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Every SME is a digital SME

A digitally engaged SME is more than a business that has an attractive website and attracts social media traffic.
Divers will tell you that their experience, their hobby, reveals a wonderful unknown world under the water. But what we’re here to share today is the story of The Scuba Doctor. Lloyd Borrett’s taken this business– that some may have thought was not much more than filling air cylinders and a few bits and pieces– and transformed it into a digitally-engaged business, where 75% of the revenue now comes from online sales. But it’s not just about the e-commerce activity. It’s about the way Lloyd and The Scuba Doctor shares diving experiences, provides expert advice on where the best places are to go, and the kit that you need to get the most out of that experience.
That fraternity of divers come together through a business to share what they love, to get access to the best knowledge, and to be available for them– the best bits of kit with the detail and the precision that a serious diver’s looking for. Let’s learn from Lloyd’s experience. Come on, we’ll see what he’s got to share about his transformation of The Scuba Doctor. Oh, well, after years in high technology and IT for 30, 40 years and in sales and marketing in that, later on, and just running IT businesses, I made the move into the dive shop. And it was a wholesale and retail operation and we’ve just grown from there.
As a customer, I’d help the place set up a website and it became one of the first dive shops with the website. And then set up an online shop for them and they became one of the first with an online shop in the country. And, so, sales suddenly going from a little, local dive shop servicing the Mornington Peninsula to Australia-wide and even sales overseas.
I saw that as there was bigger and better opportunity to the way that was being done and leapt in. Any good business is driven by people that are passionate about it. And that goes for weird and wonderful things. I can remember buying a trolley to move my dive gear about, when I was just a muppet diver. And I wanted stuff to move my dive gear about. I found this guy in Dandenong that makes trolleys. And the guy was absolutely passionate about trolleys. And you can see that in the nature of his business and the success of his business. If you can’t be passionate about it, there’s no point in doing it.
In this detail, though, you’ve got a far richer array of parts. And you’re able to communicate that specialisation, again, through your digital engagement. Well, people always want the little bits and pieces. And the little bits and pieces matter. And instead of just saying it’s a 3/8 to 9/16th adapter, we’ll say it’s that, it’s made of this, it’s suitable for these sort of applications, and here are the four or five things we use this and what you do with it, whereas others will just put it’s a 3 to 9/16th widget. And that doesn’t really convey anything to anyone.
And what’s also, I found, really fascinating, your e-commerce digital engagement strategy isn’t just about selling bits, you actually need a full-service operation that can apply those bits– service, support, train. It’s just part of a bigger picture of a full-service offering. Yeah, well, you can’t just be an online provider of dive gear. If there was nothing but online providers, the divers wouldn’t be able to get air fuels to go diving, they wouldn’t be able to get all the other services they need.
So you need to be out of service and repair gear, you need to be able to provide them with air fuel, so that they can fill the tank to go diving, you need to be able to hire gear to people that haven’t bought a kit yet, refer them off to the dive charter boat and tell them about the local dive sites. You got to be able to train them. People come along and they want training on how to be a diver in the first place and get their initial certification or step up to different levels of certification, like if they want to do wreck diving, or drift diving, or night diving, et cetera. Getting the right e-commerce platform is vital.
I set up the e-commerce platform that this business uses back in 2006. And it was the best choice at the time, by far. And there were others around at the time that I sort of looked at and went, well, no, they’re not really mature enough. And now, those ones are dominant and the one we’re using isn’t. And if I had of made some better choices about setting that e-commerce platform up, we’d be better positioned right now. Right now, stock control in these businesses is a nightmare. See, right now we don’t have a point of sale system to handle the sales in the shop because we can’t link that to the back office online system.
And, yeah, we can’t link to an inventory control purchasing system. And it’s all down to the fact that the e-commerce platform we picked can’t handle SKUs (Stock-keeping unit). So, we’ve got fins there and so for that model fin, there might be five sizes and four colours, so it’s actually 20 SKUs. And our system just has it as it’s one SKU, as in– One fin. –it’s that fin and it’s got these attributes of colour and size. And that’s not good enough for a purchasing system. There are add-ons to the system that we chose that can do that, but out of the box, it doesn’t. And initially we set it up without that thinking.
Now that the business is something like 10 times, or more, what it was back in those early days, that sort of thing’s becoming vital. But it’s a lot of time and expense to go and put that sort of thing in. Is there an option other than to be digitally engaged? No, not today. You’ve got to do all the other things. And you’ve got to do it all. I mean, and sadly that’s retail today. You’ve got to be online or you don’t [INAUDIBLE].. Unless you’re a purely, very niche service area, but diving isn’t that. There are services and there’s product and you’ve got to make money out of both of them.
What’s the plan to make sure you’ve got time to work on the business as distinct from working in the business? That’s the problem. That’s the problem all small businesses have. I’ve got some great staff and we’ve grown from two staff to– we’ve got seven people, now. And I’d like to think every single one of them is an eagle– we don’t have any turkeys in this business. And that’s a vital thing. And then they are taking over a lot of things and I just don’t worry about those things anymore, I truly don’t. I mean, people often will ask me stuff and I’ll just go, I don’t know, you got to ask them about that.
So, I’m letting go of more and more of that stuff so I can focus on the business more than be in the business. Lloyd Borrett, thank you for spending some time with us today. As you know, I love your journey, I love your approach to business. I hope many good dives ahead for you in the enterprise. You’re welcome, Bruce. Many thanks for coming in and I hope this inspires others to get out there and do it.
A digitally engaged SME is more than a business that has an attractive website and attracts social media traffic.
Being a digitally engaged SME involves understanding and deploying digital technology and systems that support a deeper engagement with customers, multiple channels through which goods and services can be accessed and supplied, more convenient ways of activating sales and being paid and thoughtfully using technology that supports the more efficient and effective running of the enterprise.
SMEs can access systems and technologies that can support the effective operation of the business so that proprietors can spend less time working in the business and more time working on the growth of the business.
These technologies can help an SME understand trends in the business and areas of strength and weakness in a way that can inform steps to support business success.

Your task

After you’ve watched the video, identify an example of a routine business task that can be done more efficiently and reliably by the use of digital technology. Share this example and link the process you identified with how it supports business compliance or customer experience.
Recall a routine process from your time in business that has been automated and describe how this improved the business performance. Propose another process in your SME that may be suited to the deployment of digital technology to improve its efficiency, accuracy or contribution to business success.
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SMEs and Digital Engagement

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