Small companies can gain competitive advantage through the effective use of IT and office equipment technology, as well as by taking advantage of marketing opportunities like events and exhibitions. 

Attending exhibitions and using the opportunity to educate themselves on where technology is heading, as well as being able to compare different products and services, can be time well spent for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners, says Sandra Galbraith, GM of Exhibitions for Africa.
"Visiting a targeted exhibition like Futurex & Equip Cape Town lets SME owners talk to a number of technology and office equipment suppliers, discuss his particular needs, and shop around – all in one place and at the same time," she says.
The ongoing SME Survey 2007, carried out by World Wide Worx, shows that successful and very successful SMEs make use of events like exhibitions.
However, World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck is quick to point out that there are a number of other factors that go into making a successful SME – with the use of technology and access to the Internet topping the list.
"The interim results indicate that there are common IT-related factors that astute business owners take advantage of to improve the performance of their company," Goldstuck says.
Those SMEs that use hardware and software products, as well as those that employ emerging technologies like notebook computers or voice over IP, are also more likely to be competitive or highly competitive. At the other end of the scale, companies that use no IT products at all tend not to be competitive.
The same is true on the office equipment front: those SMEs which employ a multi-function device (printer, scanner, fax machine and photocopier combined) tend to be more competitive than those with standalone products.
However, companies that use office equipment products are more competitive than those that don't – so any office automation is better than none, but the more advanced, the better an SME's chance of competitiveness.
"Companies that want to be competitive need to open themselves up to new technologies and look at how they can use them to improve their businesses," Goldstuck says. 'It seems that, from an IT point of view, a willingness to embrace new technology and a company's ability to make it work for them are what characterises a competitive SME."
The research findings offer compelling reasons for SMEs to focus on IT and office equipment technologies – and to make full use of events like exhibitions to educate themselves. Galbraith says visitors to Futurex & Equip and Securex, being held at the Cape Town Convention Centre from 26-28 September 2007, will have the opportunity to check out the technologies and products that can help them become more competitive and ensure their long-term success.