Down in the small business trenches these days the word is not so much ‘eat or be eaten’ as ‘disrupt or be disrupted’.
Buzz phrase niceties aside, the effects of not staying on top of the food chain can be catastrophic.
Dinesh De Silva, CEO of web design and digital marketing agency Netstripes, runs the Bizruption events to help lower the small business death toll.
Citing ABS figures, Mr De Silva says one million Australian small businesses have failed in the last five years.
Part of the problem is a lack of digital engagement, he says. A Netstripes report found only 45 per cent of businesses have mobile optimised websites and only 22 per cent are fully digitally engaged in their sales and marketing strategies, the platforms these run on, and supply chain management.
“Technology is disrupting every industry and often it is small business that is the first to be disrupted. What we want is to let small business owners know they don’t have to be victims of this,” he says.
“They can be party to disruption and creators of it. This is for everybody – not just the yuppies of Surry Hills.”
Last Thursday night Bizruption came to Blacktown in western Sydney, a vast small business area far from the startup darling zones of the inner city such as Pyrmont and Glebe.
About 100 small businesses gathered at the Blacktown Bizruption event to swap war stories, get to know what each had to offer and listen to Mr De Silva and local Federal member Ed Husic, Labor’s shadow minister for employment services and workplace participation.
At the InnovationAus.com election debate with the Coalition’s Angus Taylor last June, Mr Husic argued that while all the startup shtick and policy initiatives being peddled at smart business hubs in inner city Sydney and Melbourne were all very well, it was important to sell the message far more widely, into electorates such Mr Husic’s Chifley in outer western Sydney where people often saw disruptive innovation as a ‘job killer’.
The aim of the Bizruption events is about helping small business get into a position of being job creators by becoming digitally engaged and working together.
“It’s about inspiration for the members and those small business attending,” says Greater Blacktown Chamber of Commerce President Trevor Oldfield, who attended the event. “It encourages people to stop and think, what am I doing, why am I doing it and am I connecting to the right people,”
While Bizruption has a strong pro-technology element, Mr Oldfield says the flesh and blood connection is all important. “We are humans we want to connect, you could say why not just use Facebook, but there’s no feeling. Businesses need to get over seeing digital disruption as a job killer and begin looking at the positives.”
Mr De Silva says the cost and time taken to digitally transform a small business have shrunk dramatically in recent years. “They can innovate in weeks as opposed to months or years and they can do it affordably,” he says.
The proliferation of cheap, cloud based business services and platforms as well as digital design agencies specifically targeting small business have contributed to the dramatic lowering of tech costs.
“It is really cloud computing that has made this possible,” he says.
Mr De Silva is looking to expand the Bizruption event and make it available regionally across Australia.