On Wednesday 14 August, the Chairman of the Robson Partners Board, David Smith, visited the Gosford Erina Coastal Chamber of Commerce Luncheon to share his expertise in digital disruption to business. His insights inspired many to seek the opportunities for business growth and ultimately, work smarter, not harder. He has prepared this article in summary of the talk.

How would video shop owners have felt if they failed to see the rise of video streaming that -in a space of a few years - wiped out their business? Technology’s relentless march is speeding up. It will impact business in many ways. New opportunities will emerge. Old business models may be threatened.

Often it is the unintended consequence of new technology that is hard to see. The motor car created suburbia, supermarkets, shopping malls and drive in theatres (until TV and home video recorders wiped them out). Mobile phones are revolutionising how money is transferred in Africa. How technology directly or indirectly might influence your business for the positive or the negative needs constant attention from business owners.

If you’re a smash repair business, consider how anti-collision technology now being built into almost every new car will impact your business over the longer term as the national car fleet slowly upgrades. The same applies to car service businesses should electric cars, that require significantly less maintenance, take hold. Will manufacturers like Tesla create a restructuring of the vehicle industry that threatens the existence of dealerships?

Could optometrists be threatened by improvements to eye surgery technologies that lower costs and improves the efficacy so that the need for glasses and contact lenses disappears? Could taxis disappear altogether as Elon Musk realises his vision for your driverless car to become a driverless taxi when you’re not using it?

All this sounds so doom and gloom but there are countless examples of new opportunities emerging. Probably the technology that every business needs to consider is the Internet of Things (IoT). This technology involves putting computer chips in almost every device to enhance what they can do. Many businesses are then turning this technology into revenue streams by selling subscription services in addition to their product.

Consider www.ring.com that sells a humble doorbell. In 2018 Amazon bought the company for over US$1Billion. How could that be? Well Ring’s doorbells are not ordinary doorbells.  They’re internet connected. Using a camera in the doorbell you can remotely answer your door and talk to the person by using your mobile phone. So you can be on the other side of the world and still answer your door. Motion sensors also track other visitors. Beside pricing the doorbell much higher $150+ depending on the model, for $4/month all videos of people at the door are stored in the cloud. So now the business is charging it’s customers an ongoing fee of $4/month - it has become a subscription business.

If you’re selling planter boxes could you include a computer chip that tells me my plants need watering or my plant is sick. Could the data be sent to the cloud and my performance as a gardener be compared with my neighbours or give me access to a gardening guru to help me revitalise my plants. Would people pay a subscription for that? Cookware also seems an obvious place for this technology to ensure perfect cooking. Many smart ovens are already moving down this road. The question for you to ask is whether there is a subscription model opportunity for my business. Even if you sell services there might be opportunities to provide your expertise online under a subscription model.

It’s not only your products and services that will be impacted but also how you conduct your business. When was the last time you undertook at cradle to grave review of your systems and processes. There are lots of technologies that can be deployed to make your more efficient and improve your marketing reach. Cloud based accounting software products enable far more efficient and accurate bookkeeping and enables your accountant to also be more efficient and to be more proactive in the advice that they can provide. There are also a myriad of add-on software tools to enhance the basic accounting product to facilitate efficient point of sale, inventory management, product costing just to name a few. Talk to your accountant who should be able to help you get the most from your accounting systems and provide proactive services to assist in harnessing the benefits from the new technologies.

Many businesses are successfully advertising online and creating websites and social media campaigns to increase sales and customer loyalty. Do you have some millennials in your business who understand these technologies and can help drive your initiatives to capitalise on the opportunities?

There are so many opportunities. You need a plan. You can’t do everything at once. Create a plan so that over an 18 month period you’ve looked at your business model and you’ve reengineered your processes. Try to find the time to stop working in your business to consider the bigger opportunities. Simple ideas can often deliver great big results.

David Smith is Chairman of Central Coast based accountants Robson Partners. He advises businesses on technology and process improvement and is a regular speaker on the future of business and the impact of technology. He can be found at www.smithink.com