‘Now the best time to own a business’
THANKS TO THE INTERNET, there has never been a better time to own a small or medium-sized business, says First Citizens Bank deputy chief executive officer Sharon Christopher.
Delivering the fifth annual Leo Leacock Memorial Lecture at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination on Tuesday, she said technology can help entrepreneurs accomplish key business objectives.
“If by now your company is not using the Internet and/or social media to advertise, engage [and] build your brand, you will be left behind by your competitors who are,” she said during the event, which formed part of Small Business Week.
Christopher said technology should be about sharing and gathering information better, faster and cheaper.
“Today, we live in a world of ideas where the Internet is a conduit to all that is possible, where the value of Google exceeds the value of all the car makers.
“In such a world the borders of space and the constraints of time do not exist and in its place a knowledge society has been born.
“In such a world small companies get an opportunity to be big thinkers and can grow more easily into mid-size companies, with a team focused on the core business,” she said.
The deputy CEO noted that the Internet can be used to make direct connections with customers and dramatically lower costs across supply and demand chains.
“Entirely new companies and business models have emerged in industries ranging from rum to wigs, bringing together buyers and sellers in super-efficient new electronic marketplaces,” she said, using the examples of online retailer Zappos and the Barbados Fertility Centre.
“Zappos started with a single idea in 1999 when one man could not find the shoes he wanted at a mall. That translated into an investor spotting an opportunity to create an online shoe store and use social media to engage customers and employees,” she said.
Christopher noted that the company which began with an original investment of US$500 000 had gross sales valued at US$370 million by 2005. In 2009, Zappos was bought for US$928 million by Amazon.
“Closer to home there is the Barbados Fertility Centre.
“The centre uses all the social tools: Twitter, YouTube, chat rooms and Facebook, and have even developed an app that allows women to track their fertility cycle,” she said, noting that the centre’s clients come from all over the world.
“Their Facebook page, which had only 200 fans for a long time, now it has close to 5 000 and through all the conversation, through all the talk that happens online, in real time the Fertility Centre’s executives are able to craft marketing strategies that take advantage of social media’s unique ability to engage with customers. And they do so rather inexpensively,” she said. (NB)