One of the more memorable aspects associated with being selected as the “State Star” for the Virginia Small Business Development Center Network was having the opportunity to spend a day in Silicon Valley visiting Intuit (Quick Books), Google and Facebook. This trip was arranged by Rhonda Abrams, the President and CEO of her own Silicon Valley start-up, The Planning Shop and an ardent supporter of America’s SBDC network as she once was a client. In addition to running her own company, Ms. Abrams is a tireless advocate for small business owners and is a prolific writer and columnist for USA Today.
An article in a recent edition of Foreign Policy described Silicon Valley as: “… an idiosyncratic place, boasting a combination of specific factors that cannot be easily replicated or reproduced.” Access to capital, both intellectual and venture, coupled with a comprehensive network of associated service providers produce an entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages creativity and innovation. The sheer scale of the operations we visited were a testimony to of the magnitude of the operations taking place there…Intuit had a campus of 9 interlocking buildings housing over 3,000 employees who, last year, processed over 100 million invoices resulting in $1.5 trillion in commerce. Google receives over 2 million resumes a year to work there and Facebook has 16,000 plus employees and boasts the largest office building under one roof and one day had over 1 billion visits from around the world accessing its site. On the day we conducted our tour, Facebook was bringing over 100 new hires in for their first day of orientation!
In addition to the scale of these operations, the one noticeable item is that they are, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. There is none of the core services associated with living, shall we say, here in Hampton Roads. Consequently the support services needed to keep their employees happy is staggering in its size as well. Everything from transportation to food services to basic medical and dental service and a whole host of other personal services are all located “on site”. As a retired naval officer, it struck me as being similar to being on a ship (except this ship did not move and you could go home at night!).
During our visit we discussed some of the “macro-trends” that are starting and will continue to impact both large and small businesses alike. These include:
Social: Right now 8 out of 10 consumers are doing business via social channels and it is anticipated that this will soon grow to 9 out of 10 in the not-too-distant future
The Cloud: Is rewriting the rules of business and leveling the playing field for small businesses. Right now nearly one third of all small business access some sort of cloud-based services and this is anticipate to grow to 80% of all businesses by 2020.
Mobile: This is the new norm…43% of all consumers use mobile as their primary means of conducting business and, like the Cloud, this number will dramatically increase in the future. Google has changed their search algorithms and now emphasize having a mobile friendly website as one of the factors to determine where a business is ranked and Facebook announced the launch of an enhanced Facebook Pages program for small businesses during our visit. Finally,
Data: The proper and effective management of data will enable small businesses to provide better services and build deeper relations with their customers.
Business is shifting from a “Me” to a “We” focus.
One point was abundantly clear, each of these companies found a need in the marketplace for their goods and services and then grew and changed in order to meet the new demands of their consumers. Intuit was started at a kitchen table as a tool to help the founder’s wife balance her checkbook; Facebook as an undergraduate student directory listing all the new freshmen at a university and Google’s original name was “Backrub”.
While the tours clearly left an impression on all of us who participated, it also gave us pause for consideration. As SBDC Counselors, we need to be able to guide our clients and help them succeed in their endeavors. With the monumental changes taking place in the market, we really need to stay close to these changes and develop the requisite skills and knowledge to help our clients succeed and thrive in these changing times.
Thank you Rhonda for a most fascinating, amazing and enlightening day!