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What small and medium-sized businesses must do to survive

Small and medium-sized businesses can transform hard work into success by harnessing technology, investing in talent

Starting a business is probably the most exciting - and frightening - thing you will ever do.

It takes passion, dedication, commitment and persistence.

How then, can small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) channel and transform their hard work into success?

An International Data Corporation (IDC) report recently revealed that reducing costs, gaining operational efficiency, and improving productivity are the top business priorities for SMBs across the Asia-Pacific region in the coming year.

It is no surprise that SMBs have limited resources on top of these operational challenges, making it harder for them to stay ahead of external challenges and grow their business.

Industry competition is one of the biggest external challenges facing SMBs today.

Digital disruption has also forced many SMBs to rethink their business model.

At the heart of this challenge is also the end-customer's expectations. The consumer of today expects a seamless experience that is on demand, and it is getting harder to meet those expectations.

These are all external variables that can overwhelm SMB owners as they face a myriad of changes and disruption.

The advantage SMBs have is that they are agile.

SMBs may also face challenges attracting and retaining talent. Business owners need to think about how they design job roles, organise work and invest in training and development.

The annual Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed 76 per cent of millennials believe businesses have the power to make a difference.

This is a highly informed generation that wants to help the world be a better place. They want to work in organisations that have a clear purpose, invest in skills and career development, and impact society in a positive manner.

They are also looking towards "structured but flexible work", and SMBs that are serious about retaining talent cannot avoid having a mobile workforce.

Harnessing technology and putting people at the centre of change is an imperative.

To effect change, technology will be a differentiator in creating a more seamless customer experience for SMBs to stay ahead and to compete in the war for talent.

Keeping operational cost down and doing more with less is quite possibly the mantra to succeed, external factors aside. Financing could also be a challenge to some SMBs.

With limited human and financial resources, SMBs need their technology infrastructure to be easy to set up, flexible and scalable to their needs.

There are also grants to help SMBs adopt technology.

The right technology should serve as the foundation for the digital business and workforce, with tools to increase innovation, productivity and employee satisfaction - all directly impacting customer satisfaction.

Having a secure network also means an organisation is protected by a solution that can stop threats, gain insights, detect threats earlier and act faster.

Cyber criminals also target SMBs. SMBs are learning that this is important, and based on an IDC report, 84 per cent of SMBs across Asia-Pacific said they are focusing on building a secure IT environment.

Ensuring that technology is protected safeguards your and your customers' data.

Using technology to transform your business framework will be the start to future-proofing your business.

The writer is vice-president of commercial in Asia Pacific and Japan at Cisco.

BUSINESS & FINANCE