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Ade Olabode: Why Small Business Owners Won’t Pay For New Technology

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dreamstime_s_46186482Fact: Nigeria is a country filled with small business owners.

From the 9 to 5 guy with a side business, to the lady who shunned the corporate route to launch her own store, to the mega small business owner bringing in millions monthly. We have them all.

But what’s not fully appreciated is the huge amount of productivity and profits lost, simply by the way we run our small business. And a tried and trusted method of improving productivity is to use tools and technology. It creates efficiency and helps to increase profitability. So why do small business owners shun them? Why wouldn’t they pay for it?

I bring a unique perspective to answer these questions as I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve worked in a small business for a long time (my mum’s store), and I’ve advised countless small business owners over the years (as a partner in a small practice firm). Now I run PrognoStore which is a cloud based point of sale software for small business. It combines inventory and analytics to be all you need to run your business.

So here are  four reasons why a small business owner will happily choose not to use the technology or tool which could possibly help them make more profit.

Not easy to grasp or simple to use
A safe default is to assume that your new tool or technology is not needed. Think about it. The small business might have been in existence for several years. And been profitable over those years. So perception is that your tool might not bring them any additional benefit.

And here’s where a few technology firms let themselves down. If you can’t quickly communicate the benefits of your tool, then no one will bite. And if you manage to convince them and it turns out to be hard to use, they stop using it. Notice how I made this easy to understand? Of course yes, you could say I’m referring to User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). However, to the small business owner, they just want a tool that works with ease.

What to do
Pay close attention to the UI/UX of your product. More importantly, when looking for beta testers, make sure to include your ideal end users. If you reckon someone without much education will use the system, then test it out with them. This is better than just testing with the small business owner who graduated from university.

Employees refuse to play ball
All technology providers have been there before. You provide a solution, deploy it successfully, check back after a month and discover that no one has used it, since you stepped out the door!

Now this might sound harsh, but the truth is employees (shop attendants, till assistants, store managers etc.) might look for opportunities not to use new systems that will ensure efficiency and reduce theft. I’ve worked with enough small businesses to understand the unique challenges that constitute barriers to adoption by employees in Nigeria. Some of them are:

Low educational level: Our education system has let us down. Badly. To provide one small example, this is a country where majority of our universities curriculum is outdated and lacks a practical element. That’s why we have computer science graduates that can’t code, accounting graduates lacking basic booking knowledge, engineering graduates missing all the key fundamentals etc.
So how does this impact a small business owner? Well the pool of ‘good’ employees is dramatically reduced. This means when you deploy a tool that you expect anyone should be able to use, you’re wrong. You tend to find weird examples like people unable to choose/remember a ‘username’ and ‘password’.

Employees purposely refusing to use new tool to facilitate theft. This wouldn’t surprise anyone but quite a few employees blatantly sabotage the new tool as it means the end of good times.
Employers behaviour towards employees: Let’s face it; some employers are truly bad eggs. They travel on holidays to fancy destinations, live luxurious lifestyles, drive the best cars and yet don’t pay their employees! Well what do you expect those same employees to do? We have a culture where it’s almost seen as normal to owe employees 3+ months salaries. How do you expect your employees to take care of themselves and their families?

What to do
See ‘pay close attention to the UI/UX of your product’ above.

Don’t be shy. Raise awareness to the small business owner why you think the product might not be used. Especially if you know it will lead to a reduction in theft or wastage.

If an employer is bad and doesn’t pay his/her employees, then it’s only a matter of time that the deployed tool wouldn’t work. This is not your fault. There’s nothing you can do about it. Move on.

Internet availability
Not all tools or technology use the Internet. However, a lot do so. And the erratic and expensive nature of what we have now is an issue. This becomes an external factor which could prove problematic and is indeed a stumbling block for adoption of services or products via the web.

What to do
You might have to provide an offline component to your product. If there’s no light or if there’s a lost Internet connection, they should be able to use your tool.

It should make money
Profits keep the light on. Most business depends on them (unless of course a not-for profit), so any new tool should ideally be aimed at making the business owner make more money. Or save money. Or even better, make money and save money.

What to do
This should be pretty obvious but if you can’t clearly show (and explain) how your product helps a small business to make or save money – you really need to drop everything and work on fixing that!

Now over to you small business owners, let me know if you agree or not in the comments below.

P.S Don’t forget that you can still get the free 60 days offer to PrognoStore. PrognoStore is Point-of-Sale software for small business which helps you sell your goods/services, track your inventory and gain insight to run your business. It’s all you need to run your small business. Simply go to www.prognostore.com/signup and enter Free4Bella for promo code to get 60 days free.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Papa Olabode is an adviser to small business owners. He's the co-founder & CEO of PrognoStore (www.prognostore.com), the Point-of-Sale Software for small businesses. PrognoStore is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics to be all you need to run your store. He's a chartered accountant and has previously worked at Deloitte, Credit Suisse and co-founded HGE Capital. Follow on Twitter @papaolabode

5 Comments

  1. Teemoxie

    February 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Nice write up. You are so on point

    • Ade

      February 4, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks @Teemoxi, glad you found it useful.

  2. LL

    February 4, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Ade,

    I actually checked out Prognostore yesterday and have decided to use it because I realize that if you make these tools a part of your processes from the beginning(our stage at the moment) , your employees will have to play ball as you grow. However, your pricing is delaying my start. It is not expensive; however, between paying for various subscriptions monthly, adding Prognostore will skyrocket our expenses and we will have to delay our start. I’m wondering if many SMEs can afford your service?

    • Ade

      February 4, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Hi @LL, really smart move for you to start getting the right processes in place, even from the early stage! In respect to PrognoStore, we’re not expensive at all and apart from having an extended free trial (use the special promo code), prices start from N6K a month. So definitely price is not a barrier to running your business properly and earning more money.

      BTW, what other systems/tools are you considering starting with? Feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] if any questions.

      Thx!

  3. Toyin

    February 4, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Ade. Another really nice article. Are you able to do some posts on Logistics and Supply Chain Management?

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