In fact, many UK business owners are taking exporting to heart, with recent research from Citrix and YouGov finding 6 out of 10 UK SMEs anticipate doing business internationally in the year ahead. A 20 percent increase in the number of UK SMEs currently selling or sourcing products or services abroad.
As these businesses grow in 2016 they will need to change the way they work. Collaboration tools such as video conferencing enable them to “punch above their weight” and address a global customer base, which otherwise would not be possible due to a lack of resources.
Technology will allow SMEs to scale without necessarily adding staff. Investing in the right technology enables business owners to test new markets, automate processes and explore outsourcing production or service delivery to another market, managing vital relationships through technology.
Narrowing the digital skills gap in 2016 by tapping into global and freelance expertise
Where location once determined who businesses could employ, platforms like LinkedIn and the option of working effectively from any location means the ability to tap into a larger talent pool to find the right skillsets for a business
In 2016 SMEs are set to prioritise digital skills, ensuring they incorporate the right talent mix to grow their business and service customers. Citrix and YouGov’s research found that employing new staff with a digital competence was the third most important factor for growing a business after access to fast internet connections and expenditure on technology.
Additionally, businesses are moving away from a structured workforce to a more project-based world, where experts and individuals are pulled in where necessary.
These two factors have contributed to a booming freelance economy. With the lack of specific digital talent internally and locally, SMEs are searching for remote workers and freelancers elsewhere. For businesses, freelancers are generally more mobile and flexible, well suited for a dynamic, fast-paced and project-based environment.
Expanding SME growth beyond London in 2016
Though London is touted as one of the fastest growing regions for SMBs, a surge of investment for “The Northern Powerhouse”, discussed in the 2015 Autumn Statement, is set to help small businesses in region grow exponentially in 2016.
With the ‘devolution revolution’, local authorities receiving income generated from business rates, councils will control over £13 billion of additional local tax revenues, and £26 billion in total business rate revenues. The funding will go a long way to address infrastructure overhauls that are desperately needed, including reliable broadband and improved transit links.
Access to reliable broadband enables SMEs to take advantage of technologies, such as videoconferencing and other collaborative tools. This will in turn provide the opportunity for SMBs to hire staff remotely, ensuring they have access to the skills needed to grow their businesses and can conduct meetings, limiting the need for extensive travel.
Beyond the virtual meeting, new revenue opportunities in 2016
Technology and digital has torn up the traditionally linear relationship between employees and revenues. Truly digital businesses have a different dynamic. Look at Uber and the small size of its workforce compared to its revenues.
Not everyone can come up with a market disrupting digital business model. However, technology can help a small business owners scale, compete and open new revenue streams.
In the year ahead we’re expecting to see small businesses take advantage of technology to expand the services they offer customers, such as yoga and cocktail subscription classes available remotely, while providing a new revenue opportunity.