I operate companies on both sides of the border and it astounds me how far behind Canada is when it comes to small business actively operating online. I actually coach, teach and preach to many businesses across this country about how they need to improve their Internet Communication Technology [ICT] for their business. Why would they need to do this? Canadian citizens are plugged in more than most countries are and as individuals we embrace and use technology. Yet, Canadian businesses are so far behind that Canada is actually at the bottom of the list compared to the leaders, which include the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. Let me give you an example. In Canada, I get the mail which includes cheques paid to my advertising agency. I go to the bank and if I make the deposit in the ATM machine my cheques are held up to 5 business days (meaning 7 days if it’s over the weekend) before they clear. My alternative is to stand in line and spend up to 30 minutes waiting to give the cheques to a teller who enters the details into the computer crediting my account immediately. I receive a deposit slip which then must be entered into my financial software. An exercise that wastes up to 60 minutes per day!
So the convenience of depositing at an ATM holds up the money for 5 business days. Or I can waste hours standing in line to speak to somebody who doesn’t generate any revenue for my business. Don’t get me wrong, the people at the bank always smile and they are friendly. But I don’t have enough time in my day to stand around waiting to put money in my bank account. Here’s how it works for my American business office. My agency is located in New York and when I arrive at my office I open the mail. I then open an application on my smartphone from Bank of America. I scan all the cheques. I confirm the amount and to give it permission to deposit and if this is done before 4 PM that business day, the money is in my account for the following morning by 9am. I keep the cheques in a folder indicating that they have been scanned and deposited. The information is also connected and synced with my financial software so it’s keeping my balance accurate and dated correctly. Total time, max 10 minutes. This is just one example where Canada is lagging in technology at a cost for small businesses. As small businesses we get stuck in a rut regarding the use of technology in our businesses.
There’s confusion in how we use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Linked In. Let alone how we can make our website more than an online brochure. Let me give another example of one client that was challenged with increasing their sales at their small Café. After doing a bit of research I noticed that their issue was customers were all coming in between 11 AM and 2 PM with everyone wanting to get their coffee and lunch at the same time. It would be expensive to try to drive business in off-peak hours, and probably wouldn’t work. When I reviewed their website it was, like so many, an online brochure more of a brochure. Using the model of ICT, my suggestion was that we would work the website to make their business more efficient and productive during the rush hour. We created an on-line ability for people to pre-order their lunches.
They would receive a E-newsletter advising what the specials were for the day. They were emailed a QR code [Quick Read] with the receipt when they paid online for their order in the morning. Payment was made with their credit or debit card. When the order was completed, a text message and email would be sent to the customer. Customers would arrive to a less congested area of the cafe with their smartphone or a printed copy of the receipt and it would be scanned and their lunches delivered. A process that would be less than 2 minutes from customer arriving to leaving. What a simple concept to take the website and to create more business during a time when you’re already busy. It’s time Canadian small businesses started thinking smarter and advancing the ability to increase their revenue within their business using the technology that is available to everyone in Canada.
By Adam Olfield