How technology makes the world your business oyster

In the first of a series of blogs Jason Stockwood looks at the impact of technology on business and why the focus on London needs to change

Technology has transformed the way in which businesses operate. We’re more connected today than we have been at any time in history – and that has huge implications for small firms.

In the not too distant past, there was a sense that reputable businesses needed plush offices and respectable addresses if they wanted to attract and keep clients.

Today, though, that seems to be something of an anachronism. There is an increasing sense that businesses can be based anywhere – and that’s good for us all.

Tech transformation

The rise of the internet has meant that businesses don’t need a physical location – even if you have employees. Of course, the advent of email had a huge impact on the way in which people do business, allowing us all to get in touch instantly.

But today, email is beginning to look out-dated, and there is a huge range of new technologies that can allow businesses to locate themselves wherever they choose.

Cloud computing is one of the most important tech developments for businesses in many years. This new set of tools allows firms of any size to access services from anywhere they have an internet connection.

This has huge implications. It means that your business no longer has to be bound by physical office space. Instead, you can collaborate with your co-workers virtually, using tools like Google Docs and Dropbox to work together in real time.

You can also use apps like Skype and Gchat to instant message and call each other, meaning that you can converse with clients and employees without having to be in the same room.

Virtual offices

But of course, sometimes there is no match for a face-to-face meeting. In these cases, virtual and shared offices provide a handy alternative to long-term commercial leases.

Across the country there is now a range of companies offering serviced office space that can be let on a very short-term basis. You might choose, for example, to use a company like Regus or TechHub to secure meeting rooms and hot-desking space for occasions on which you need to meet with clients or have ‘real world’ conversations with employees.

This can be much cheaper than taking on a conventional lease, but can give your clients the peace of mind that your business has a physical location in which they can meet you.

Too London-centric?

But, when it comes to state support, business services lag well behind. A recent survey by ComRes found that 56% of businesses believe support for UK firms is too London-centric.

This is a common complaint. For too long, the government has focussed too heavily on the capital, ignoring the needs of small firms around the rest of the country.

This needs to change – but there is a growing sense that technology has whittled away the need for businesses to have a base in a London postcode. Today, small firms can be based anywhere in the country, and there is increasing support for businesses that want to set up shop in one of the UK’s 24 Enterprise Zones.

These areas offer business rates relief and capital allowances to firms that want to grow, and can help small businesses realise their potential without having to relocate to the capital.

Technology will continue to change the business landscape as it has done for centuries – but today that rate of change is speeding up. Thanks to this new set of developments, location should no longer be the primary concern for new businesses.

Instead, using a combination of tech and state support, small firms can thrive anywhere in the UK.

Jason Stockwood is the CEO of Simply Business, headline sponsor of Startups Awards.

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