The Start of a New Golden Age for Mid-Size Businesses

This is a copy of a blog post that appeared in Digitalist Magazine, ably assisted by Shelly Dutton

Among the world’s small and midsize companies, millions of multi-generational family businesses underpin many economies. They have proven their staying power by defeating the overwhelming odds of not surviving past the second generation of ownership. And they likely accomplished that distinction while dealing with changes that range from fluctuating revenue and various sales strategies to evolving ideas about hiring and succession.

Not known for rash decision-making, these family businesses tend to think about the long term. But unfortunately, this mindset can make them reluctant to invest in emerging technology until they’ve been proven elsewhere – especially by a competitor.

Why do I say “unfortunately”? If any lessons were learned over the last decade, one of them is undoubtedly that technology innovation has leveled the playing field for businesses of all sizes. As we head into 2020, I foresee many more small and midsize companies reaching new customer segments, expanding into new markets, and achieving market leadership – without the traditional challenges of “not being big enough” getting in the way.

Beginning a new era of competitive growth

The bottom line about technology adoption is the delivery of two capabilities that are meaningful to every customer, employee, and business partner: operational agility and an empathetic focus on experiences.

Larger enterprises indeed have more access to resources, notably the latest technologies and teams of people, to deliver on these promises. But this reality is no longer a guarantee that they will have the winning hand every time. Innovations such as predictive analyticsmachine learning, and artificial intelligence have allowed companies as small as five employees to access the same computing power as their larger competitors – only to take action faster and better.

Debra Chin, the founder of MotoChic, knows this reality well. Frustrated with the lack of practical, yet fashionable, motorcycle gear available for women, she turned to Kickstarter to create a company. But Chin was still missing the real-time data necessary to make informed decisions about her business model, product design, marketing, and production. By adopting experience management analytics, she acquired the right data, at the right time, from the right audience to guide her strategy and to keep design and production costs down.

For businesses like MotoChic, such a customer-focused, agile move is rocket fuel for their growth. But perhaps more surprising is their ability to be at the forefront of their industry’s digital transformation. Unlike larger organizations, their strategy isn’t based on corporate key performance indicators handed down by faceless executives. It’s based on a deeply held, unwavering commitment to providing the best possible customer experience, aided by in-depth personal knowledge of employee experiences.

Small, family-owned companies (even those that are centuries old) understand that new technologies don’t change business strategy. They embrace digital investments as tools that enable them to double-down on what they do best: serving more customers and empowering their staff to work better with fewer resources.

Take, for example, Swinkels Family Brewers (formerly Bavaria Brewery). The 300-year-old family-owned brewery produces a staggering 2.2 billion bottles of beer a year across 26 brands – none of which would be possible without its 1,500 employees. With an eye on continued and strategic growth, the business reinvigorated its customer experience by adopting a single customer experience platform. The technology leverages machine learning capabilities to capture, process, and analyze personal, behavioral, and product-related data from its customers.

A 2020 outlook of amplified agility, adaptability, and flexibility

Traditionally, midsize businesses that are multi-generationally family-owned do not have easy access to IT departments and expertise. But now, computing power and expert applications are available on demand, at a reasonable price, with no infrastructure or dedicated staff required.

So as you look ahead into 2020, know this: the next decade will undoubtedly bring expectations that are different than anything you’ve experienced before. And when you choose a path like Swinkles’ and MotoChic’s, your business will become more agile than your larger competitors as you adapt faster to change, pivot processes with precision, and seize every opportunity to grow.

See IDC’s list of top trends for small and midsize businesses in the 2020s. Download the IDC infographic, sponsored by SAP, “The Roaring 2020s – Six Trends Midsize Companies in the Next Decade.” 

 And we invite you to join our upcoming webinar for a deeper dive into each of these trends and what you can do now to take advantage of them.  Register for “Winning in the 2020s: Six Trends Every Midsize Company Needs to Know.”