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Expert Advice for High-Growth Businesses

5 Foundations for SMB Growth and Success

Reggie Bradford
SVP, Startup Ecosystem & Accelerator

As the digital age unfolds, one fact is increasingly clear: organizations that stand still move backwards. As new business models and ways of working emerge, the need for innovation and disruption grows.

But change isn’t easy, and building a business that can change with the times can be downright daunting. Today's technology completely rewires interactions and touchpoints with your customers, your investors—even your employees. It requires new thinking, and sometimes it requires entirely different approaches.

The common denominator? SMBs must address five critical areas: operations, information technology (IT), human resources, finance, and customer experience. If an SMB seeks truly transformative results, it must put best practices to work.

Here's how you can take your SMB’s performance to the next level:

1. Think About Operations

Manual processes devour time and resources. And they don’t incorporate digital interactions, which offer more customized, contextual, and relevant real-time data. An SMB's ability to succeed hinges heavily on implementing highly connected and digitized systems. The goals are to automate workflows, collapse processes, and drive innovation—resulting in new products and services, as well as overall efficiencies and lower costs.

2. Tap Technology

Not all technology is created equal, and the sum of technology is often greater than the individual parts. To gain maximum benefit from technology, SMBs must build out systems that deliver maximum agility, flexibility, reliability, scalability, security, and ultimately, insight.

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Increasingly, this means tapping the cloud to build out an infrastructure and introducing features that support digital interaction. But it doesn't stop there. An SMB also must tap mobility and the emerging Internet of Things (IoT). A fully connected cloud—one that spans lines of business—speeds and compresses sales cycles. It also helps an SMB recognize and cater to emerging trends faster.

3. Use Human Capital Management

An SMB's leadership team must understand today's opportunities, current technology, security concerns and risks, and how to roll up their sleeves and play different roles as needed. Leaders also must understand how the right combination of culture, technology, and processes creates innovation and even market disruption. A solution such as Oracle HCM Cloud can help address the need for specialized skills, succession planning, analytics, training and development, and more by managing human resources (HR) in the cloud.

4. Focus on Financials

Understanding how to forecast—and having the data to do so effectively—can determine whether a business grows or withers. In many cases, cash flow is just as important as revenue. Getting to positive cash flow is critical. This typically revolves around investing in new products and markets, paying down debt, negotiating terms with suppliers and lenders, and more.

Finance and reporting systems that deliver real-time visibility, robust reporting, and predictive insights through analytics put the business in the driver's seat. It's also imperative to understand CAPEX versus OPEX models and how the cloud can deliver financial benefits and flexibility through software-as-a-service (SaaS).

5. Obsess Over Customer Experience

Today's technology rewires human interactions and touchpoints. It completely redefines how businesses market, sell, and support their customers. In fact, building a brand and cultivating relationships are entirely different challenges than they were only a few years ago.

It's essential to emerge as a customer-centric business, which means truly understanding your customers’ real-world needs and concerns. The end game? Building personalized relationships; delivering materials, pitches, and promotions at the right point in the buying cycle; getting closer to customers through co-innovation tools such as social media and crowdsourcing; highlighting success stories to forge stronger bonds; and cultivating customer advocates that lead to lower churn rates and referrals.

Naturally, every SMB must embark on a somewhat different path to success. Your objective is to understand how various tools, strategies, and methods can unlock opportunities and create better return on investment for you. Organizations and leaders that address these five key areas—and establish a strategic and tactical framework to support agility and flexibility—boost their odds of success. They put the power of digital technology to work and build a business framework that consistently taps innovation and best practices.

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