Small business expert Gene Marks helps us identify what small businesses need to succeed.

By David Bates, vice president, Marketing & eCommerce, North American Resellers for Xerox

We recently hosted a “Dreaming Discussion” with 14 representatives from small- to medium-sized businesses in the Philadelphia area – a session designed to facilitate out of the box thinking and foster ideas that we can then apply to our client’s biggest pain points. The Dreaming Discussion was an opportunity for us to identify potential gaps and unmet needs in the marketplace and dream up solutions to them.

Gene Marks, small business expert, owner and renowned columnist for publications including the New York Times, Forbes and The Huffington Post, hosted the session. It was a lively conversation around mobility, workflow and technology trends. The participants represented companies ranging in size of 30 to 250 employees, and  their job titles spanned owner to IT director to operations manager. They  shared many great ideas and frustrations.

Here are 3 insights from our session. Each was illustrated by an onsite graphic recorder who captured our ideas from the discussion in real-time.

Small and Medium Business Dreaming Session

1.  Mobile is key, but it opens up security concerns.   While on the go, employees often access servers and are able to print documents remotely, bringing on a whole new level of security threats and concerns. Companies now must deploy security policies to try and manage employees that have access to confidential data anytime, anywhere. The topic of network security was much more important among the participants than originally expected, and most of the participating companies had some type of employee mobile device security policy.  The majority actually goes the extra step and issues devices (phones, tablets, laptops) to their employees to maintain ownership (and control).  Additionally, most of the participants either had implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, or were seriously considering one.  The key takeaway is that mobile security is a significant concern to businesses, regardless of size.

Small and Medium Business Dreaming Session

2.  The shift to going paperless may be slow, but it continues.  Paper consumption is down, whether by printing smarter or seeking solutions to transfer hard documents into electronic formats. Just about every participant has placed heavy emphasis on turning paper into digital documents and storing them in systems that allow for easy access and search ability while also saving physical office space.  Participants discussed how multifunction printers, including Xerox products, have fueled that conversion. They also uncovered the types of hardware/software that help companies organize and manage documents after they are scanned into a device, like the Xerox ConnectKey platform. A key takeaway was that multifunction printers do a lot more than people realize, so education is critical.

Small and Medium Business Dreaming Session

3. Technology needs to be part of the company’s DNA.  A few questions that came up were about choosing whether to go “cloud” or stay on-premise, what applications would best suit their needs and if it’s best to consider a customized system instead of something off the shelf. But no matter the question or concern, the participants came to one conclusion:  Whichever technology solution a company chooses, it will never succeed without full management buy-in and the right attitude among users. In other words, companies  that establish a culture where technology is central to their success are the ones using it best.

Want to learn more about what the SMBs and Gene Marks thought of each topic above? Watch this video, below.