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Thinking SME? Think IT

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The greatest challenge for most start-up SME owners? “Focusing on their core business.”

This is the opinion of Ivan Epstein, CEO of Softline, who says: “Doing the ‘actual business’ of your business is often that much more difficult for SMEs because of the diverse set of responsibilities that lie with each individual.
"Because the workforce is so much smaller in the SME set-up, employees are required to multitask that much more across a wide range of work types. This often means that, along the way, the core business – the part that generates the money – can end up neglected, as opportunities arise and focus becomes diluted.”
As natural visionaries, Epstein explains that entrepreneurs need the time and space to seek the opportunities they have identified in the market, and work on creating the “bigger picture” that is their business.
“The entrepreneur ‘leads’ their business. Their role is to inspire other employees to follow their vision and implement it, and build a sustainable company. For the business to succeed, they need to concentrate on the company’s core opportunities.”
Because SMEs – especially in start-ups – have to balance strategic relationships, continuing to focus their energies on what their customers want, Epstein suggests investing in relevant IT solutions as soon as they have developed their product or service.
“IT solutions is an important step for SME owners. They allow them to increase the business’s value proposition and level the playing field in the market. In this way they will be able to continue building on their vision – and make themselves viable in their specific industry.”
Epstein thus believes IT can make a large difference. “SMEs need to start seeing software as an asset as opposed to an expense. IT is a tried and tested ‘time-creator’ for a business owner.”
This investment can start off moderately and migrate upwards in line with the growth of the business.
As a leading provider of accounting, payroll and CRM solutions to small, medium and large-sized companies, Softline is in the privileged position of having access to a diverse range of companies across a spectrum of industries. As such, it sees what works and what doesn’t.
“Too many SMEs often postpone putting the correct systems in place,” explains Epstein. “What they don’t realise is that by taking this approach, they often jeopardise the very foundation they are trying so hard to put in place.”
He adds that there’s no such thing as a being too small to implement an IT solution.
“With so many products and solutions available on the market, SMEs are in the perfect position to custom build their ideal IT system. This essentially means they can pick and choose from a range of off the shelf and other solutions, and integrate these to meet their exact needs. They can then continue to develop these as the company grows.”
Take the range of solutions offered by Softline for example, SMEs are literally empowered to “mind their own business” and focus on developing their product/service and vision. Epstein says that what SMEs don’t realise is that by simply implementing a CRM solution they can manage the interaction between their business and customers, potential customers, suppliers and even other members of staff. By going further and synchronising their CRM solution with an accounting system, they can then merge the functionality of finance, sales and marketing.
Epstein says that a simple implementation like the one just described saves both time and money – effortlessly – and has the added advantage of making the SME seem that far more professional. Often when trying to establish yourself in the market and generate market share, customers and clients need to be impressed by your efficiency and excellence.
"By investing in a proven accounting solution to issue invoices for example, you’re showing your clients your commitment to them and their business and, more importantly, your commitment to your business – something vital when you’re a start-up. You’re also effectively buying yourself time to do what you do best.”
In an era where so many SME owners find themselves unfortunately having to close shop after those critical first two years, perhaps more owners should find themselves viable “software partners” like Softline. That way, they will at least underpin the administrative functions with increased controls leading to hopefully better revenue, cost and profit management.