If there’s anything more difficult than starting up a viable, successful small business, it’s maintaining and growing a small business. According to the Small Business Administration, while some 78% of small businesses survive their first year of business, less than half make it through their first five years of business and only about a third survive a full decade or longer.
In small business terms, the word ‘survival’ means just that most of the time – keeping afloat. Within five years after establishment, less than 1% of all small businesses in the U.S. employ 100 or more people, while small business continues to be the major employment growth driver, by far. Growing small businesses into medium and large operations is what everyone, from the government and private sector powerhouses to business owners and their employees want to see. But getting there is proving to be tougher with more competitive markets and less capital to invest every year.
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Where to begin embracing change
One recommendation that manufacturers, distributors and many brick-and-mortar businesses hear all the time is that they should be embracing technology and putting these modern amenities to good use, in particular in terms of cutting costs, managing employees, and expanding to new markets. But, with so many tech options out there to choose from, and many of them untested and unproven in the long-term, embracing these tools just becomes yet another tough decision business owners are faced with.
For smaller operations in any industry that requires equipment, storage, distribution and maintenance, this decision has become just a little bit easier in recent years though. Software and maintenance organization methods that have traditionally been considered big business solutions are now not only readily available and affordable for small businesses, but have proven to be an exceptional tool in helping small businesses grow and become competitive in a dog-eat-dog market.
Computerized Maintenance Management Software (or CMMS), although a mouthful to pronounce, are turning into a go-to solution for small businesses in expanding their operations, while keeping costs down and improving productivity significantly. Though CMMS is something that conglomerates and multinationals have been using for quite some time, new cloud-based software solutions of this type are now adapted for small business needs and turning into nothing short of a necessity.
Choosing the right solutions
While there are plenty of these cool new systems to choose from, depending on a business’ particular needs, some common threads that all CMMS solutions include are tech support, lowering costs overall but in particular for training and replacing outdated processes, and essentially replacing entire IT departments in operating a small, but competitive business.
Functionalities tend to include work order scheduling, asset management, inventory control and overview, equipment inspection, repairs and a little something dubbed preventative maintenance that can do a growing business a world of good. Several cloud-based CMMS providers claim that their customers routinely see an average 15% productivity increase within six months and that the first ROI is clearly visible within the first two months.
While corrective maintenance, a practice most small businesses are used to, is a type of maintenance task usually performed when needed to identify, isolate, and fix faulty equipment, preventative maintenance is a set of scheduled tasks with the end purpose of minimizing the likelihood of equipment failing in the first place. Avoiding breakdowns or replacement of equipment that may not have been necessary, not only seriously reduces financial losses, but increases productivity and, ultimately, how well and fast a business can deliver to clients.
This is just one of the many reasons small businesses are looking to cloud based CMMS solutions to become better players in especially competitive markets. A recent study shows how a telecommunications company saw a 545% return on investment after implementing a preventive maintenance plan.
Support to grow in a competitive space
Whichever industry a business might be working in, there are a few key things to keep in mind when selecting a CMMS. First, a small company should obviously request to test drive the CMMS and see whether it’s a right fit. Most providers will offer this and, if they don’t, move on to the next one.
Next, though the point of cloud-based software is not having to set up any servers or install anything, a small business should make sure that software maintenance, updates, and the initial setup are all either included in the price or that there are clear and affordable fees attached to these services.
Data backup and tech support, especially their availability, are the third thing to keep in mind and ask about when deciding on a CMMS. Most providers will have both readily available to clients, but the best tend to offer on-call dedicated advisers to help adapt their software and systems to any business’ particular needs, so that all sides get the most out of the relationship. In any case, cloud-based maintenance software solutions seem to be a growing trend and one of the few visibly helping many small businesses do more than survive in today’s hardball market.