There’s a pervasive belief that the world is headed inexorably towards a place where a handful of businesses reign with impunity. It isn’t too hard to see why – over the past decade, Silicon Valley giants like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb seem to have grown more wealthy and more powerful by the day. Signs that this may stop or even slow, are few and far between.
There is plenty of speculation about the role that technology and new digital services will play in all this. In most cases, the assumption is that these developments will only strengthen the largest companies and allow them to consolidate their power. These organisations, the thinking goes, are so vast, innovative and rich that they’ll perpetually be ahead of their smaller counterparts and use these advancements in technology to widen the gap.
But this fails to see the whole picture. If we’ve learned anything in the digital age, it is that no company is safe and even those admired and respected and seemingly all-powerful just 20 or 30 years ago are now distant memories, relics of a bygone era. In the age of disruption, no one – including disruptors – is safe.
Sometimes all it takes is one person and an original concept – we can’t even conceive of the kinds of ideas that might come to manifest themselves, take hold of us and ultimately change our lives. Who would have thought that, on a regular basis, with a few taps on our phones we would be climbing into a stranger’s car? Who imagined, ten years ago, having flown across the world we would think nothing of going into the house of someone we didn’t know and sleeping in their bed?
But many revolutionary and potentially world-changing ideas remain locked away and unexpressed, in the minds of those who have them. Practical considerations are often the enemy of creativity and that applies to the life of the ordinary man or woman as well as the business-owner or entrepreneur. It is a familiar refrain but one that holds true, that people put their dreams to one side in favour of more pragmatic pursuits. Picasso put it best when he said “the chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
But what if those practical concerns could be taken care of, so that a person with a good idea could see it all the way through to its fullest expression? There’s nothing fanciful about such a notion. In fact, what we’re already seeing and what we will continue to see in the coming years, is precisely, taking place in the world of business, in the shape of apps and software like Charlie HR and Counting Up. Developments in technology, the rise of SaaS, automation and machine-learning will, so to say, handle the mundane tasks of the to-do list, freeing creative individuals from the shackles of practical consideration and empowering them to pursue their ideas to their furthest extents.
And this is where small business comes in. Entrepreneurs and small businesses so often fail, or grow too slowly to matter, precisely because of the daily time and labour-intensive responsibilities that must be taken on by founders. Sometimes, the prospect of drowning in these tasks is the reason a business is never started in the first place. What, then, would happen if technology could take care of the bulk of these processes? We would see a renaissance, a boom and the rapid transformation of thousands of creative individuals into entrepreneurs almost overnight.
And all it takes is one idea. If expressed, explored and executed correctly, one innovative brainwave could transform spark the launch and scaling of a large business in a matter of months. It could empower a small firm to supplant a larger company, or join it in the pantheon of major global companies. Technology, far from sounding the death-knell for SMEs, will empower and embolden them and these changes are already taking place. By embracing technology, rather than resisting it, small and independent companies fearful of a future in which a handful of large rivals dominate the market can not only survive but flourish. Individuals can find new ways to strengthen their offering to other business or to the wider public. What’s more, they have the chance to discover and bring to fruition something completely original.