SMB Priorities & Challenges
SMBs have several priorities and challenges. Cybersecurity presents as an ongoing priority and challenge due to the number of attacks that are focused on SMBs. In a similar vein keeping up with technology so that they can compete in the marketplace is another priority. One of the critical challenges consistently mentioned by SMBs is the recruitment and retention of quality staff
- The 2019 SMB IT Report found 80% of SMB ranked cybersecurity as a top business priority. Also, featuring in the survey was the lack of available time to research new threats (36%), and the failure of employees to adhere to IT security policy (32%).
- Of the SMBs surveyed, 56% said that recent security breaches had impacted their road map for the future. One of the difficulties for SMBs is that they often do not have in house IT professionals. The other issue is that they do not invest heavily in IT security with 29% of SMBs spending less than $1,000 annually.
- Cybersecurity is the top business priority because of the potential impact on a SMB if an attack is successful. Cybersecurity breaches in the last year saw 40% of SMBs experience eight or more hours of downtime. A cybersecurity breach has the potential to not only suspend operations but the impact on a SMBs ability to pursue and retain customers.
- When considering cybersecurity, most SMBs felt firewall/network security, antivirus/anti malware, and access management were essential features in cybersecurity products/software. Currently, small businesses spend approximately 6.9% of revenue on cybersecurity. Medium businesses spend approximately 4.1%.
- The US Securities and Exchange Commission has stated that 60% of cybercrime targets SMBs. Cybercrime rates continue to escalate.
- The Ponemon Institute report said that 67% of SMBs were cyber-attacked in the last year, with 58% having a data breach. 43% of all attacks are targeted at small businesses, and SMBs do not discover 56 % of breaches for several months. Ransomware attacks are directed at SMBs 71% of the time.
- A study completed in July 2019 found that almost half of SMBs have not planned a response to a cybersecurity incident and 43% have not even developed a recovery plan.
Keeping Pace With Technology
- There are a range of new technologies available to businesses and consumers alike, ranging from artificial intelligence to automation to the Internet of Things (IoT). The priority for SMBs is evaluating these opportunities, understanding the potential role that the technology could play in the business, and deciding what products present the best opportunities.
- The rate at which technology is currently evolving is daunting for most SMB owners. Technology is key to efficient and effective business operations. It can improve customer relations, streamline operations, and create a competitive edge.
- There is a fear among SMBs that they will be left behind if they don't keep up with technology. No firm wants to be the modern-day Kodak, the much-cited example of a company that didn't keep up with digital technology and suffered the consequences. The fear for SMBs is if they stall, they will miss vital opportunities for efficiencies and growth falling behind their competitors.
- To a large degree, the type of technology that is appropriate for a SMB depends on the industry they are in and the tasks that employees are required to complete. Technology has the potential to increase collaboration and the exchange of information. It allows companies to work freely and develop new markets faster. Technology is considered an essential element of success.
- Over 80% of SMBs believe that technology can help their business grow and that it can improve profitability. For SMBs the problems include the complexity of some technology, limited budgets, and the need for specialist staff to firstly evaluate and secondly implement.
- Many experts believe this technology is still in its infancy and currently primarily benefits digital industries. In the next 15 years, a new wave of technology will impact the primary industries, and the resulting economic growth will be $247 trillion, wages will increase by $8.6 trillion, and federal revenue $3.9 trillion. No SMB wants or can afford to be left behind.
- For SMBs operating on a global scale, this is an even higher priority, with networks keeping businesses in touch with each other and their customers have the potential to create a competitive edge for one business over the other.
- One of the recommended ways of keeping up with technology is to assign the task to one individual within the organizations and have weekly meetings to bring the decision makers up to date.
Hiring the Right Staff
- The 2019 Salesforce Report found that 60% of owners were looking to grow their business, while 36% were looking to maintain their business. Both groups agreed that hiring and maintaining is a challenge that needs to be overcome to achieve this.
- This is up from a study the previous year when 50% of the participants listed hiring the right staff as their top challenge.
- Another survey by LinkedIn found that 40% of SMBs plan on hiring new staff this year. The majority were expecting hiring challenges, with 84% of those surveyed agreeing that finding enough candidates for the positions is their number one challenge.
- 73% of SMBs are challenged because they are competing with large companies for the same talent. As a result of these challenges 75% of SMBs are unsure whether a hired candidate will succeed in the role.
- The ability to hire the right staff can be difficult for SMB, who have limited brand recognition as they often do not appeal to the candidates they are looking to hire. It is especially difficult in businesses with less than 500 employees.
- One of the other issues for small businesses is that they may not hire staff regularly, especially in key positions, so they do not have the same processes in place for interviewing, vetting, and reviewing candidates. This has the potential to lead to the hiring of "warm bodies." What this equates to is hiring someone because it is quick and easy even though they might not meet the requirements or be a complete fit. In a SMB attempting to compete globally, this can create difficulties in the long-term.
- There are also ongoing issues retaining staff in SMB. High flying employees tend to gravitate to larger firms because of the opportunities they present. SMBs can be seen as a stepping stone into a permanent long-term position, allowing the employee to can experience and practical knowledge to make them more appealing to a larger firm. This can see SMBs invest time and money into training for key positions only for a larger business to reap the rewards.
We extensively reviewed a range of industry publications, expert opinions, and surveys to determine the priorities and challenges for SMBs. Several challenges and priorities were evident throughout the sources. The three that we have selected were widely discussed in the sources as being common to all SMBs and were supported by data and hard evidence