Everyone wants to open up their small business in the right place. Sophie Devonshire of Babes With Babies has found her ideal location in the cloud.
- Welcome to the 21st Century
- Working from Afar
- Is it Real?
- Centralization Attempts
- Times are Changing
- Business Without Borders
- What About You?
Welcome to the 21st Century
Sophie Devonshire owns a truly 21st-century business – one that would have been impossible only a few years ago. She has no headquarters. All her employees collaborate from independent locations in France, Dubai, and the United Kingdom.
Babes With Babies, Devonshire’s e-commerce business for new and expectant mothers, has cashed in by using third-platform technologies for a competitive advantage: profits have risen 600% since 2007.
BWB, like many small businesses in 2015, uses cloud tech to tighten budgets and allow staff to work variable shifts, with access to worldwide customers.
Working from Afar
The company works together on projects via the project management environment Trello.
“It’s as if we’re in a meeting room,” Devonshire commented. “Zoe our chief buyer will enter her recommendations, then others will go in and add their thoughts.”
The team also relies heavily on Skype instant-messaging. Devonshire believes that instant-messaging programs are helpful in allowing opportunities to chat about personal topics in between tasks.
Marketing is conducted through social media, especially via the organization’s 7000 Twitter followers. Sage Pay and PayPal are used for integrated payments.
Babes With Babies also uses cloud conferencing software and Dropbox for file storage and company-wide accessibility.
Small businesses that operate through the cloud do not have the overhead associated with leasing commercial space.
One very physical task must be performed in the case of retail, though: shipping.
To keep things streamlined, BWB has a partner that handles all its fulfillment: Intermail.
When someone puts in an order online, Devonshire said, the website notifies the fulfillment company, which processes the order and shoots back a tracking code to the website.
Even though the vast majority of activities are performed virtually, it’s still sometimes necessary to have in-person meetings. For that reason, Babes With Babies is partnering with Quintessentially for continuing conference room access.
Is it Real?
Lacking a physical location, it is not always easy to instill comfort in customers.
Devonshire says that the essential component is impeccable customer service. Reps are spread out across several time zones so that they can easily cover the entire 24-hour cycle.
By making hours flexible for all her 11 employees, cloud keeps morale high and allows the focus of all interactions to be centrally squared on the customer.
“The whole idea of Babes With Babies is to make new [mothers] feel good,” explained Devonshire. “So throughout the shopping process it’s important that the customers feel looked after. We use technology to make things more human and helpful.”
One of the biggest beefs that people have with the cloud is that it is made up of a bunch of disparate systems. Bringing things together has become a central concern of IT. Integration is seen as the Achilles heel of the developing Internet of Things. Compatibility is always challenging for companies with complex IT infrastructures: in fact, incompetent consultants often label themselves as cloud systems integrators. Interoperability is a scorching-hot topic in healthcare as well.
Integration isn’t just about technology, though. It can even be used in the buying process, as suggested by the tool of Finnish startup Pilvi.com, which pulls in various options.
“In general, using cloud-based systems and services is cost efficient,” said Pilvi COO Lassi Virtanen. “You only pay for what you use, and you won’t be bound by long contracts.”
Because the cloud has such obvious strengths, the analysts at IDC have predicted that the industry will grow to $107 billion (up from $47 billion in 2013).
Times are Changing
Cloud isn’t just about affordable computing. It’s also about creating a new style of workplace.
“Generation Y has no intention whatsoever of sitting at the same desk for 40 hours of every single week,” said workplace author Chris Ward. “Those staying in their office all week will become as outdated as the landline and fax machine.”
Smarta.com CEO Shaa Wasmund says that there are more entrepreneurs these days who are just as concerned with the quality of their lives as they are with paying their bills.
Agreeing with Wasmund, Devonshire said that insisting workers be at certain places at certain times, often having to drive through heavy traffic to get there, is not the way to inspire people. She believes that Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer, who decided to withdraw work-from-own privileges from her employees, has got it all wrong.
Business without Borders
Devonshire partially credits the cloud approach with the company’s success, particularly since she has been on the move.
In 2006, she relocated from the United Kingdom to Estonia. At the time, she was a new mother and wanted to be at home as much as possible.
Many people didn’t think that the business would be able to make it, but mobility and general adaptability are core strengths of cloud.
By going with the technologies she had to have to run the company at a distance, Devonshire has ridden the crest of cloud technology to ongoing success.
What About You?
What can cloud do for your business? Simply put, it positions you on the right side of the longest ongoing technological disruption in history.
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By Kent Roberts