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Why digital skills are essential to your small business

Frances Valintine comments on the importance of base-line digital skills for the success and growth of New Zealand small businesses

“The benefits of digitalisation of businesses goes so much further than eCommerce websites and autoresponders for enquiries.

The real benefit from understanding how and when to deploy digital systems is learning to connect seamlessly to suppliers, distributors, customers and payment systems.

Once digital systems are deployed, the ability to scale a business, improve customer retention and acquisition and track supplies is simply a matter of opening a browser.”

Frances Valintine, Founder of The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab

At last count, the overall number of small businesses has reached 487,602, representing 97% of all businesses in New Zealand. While some businesses are regrettably closing, we’re seeing some exciting new businesses (both small and medium) pop up in New Zealand by innovative, creative entrepreneurs who are identifying opportunities and gaps in the market.

Many of these businesses are starting up in regions by busy people who may already have another job or jobs, or who are juggling busy family lives. We saw over lockdown, the New Zealand Made Products Facebook group (created by social entrepreneur Sarah Colcord) got over 500,000 members in just over 12 weeks. Creators and artists supplementing income by selling products or services online. Resilient kiwis, turning their passion projects into a side-hustle.

Some small businesses are employing people to work remotely, or to work flexible hours and often communicating with or preparing documentation with staff, suppliers and distributors can be challenging.

The reality is, while these entrepreneurs are excellent at spotting gaps in the market, they are less successful in addressing their own skills gaps, often spending hours on unnecessary admin or managing multiple digital tools over many different platforms.

“The way we work has changed forever.

We’ve always had technology, but now the human component of how we use it to interact with others is a big focus.

Information is literally at our fingertips and understanding how to use the digital capabilities available to leverage that information is the best way to open new opportunities.”

Karna Luke, General Manager of Growth and Performance at BNZ

As a business grows, their needs change, and new tools are required. At the same time, digital tools are constantly changing; how do you keep up? This is why it is vital to learn and develop essential, base digital skills in order to evaluate the best tool for maximum outcome.

Past students of The Mind Lab’s Digital Skills for the Workplace course (many of them business owners) have been overwhelmed by the multitude of digital solutions on offer. Some were looking for online collaboration, and a solution to integrate all their digital tools to streamline and upscale their business. Sound familiar?

“I think this course – and the theory of it – demonstrates the importance of knowing why you need to consider bigger picture ideas like critical analysis, customer journey and feedback, agile and lean methodology.

The practical side allows our students to put what they’ve learned into their real-world, relevant context.

They get the space to reflect on their business challenges and how to address them. And to evaluate how digital skills and tools together, may provide a solution.”

Coco Kim-Corey, Programme Lead for Digital Skills for the Workplace at The Mind Lab

It’s tough out there, forging new territories, The Mind Lab is committed to helping you navigate new challenges.

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