PAUL FOX: Digital technology is keeping the lights on for N.C.’s small business community

Paul Fox is a principal at 310 Architecture + Interiors in Raleigh

While political debates about the technology industry have taken up a good deal of time lately on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail, it’s essential to remember how critical of a role digital platforms are playing in each of our lives as we meet the challenges brought forward by the COVID-19 outbreak. If the small business community is going to make it through this crisis, previous calls to regulate and even break up some of our country’s largest technology companies should be replaced by resounding support from policymakers for the digital tools that are keeping the lights on at small businesses.

With the help of digital tools, small businesses in Raleigh, the Triangle, and across the state are using innovative technology tools on a daily basis to keep operations running, stay in touch with our clientele, and maintain our contributions to the state economy where possible. I would encourage all lawmakers, especially those from North Carolina’s congressional delegation in Washington, and our state attorney general to consider the story of businesses like ours and how we’ve been able to adapt to our current situation. During such a turbulent time in America, it’s crucial that they take a step back and acknowledge the contributions made by the technology industry to the small businesses community.

But truth be told, digital technologies have supported our business since the beginning, years before the current pandemic. Not unlike many small businesses, social media platforms such as Pinterest and Facebook, as well as Google, have always been indispensable tools for our company.  310 Architecture + Interiors is a multidisciplinary design firm, specializing in architecture, interior design, and experiential graphic design.  Considering the robust online community around design, digital tools vastly enable us to highlight our work to potential clients as well as like-minded design enthusiasts.

As one example, Google’s search tools help place our firm and portfolio in front of those who may be searching for a firm that can help realize their design vision. More purposeful, targeted marketing lets us identify clients who are looking for our services, in and outside our base community.  This is particularly important as in-person business opportunities are all but lost for the time being.

Beyond search and advertising tools, Google’s analytics tools offer us valuable insights as we work hard to grow our operations. With actionable feedback and data gained from our online presence and marketing practices, we now have the ability to see a much better picture of our clientele, present and future.  This allows our business to make informed decisions about how to grow, where to grow, and how to more effectively spend our resources online.

With our team now working remotely as we adhere to social distancing guidelines, work efforts are now even more all-hands-on-deck, and digital platforms like Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, and Pinterest give us a place to work collaboratively on projects with clients, maximizing our efficiency while we’re at home. Cloud-based computing also present us options to streamline our operations at little or no cost.

These are just a few ways that our business is staying afloat today. So, as conversations continue regarding policies that may affect the technology industry, I’d like to see the small business community considered. Few would argue that we need protections to stay secure online and maintain a healthy business climate, but as our lawmakers write those rules, they must make sure to protect the range of accessible digital technologies that are keeping the doors open for small businesses nationwide.

We’re living and doing business in a turbulent time, where sustaining a small business would be nearly impossible without online technologies and platforms. The support that these tools provide small businesses across North Carolina and our country can’t be forgotten as policymakers and regulators get back to business as usual when we finally make it out of this pandemic.

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