Move with the times, or face losing your business

I work in Ridge Tower, in the financial district of Accra, Ghana.

Ridge Tower is a high-rise building housing a bank, a leading property management company and some departments of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust.

Around my office, you will find more high-rise buildings housing more banks, insurance companies, and other major enterprises. It goes without saying that there’s a lot of people working in the area.

And to serve these people, a taxi rank has developed in front of Ridge Tower. I sometimes use these taxis. They charge more than I would pay if I got a taxi outside the area, but it’s convenient.

Recently, one of my colleagues shared a conversation he had with one of the drivers who operates from that taxi rank. According to my colleague, the taxi driver has been in business since the 1990s. He is now thinking of selling his taxi and getting out of the business. He claims that business was bad.

Curious, my colleague wondered why, after all these years of being in business, and having been through both good and bad times, he was thinking of getting out when he wasn’t sure what he would do next?

His reason for seriously considering exiting the taxi business is a four-letter word – UBER. That came as a surprise.

According to the driver, whilst waiting outside looking for customers, he noticed that private cars would come into our car park and pick up passengers. And there were instances when potential passengers would baulk at the fares they quoted, before pulling out their phone and tapping away at the screen, and before long a vehicle would arrive to pick them up.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

The taxi driver could not have imagined a business enabled by smartphones, and which does not own vehicles in Ghana, could get him to the point of quitting his business. But that’s precisely what UBER is doing.

The technology revolution is moving at pace. Cloud technology, sensors, broadband, artificial intelligence and machine learning have brought the power of IT – that was once only available to the biggest companies with the deepest pockets – to SMEs, and at a fraction of the cost.

Many small and medium-sized Ghanaian businesses, either through bad experiences with a past project, or fear of the cost, just do not consider IT in the strategy for growing their business. This leaves them unaware as to what is currently available and what is coming next. That is a mistake, and as the story demonstrates, it can be a costly one. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.

As a small business, what should you do in the face of advancing technology?

The technology revolution is transforming industries and businesses. It is pervasive and there is no hiding or running from it. Big and small businesses are being impacted – that is an undeniable reality.

What should you do? These are my suggestions:

  • Assume that technology will affect your business in a negative way if you don’t act. Conquer your fears.
  • Seek to understand what is going on and how it will affect your business. You don’t have to be a technical person to understand broadly what is going on.

To gain some understanding:

o Read blogs and articles on the impact of technology.
o Talk to knowledgeable people. Talk to us at SCG. We are keen to help the SMEs use technology to enhance their businesses. We are using technology to enhance and differentiate our own business. We have real experience and knowledge to share with you.

Written by George Katako

George is the Managing Partner of SCG. His area of interest is technology, strategy and financial management. He is keen to bring the transformative power of IT to the Ghanaian SMEs.