For the 23 million small businesses in America, technology is key to leveling the playing field with big corporations.
We asked some of the small business owners of the year how they use it to get ahead.
Connecticut's Chris Runyan is the owner of six GameXChange franchises, which sell, purchase, and trade new and used electronic gaming hardware, software, and accessories.
Runyan’s business depends on organization, so he uses tools readily available on the Internet to maintain efficiency and cut the costs of an expensive franchised network.
"I have my time organized using my iPhone, calendar, Google Drive. Ten years ago, think of how much money you’d have paid a local IT company to set up a domain and server," Runyan said. "Now, it's essentially free."
Arizona's John Stonecipher -- named the Small Business Person of the Year -- is the owner, president, and CEO of high-altitude flight school Guidance Aviation. His entire business is based on technology, and more than just planes.
"We developed a mobile app and web-based learning portal for tablets, smart phones, and PCs," Stonecipher said. "These tools provide students 24/7 access to high definition flight training videos and study materials ... they share what’s going on in our organization to the world."
Guidance Aviation was created to fulfill Stonecipher's original vision to ensure adequate preparation and learning for all novice pilots at a high altitude, since flying at such great heights is notably more difficult than flying at sea level. More than half of the students are veterans, and the school has a 90 percent job placement rate, thanks in part to the accessibility of learning tools.
Virginia's Jason Cohen saw technology save his paper-based company even as it threatened to make it obsolete.
ILM Corporation was started in 1976 as a document management company. Widespread digitization took his family business to the brink by the mid-nineties; but in recent years Cohen has used the new technology to increase efficiency.
"Our tolerance for when we call a customer support line, and they're like, 'We're going to have to call you back in a couple of days to research something,' those days are over. ... Our expectation today is to go online, log in, look at it and download it," Cohen says.
Technology is important for one of the oldest professions, too: farming.
Pete Johnson, Vermont stand-out small business owner and president of Pete's Greens, facilitates a certified organic four-season vegetable farm which utilizes moveable greenhouses. In recent years, the Vermont operation has expanded nationally to the wholesale level, bringing products to nationwide chains such as Whole Foods.
Given his rural location, Johnson relies on the written word to send his message, reigniting the underappreciated tool that is email.
"When you're emailing, you have time to think about what you're saying, so for certain learning types, it's really helpful," Johnson said. "Even if I see someone 40 feet away, I might still be emailing something to them if it’s the right level of complexity, because the retention will be better than if I walked up to them and told them whatever it was."
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
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