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Small tech firms continue to face challenges in keeping pace

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Officially, the recent economic downturn ended several months ago. Albeit at a stuttering pace, the UK’s economy is getting back on track. For many larger companies, this is good news after taking a proverbial battering, but for many smaller companies in the technology sector, the fact remains that obstacles are still getting in the way of growth.

A recent whitepaper compiled by Conference Genie revealed the many negative factors at play for smaller tech companies, as is the case for SMEs in general throughout the UK. One of those is trying to get a handle on social media, specifically not knowing how to handle it in as effective a way as possible for marketing purposes. Social media, if approached correctly, can be a cost-effective marketing tool, but doing so is another matter entirely.

Being connected

Of all the social media channels available to tech firms for marketing, results revealed that the majority of those who participated in research into the challenges faced by small businesses (39.78%) said that Facebook was the most difficult to work with. Facebook can be surprisingly easy to use to good effect, as it allows for blog posts, images and interaction with customers without a limit on characters.

However, for businesses, Facebook can seem like a ‘one size fits all’ solution, whereas other channels like Twitter and Pinterest can be a little more direct. Facebook can also require a little more work, but for sharing photos and reaching out to customers, it’s a very useful tool and crucially for many cash-strapped tech companies, it’s free of charge!

Talent hunt

Although social media is hard to get right, harder still is recruiting talented staff that have all the relevant qualifications and know-how to get ahead in the technology sector. Studying for degrees in computing and engineering, for example, isn’t that appealing to many students, while there aren’t that many vacancies for graduates to fill, although this could change in the medium to long-term.

An astonishing 43.01% of participants in the study said that their biggest challenge was finding the talented workers they need to take on. Electronic engineering requires a significant amount of skill to get right, hence the reason that many businesses in this sector have been left frustrated in their attempts to recruit the staff members needed to get the job done in a high-quality manner.

To try and remedy the recruitment problem, it’s up to businesses to try and ensure they get the right staff for their business. This means making job advertisements more specific and, if needs be, offering training on the job to ensure that any new recruits get up to speed with electronic engineering.

Lethal levies?

A more peripheral yet common issue raised in the research was tax and interest rates, something that 22% of respondents spoke about at length. Under the coalition government, tentative steps have been taken to try and reduce the amount of corporation tax paid by businesses. Unfortunately for many businesses, interest rates have remained at their current level for over seven years now.

As the perceived economic recovery gathers pace, the likelihood of a rise in the Bank of England’s base interest rate grows. Initially, it’s expected to go up by 0.25% to 0.75%, but this could have a profound impact on the wider business world. Access to capital could change, while those with loans to repay may have to fork out more in interest payments.

Should this materialise, then the chances are that those with money to pay back will be hit in the pocket. On the flipside, an interest rate rise may be beneficial to those tech firms with money in the bank, as they could stand to have a little extra finance to work with at the end of every month or year, although it would likely be a negligible amount.

The stats have it

26.88% of businesses in our industry said that staff performance analysis was the most important factor in boosting productivity. Coming a little further behind in their list of concerns was the need for analysing business performance, as alluded to by 22.58% of respondents in the survey. Both can use up a lot of resources, but are necessary for gauging the progress of any company.

To do so effectively, analysis should be done with the use of a time management system to keep a record of what each employee is doing. Something similar could work for business analysis, but needs to work on a daily basis. Another sticking point was retaining USPs; something close to one in five spoke about. In a competitive industry like technology, having a USP is hugely important.

Getting a handle on all of the above should make it easier for tech firms to navigate the choppy waters of running a successful business.

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