At the inaugural BigFive Summit in May, we ended Day 1 with a panel of three Cape Town area small business operators who talked about the pain points they experience as small business owners, giving the audience some real-time evidence of the pain points SME solutions providers have the opportunity to solve.
The panel members were Chantelle Bowyer, CEO, Metis Online, a digital agency; Juan Karstel, a freelance growth marketing consultant; and Grant Greef, CEO, of eHire, an events supply company. Chantelle played the dual role of panelist and moderator.
Personal Pain Points
Chantelle began by asking the panelist to share personal pain points they feel as business owners. They generally revolved around prioritization and focus.
Chantelle opened with her own challenge, “The hat Scenario” or trying to decide which “hat” to wear on any given day.
Juan shared that he struggled with focus, not on whether to work but what to work on in order to hone a specialty and differentiate his business.
“Digital agencies are a dime a dozen and many oare not successful because they are too diverse,” he said. “It is important to niche yourself.”
Grant said avoiding distractions is a key to success and a challenge he struggles with as a business owner.
Business Pain Points
The conversation then pivoted to business rather than personal pain points. What are the things that stand in the way of their businesses’ success and growth?
Grant shared a few almost universal business pain points.
The first is cash flow. His company, which hires out tables, chairs, cutlery and so on to live events like conferences and trade shows, is offering a 5% discount for prepayment for events more than 30 days away as a way to improve cash flow.
He also cited the challenge of communicating a single message to all of his 39 staff, who range from salespeople to dishwashers, in a mane than is uniformly understood so the company moves in the same direction and executes.
“Everyone interprets information in different ways,” Grant said.
Digital and Automation Tools
Perhaps the most revealing segment came when Chatelle turned the conversation to the use of digital and automation tools to run their businesses.
Juan described his ambitions to make better use of Zapier, a platform that integrates various cloud tools that businesses use, in order to make his business much more efficient.
“But I haven’t done it yet,” he said. “Because of life. And work.”
This articulates a pain point for SMEs, the lack of time to execute on every idea and to take full advantage of the tools they use. And this translates into a pain point for solutions providers. Getting small businesses to use their products.
Grant’s company, despite being very “offline” in nature, has embraced the “platform ecosystem” in order to run his business. His accounting, sales, and logistics systems are all integrated. And as orders are being fulfilled, clients receive an SMS that gives them access to a real-time order tracking system.
He said it’s very important for solutions providers to enable the interoperability of tools.
What Does an SMB Dream Product Look Like?
Chantelle asked the panelists to describe what a dream product that eliminated all of their business pain points would look like.
Juan joked that it would be something that added more hours to the day.
“It would definitely be something that automates the things that take you a long time to do,” Juan said, adding that he would like to automate for himself the things that he does manually for clients, like producing content for marketing.
Chantelle described this as the “car mechanic scenario” where the mechanic who fixes others’ cars while their car is always broken.
Grant articulated a vision for an app that combines employee time management with productivity and messaging.
And Chantelle said her ideal product takes the 15 different logins she uses each day and combines it into a single login, and most importantly, a single bill. She noted her software licensing costs are about ZAR 20,000 per month.
This all in one solution Chantelle articulated is a common desire among small business. Research in the U.S. by the Local Search Association has demonstrated this time and again.
However, adoption of these solutions has been relatively low to date, perhaps in part due to the fact that these platforms are often best in breed for one core feature, like CRM, but just good enough for everything else.