One of the best parts of writing this column for USA TODAY for as long as I have (17 years!) is that I am often afforded the opportunity to learn about what big businesses are doing or planning for small business.
It is something that I think many small businesspeople do not really get: Large corporations spend a lot of time, money, resources, and effort thinking about how to help us succeed. They create products, services, tools, videos, and a whole lot more. They do so, of course, because we are a valuable market, and lucky us that we are because these powerful products and tools are one reason why I consider this to be the golden age for small business; they make it easier than ever to own and run a small business.
Let me give you an example: I recently sat down for a chat with David Brown, the CEO and president of Web.com. Web.com is the sort of business that I am talking about. As Brown explained to me in our chat, “Our purpose in life at Web.com is to help small businesses use the Internet to grow their businesses.” Here is what else he had to say:
Strauss: I am always surprised when I see statistics such as the fact that half of all small businesses still don’t have a website. To me, that is business malpractice. Why do you think that is?
Brown: Small business people are not technologists. They would rather spend their time working on their business than dealing with I.T., and so that is how we work to help them. We aim to be the tech department for small businesses. At Web.com we have experts, and the expertise, in building small business websites. That’s not the strength of most entrepreneurs. We try and make it as easy and affordable as possible, and then we help those small businesses get people to visit their sites.
Strauss: What is it that the small businesses you work with are looking for? Ease, value, or what?
Brown: We have over 3 million small business customers now, and we help them with all sorts of issues – everything from getting domain names to creating sophisticated websites to SEO to social media . . . one thing we know for sure is that mall business people want value, and so we work hard to lower the cost of getting online.
Strauss: Where do you see things headed online for small business?
Brown: Back in the day, it was all about just getting online and having a good website. Then, not long ago, social media became the next big thing. Most recently it was video, and now of course it is mobile. The explosive growth in the use of smartphones and tablets is a new area that small businesses need to know about, and so that is a new area of offerings for us.
Strauss: Can you expand on that?
Brown: Sure. For example, all Web.com websites are mobile ready. We do that, not really because there is a huge groundswell of demand for that, because frankly there is not. But we also know that that is where things are headed. It is what small businesses are going to need, and in fact, what they need right now. Going forward, mobile will become even more important to the long-term success of every small businesses. Your customers are on mobile, so as small business people, you have to be there too.
Strauss: There are a lot of things that entrepreneurs are great at, but I agree, technology often is not one of them. And so one thing I appreciate is when I find tools that save us time, money, or, hopefully, both. That is what small businesses really need.
Brown: Cracking the code for customers is what we love to do. Another way we do that is by offering free seminars for small businesses with the purpose of helping them grow their business online. In 2014, our Small Business Summit will be in 50 cities, and it’s free.
Strauss: That’s great. Thanks for your time today.
Brown: Thank you, Steve.