My Three Big Takeaways from the Small Business Download 2018

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Last week I had the immense pleasure of hosting clients, partners and other members of our community at our annual learning event – The Small Business Download 2018. We had five exceptional speakers generously share their knowledge on a range of business and technology topics with a very intent and engaged audience. I tend to judge the success of these events by the conversations had in breaks, and over drinks afterwards, and on that metric, it was a very successful day.
 As is often the case with these things, I think I walked away having learnt just as much as our guests. Here are three main things I took away from the event.

1. You don’t know what you don’t know.

One of the real values of investing the time in events such as SBD2018 is that it gives the gift of being in the company of other business leaders who recognise at some level that there are things that they don’t know, so they make the decision to come along and learn. 

Yes, there were some fantastic presenters who shared their hard-earned experience on a range of topics in an engaging and entertaining manner. But quite often, some of the 'aha-moments' happen on the breaks or over the drinks at the end of the formalities, possible just as they occur more regularly at the water cooler in your office than in the boardroom. 

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2. Collaborative learning is powerful. 

The room was full of people from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, construction, hospitality and business consulting. I find it fascinating to hear about the range of challenges and opportunities that we face daily. Some as unique as the emergency consultant playing out the complexities of a disaster response to a hypothetical downed FA-18 Super Hornet, and some a little more common, such as the battle with the office printer. 

It’s not simply a matter of benefitting from those generously shared expensive lessons learnt from mistakes made. Through exploring and learning about each other’s unique positions, we help identify and uncover our own knowledge gaps and assumptions. As we explain concepts that are familiar to us (but can also be quite complex) out loud, we occasionally uncover those nuggets of value that make the afternoon so worthwhile.  

 

3. There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit.

It can be very easy to come away from an event such as SBD2018 pumped up with excitement and grand plans, only to get back to the ‘real world’ and have those dreams burst in a shower of budget constraints, lack of time and organisational inertia.  

One of the things that excited me in talking with our guests after the event was how many had been able to identify the ‘low hanging fruit’ that they could action straight away in order to make an immediate impact on their business.  

For some people it was about education - they could see that they already had the right technology in place but weren’t necessarily making the most of it. Mia McIntyre shared several real-life case studies in her usual effervescent manner about how businesses just like yours implemented systems and automation to realise tangible results. Logistics firms leveraging SharePoint and Video to streamline administrative processes, or consultancy firms using Microsoft Forms and Flow automation to improve their feedback process. (If you would like your very own Power Up Project with Mia then please get in touch).

For others it was about using more of the Office 365 tools that they already had access to but weren’t utilising. Office 365 ships with so many tools other than the core productivity and communication suite many businesses utilise. These can be used to amazing effect and, the best part is, you probably already have access under your existing Office 365 subscription. 

And for others it was about making small changes in their operations that would have a big impact – such as implementing Multi-factor Authentication 

 

It’s really all about the people. 

Even though we discussed a broad range of topics throughout the afternoon, ranging from building your sales engine, to SharePoint, malware, micro-automation and all points in between, a core theme that kept repeating itself wasn’t about technology – it was about the people 

It's really not just about the technology.  You can tick a checkbox off the security risk register by plugging in a blinky light network device, but so often both the risks and solutions are far more human in nature.  

Having your password publicly displayed on a post-it note on your monitor on your Facebook feed probably isn’t a great idea, especially if you are working at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency. We learnt this from Peter Eldon’s firsthand experience in a Honolulu bathroom earlier this year as mobile phones (including his) went ballistic with the terrifying message EMERGENCY ALERT: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. “ 

Emails reveal workers at Hawaiian emergency agency responsible for fake missile alert ‘slept’ on the job

People are ultimately at the heart of everything we do. They are the core of why we do what we do, and at the core of how we do what we do. The technology is simply an enabler; a tool to be brought to bear on a particular task. Time and again at #SBD2018 we heard how in many ways, the technology is easy, but the people bit can be the real challenge.

How do we successfully guide our people through organisational and technological change? How do we best train our people to most empower them in their roles? How do we target our sales and marketing efforts to most effectively communicate with our prospects?

There may be some irony to a technology and business event ultimately being about the people, but to my way of thinking it’s perfectly logical. However, it's also something we can easily lose sight of.

It was great to host the Small Business Download, and connect with the people behind the businesses, to witness the learning and aha-moments, and to share in some great conversations. We can't wait to do it again next year - stay tuned for details.

If you missed the in-person version (or just want to hear it again), Mia will be running an online version of her #SBD2018 session on ‘Office 365 in the Real World’. Join us for the webinar on 22 November at 10am. Click below to register.

Office 365 for the Real World with Mia McIntyre

 

 

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When not looking at ways to use technology to create a competitive advantage for his clients and build better businesses, Ben is a husband, busy father of boys, avid gardener, and keen runner and cyclist.

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