At the recent enterpriseM3 conference I heard a presentation that called out the opportunities for businesses in the digital age.  I want to credit Allister Frost of Wild Orange Media who delivered a presentation that delighted the audience and for the ideas I expand on below.  There is also a valuable report (free download) and while focussed on businesses in Surrey and Hampshire is relevant to all UK businesses that have ‘digital’ on their agenda.

Digital Dilemma

Allister posed the digital dilemma for businesses, that dilemma in three words is to either Decline (ignore), Digital (act) or Disrupt (do an ‘Uber’).

According to recently published House of Commons report (7/12/2105) the UK has 5.4M businesses comprising:Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 10.07.03

Micro businesses, those with less than 10 employees make up 5.38M (99.9%) of the total.  I wonder how many of these business owners are in the camp of Decline, Digital or Disrupt?

So some definitions (my version):

Decline is a static website (one page with contact form) or perhaps no website.  Expect low or no visitor engagement!

Digital is a website with ecommerce enabled (if appropriate), Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook all enabled and actively managed.  Expect to do business!

Disrupt is out of the box game changer and takes on established businesses and changes the rules in favour of the consumer.  Few micro businesses can invent and execute a game changer so going after a share of established business is an easier target.  That is why you have to take your hat off to Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Skype and numerous other disruptors – it ain’t easy but the prize is big when you win.  Expect to win big or fail spectacular!

Digital upside

Back to 5.38M micro businesses, what are they up to?  1 in 6 (0.9M) do not have a website and  2 in 3 (3.6M) can not accept online payments although recognise that not all businesses need to offer online payments.  So UK Plc is clearly out of the starting block with digital with upside potential.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 18.55.44What about the legion of self-employed among the number of micro businesses ?  From a different House of Commons report there were 4.5M self-employed people in 2014.  How do they fare in the Digital Age or is it a Digital Ice Age for them?  In 2012/13, the average (median) income for all people with income from self-employment sources was around £11,000 so with these limited resources you have to be inventive to create a website and use free social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, if you know how to use them!  The younger tech savvy generation are more capable to self-develop a website so put them on the team to avoid thousands of pounds of cost.

Business boom

In this digital age there is an appetite to start a business with 351,000 business births and 246,000 business deaths in 2014.  As an investor I am in the Digital camp with a sprinkle of Disrupt as our team builds a business that has shades of Uber, LinkedIn and Facebook and I have the resources and a great team to do that so I know how hard it can be to get your digital business up and running.

That fledgling business just coming out of beta at and a campaign for Fit Britain.

The service sector dominates the UK economy, contributing around 78% of GDP and services, unlike manufacturing, are suited to online business models.  There has never a better time to start up a business with minimal capital required  so come on you budding entrepreneurs get busy go Digital and for the brave go Disrupt.