talked to when and what was said. Utilization of the public folders within Outlook and Exchange can significantly help keep a small firm organized. Collaborative calendars, an incoming email address defined as "sales," and joint task lists can be used to increase communication and documentation of best practice process. The sales team and process in a micro business also include referrals and business alliance partners who need access to critical proprietary information. A SharePoint partner page available to a few selected partners can increase the reliability of consistent messages going out to prospects. A SharePoint site also allows other documents, key to good business alliances, to be stored and shared in this manner; including signed contracts, letters of agreement, price lists, and project plans.
Technology and the Small Business Owner
As much as the small business owner would love the luxury of a full-time information technology specialist onsite, he often must depend on an outside IT consultant for support needs. Today's IT support billing model is by the hour, and every hour of support that can be saved means a smaller impact to the bottom line for a small business. SBS helps with this issue by specifically targeting the best practice of a remote support model. In fact most of the time SBS does not require that a technician be onsite for support and support can be supplied on a running basis from anywhere in the world utilizing the remote control features of SBS. This increases the technology resources available to the small business owner without increasing the costs. This increases the funds available for the small business owner to invest in training and higher utilization of the technology tools he has purchased. When support is not draining all the resources of the small business, more resources can be invested in leveraging technology as a competitive advantage.
Finance and Cash Flow for the Managers of Small Business
The small business niche has unique financial needs that center on cash flow. The lack of cash flow within a small business can almost always kill a potential sale, and the variable can change significantly from one day to the next. It is important to understand not only that the small business can be cash flow sensitive but also that each industry niche can impact the area of finance differently. For example, if you look at the Accounting firm niche, you would find that most purchases are made in May and June. This comes from two variables. The first is that individual tax season is over as of April 15, and the second is that the billing and receivables for those completed tax returns are received in May and June.
The small business owner specializing in a specific product or service must continually consider the financial requirements offered and must deal with new unfamiliar terms and new ways to do things. The small business owner must deal with decisions about complex accounting situations. In medium size or large enterprise firms, a CFO or Accounting Department, trained in the intricacies of finance, handles this organizational need. If we also consider the tax requirements, we can easily categorize finance as a unique beast within the small business niche. When it comes to the IRS and taxpayers, there is a special group called the self-employed small business owner. The tax return of the self-employed contains schedules and forms not required by other working Americans and in many respects is more complicated and expensive to prepare, and yet the small business owner also has another limiting factor: Their choices are often significantly limited by their available budgets and cash flow.