When you ask a small business owner how technology is changing his or her business, you can expect a million different answers depending on products, services, and business philosophies. The conundrum for small businesses in the 21st century is that new, unproven technologies are released daily and it’s nearly impossible to keep tabs on which ones are viable and which are vapor. The flip side of that coin is that the industry is constantly churning out new tools to help small businesses grow — and these tools are available at prices that don’t hit small business budgets hard.
The Center for Workforce Excellence is a perfect example of a small business with very specific tech needs. The company offers leadership and workforce development services for a range of Fortune 500 companies (including Intel), with a focus on building opportunities for women and people of color. The company’s CEO, Trudy Bourgeois, uses technology in a number of ways to grow her business and deliver for her clients.
IT in the Age of Decentralized Services
Even though the business has been operating for 14 years, Bourgeois and her husband are the only full-time employees at The Center for Workforce Excellence — the company leverages a network of contractors they can call on when they need to staff up. Though some small businesses have the luxury of a full IT team when it comes to maintaining the company’s tech infrastructure, others, like Bourgeois, outsource in order to keep overhead costs in check.
“I always had IT in corporate,” Bourgeois says. “It was ‘come get it; take it; give me another one; I don’t want the headache.’ But now, if something goes wrong, I have to troubleshoot. I’m not as confident as I’d like to be in the tech area.”
One of the biggest advances technology has afforded Bourgeois’ company is the ability to learn quickly and easily communicate with her busy executive clientele. Bourgeois travels more than 100,000 miles a year to coach executives and soon-to-be-leaders, and her mobile office consists of a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet.
“These are my basics,” she says. “This is all I need to do business, anywhere. I can do research in a snap. I love that. I still remember having to go hunt for data. From that perspective, it definitely has made things much, much better.”
Prioritizing Digital to Accelerate Growth
Bourgeois and other entrepreneurs see technology as a way to grow their businesses while keeping costs low. By creating more digital classes, Bourgeois can literally be in multiple places at once, which is a tremendous opportunity for The Center for Workforce Excellence.
“Digital-based learning opportunities are going to be a priority,” she explains. “With today’s resources, you can basically reconfigure a classroom — it’s not the same thing as live, but if you’re a global organization, you can’t afford to fly people all over the globe all the time.”
If your product is your consulting and therefore your physical presence, a streamlined virtualization of your services could create limitless opportunities for your bottom line. She says the efficient and effortless communication afforded by modern technologies like her smartphone and laptop is one of the most exciting things for small businesses.
“You can communicate with your audience 24/7 through all kinds of platforms,” she says. “Those things are all great.”