Technology helps small businesses <br>to grow, adapt to new world

Throughout the month of May, Chambers of Commerce throughout the country will recognize small businesses for their achievements and contributions. One look at the statistics explains why they deserve our praise.
Small businesses have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to SmallBusiness.com. And according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business owners represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
But even as recently as 15 years ago, small businesses were often limited by their geography to local or regional customers. Today, thanks to advances in technology, many of the 26 million small businesses in the United States can operate globally.
A stronger and faster Internet has paved the way for a store in Springfield, Ill., for example, to receive purchase orders via computer from a customer in Oslo, Norway, who read about the product on a blog.
Yet despite the global horizon, many small-business owners still face several challenges, among them the many hats they must wear – from CEO to administrative assistant. Small business owners are often knee-deep in immediate objectives – sales goals, finance and people resources, marketing and advertising campaigns – even pitching in on administrative tasks such as large mailings or office moves. Add to the mix unexpected changes to the economic landscape, and small-business owners can have trouble seeing over the top of the desk, let alone across the continents.
One obstacle small businesses will face takes effect today (Monday, May 14), when the U.S. Postal Service increases its postage rate, not just for its first-class stamp, but for weighted mail as well. (READ MORE) This new increase comes barely 18 months after the last postage increase.
Many small businesses, no matter how technologically savvy, depend on mailings to drive their business and keep customers and potential customers informed. A postage rate increase will mean additional trips to the post office, which will cost time, and additional guess work on package weights, which will cost money.
This is where new technology can help. Owners of small and home-based businesses no longer have to choose between buying an expensive postal meter system and standing in line at the post office. New systems combine the traditional scales that weigh the letter/package, while Internet connections make sure the mailing labels that are printed are up-to-date. Some systems charge monthly service fees, while others do not, but in either case, the solutions are examples of how small businesses can save time and money that can then be plowed back into the business reaching out to new markets.
While some of us started in the business world when it was “low-tech,” adapting to changing technology has paid great dividends. It will continue to play a growing role in the success of small businesses – the backbone of our economy.
This month’s celebrations were designed to applaud the contributions of small businesses, but the term “small” may be misleading for many of them. For in today’s ever-changing global and technological landscape, there is a good chance your local florist, Realtor or art gallery owner has just made a sale with a new customer – 1,000 miles away.

Joseph R. Cardamone is president of the United States Federation of Small Businesses, an advocate for small businesses and the self-employed since 1983.

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