Why Even The Smallest Businesses Must Embrace Technology

NEW YORK — Larger and medium-size companies are establishing digital business models based on the latest technology, but many of the smallest corporations are still taking the very first steps toward establishing an online identify. Yet even the smallest companies must establish an online presence, according to Robert Herjavec, star of angel investment reality show Shark Tank. Tech plays a key role in his new show Small Business Revolution on Main Street, an online series developed by business services company Deluxe Corp.

Main Street is a reality series in which Mr. Herjavec and Amanda Brinkman, the chief brand and communications officer of Deluxe Corp., help revitalize the town of Wabash in northern Indiana, investing $500,000. They work with a handful of small businesses, each featured in a segment of the show, which debuts Sept. 27 at smallbusinessrevolution.org and streams on Hulu beginning Oct. 12. Deluxe, of Shoreview, Minn., is a 100-year-old public company that says it invented the paper check, and has since moved into business services and development for small businesses and financial institutions.

On Tuesday, they screened the second episode of the series, which features the strategic overhaul of Harry’s Old Kettle pub, a labor of love for owners Harry and Judy Kilmer, into the hopefully self-sustaining Harry’s Old Kettle Pub & Grill.

“One of the things we tried to do was encourage people to believe in themselves … and compete with other businesses in other towns, on a global scale. And it’s really what they do with the money, and the information and the infrastructure that we have helped them with,” said Mr. Herjavec. He says many small businesses lack even a basic online presence. Inc. reported in 2015 that 60% of very small businesses, those with one to five people, don’t have a website.

“At the time, Harry’s did not have a website … which is not only difficult from a bar perspective, but from a restaurant perspective. If you’re not listed in online directories, if you are not findable online, if your menu isn’t online, it’s very hard for you to get drive in traffic, especially from outside of the community, as well as within,” Ms. Brinkman said. “So, we thought that was a really important thing to implement for them.” In the case of Harry’s, it was necessary to extend the pub’s online presence to about 20 online directories.

Mr. Herjavec, who also runs an IT security business, Herjavec Group, said technology was a key part of the work that the pair put into Wabash. “People used to say to me what is your best sector to sell into, and we used to say, finance. Today, I don’t say that anymore because every business is a technology business,” he said.

They made use of a range of social platforms, but Mr. Herjavec remains a proponent of email marketing, too.

“I will tell you one thing that … I also learned from Shark Tank .. We see a lot of small businesses that are jumping to Snapchat, to Instagram and getting big business that way, and leaving email marketing by the wayside. It is almost this indignant attitude, oh, email, nobody cares about that anymore,” he said. “But it is fundamentally cheaper to sell to an existing customer than it is to sell to a new customer. And by using that database of customers and emailing them on a regular basis, you can really increase your revenue at a very, very small cost.”

By Steve Rosenbush
Source: WSJ