All businesses have struggled in the economic downturn, some more so than others. Those who have made it through will have adapted to the situations and overcome the challenges, many will be leaner, fitter and stronger, ready to play a bigger role in the market than perhaps they had expected.

To succeed and grow your business, you will be looking at how to best capitalise on the dynamic market conditions around you. Attracting and keeping customers has never been so important, with many potential customers looking for alternative solutions to their existing suppliers, your small, friendly business needs to appeal to them, and live up to their expectations.

Now is the time to build on your USP (unique selling points) to differentiate from your competitors, whether they are large or small businesses, and put in place systems and processes that allow you to grow, yet still deliver the personal and reactive service so often praised of small companies.

Hope and expectation

Whilst it may seem the banking industry has given up on small businesses, there are many other industries that are looking for ways to better support the needs of the Small-office-home-office (SOHO), micro or small business. Many industries realise that today's small business could be tomorrow's strategic partner or key account, and the mobile phone industry is one of these.

Last October I went to every mobile operator high-street shop in my town with one goal in mind; to find out what business productivity solutions they could offer my fifty person small business. Apart from offering BlackBerry handsets and shared minutes, not a single one of them knew what to offer a small business. Many took my contact details and promised their Enterprise sales teams would be in touch with me soon, but to-date I have heard nothing.

The problem mobile operators have is that they are used to dealing with large enterprises, with dedicated account management teams and large budgets. Very few employees in mobile operators have ever worked in a small business, so simply do not understand what is important and what is not.

However, this is changing, and soon you will be able to walk out of a high-street store with business productivity applications that help make you more competitive and more productive. Every single mobile operator I speak to in the UK and abroad now have dedicated small business organisations that are frantically trying to find new ways to deliver services that fit your needs.

In the not too distant future, you will see more compelling reasons for you to choose a small business solution from your mobile operator

Recently, I stumbled across a statistic that is indicative of the problems small businesses face when looking for mobile productivity solutions; 60% of all mobile subscribers in the UK are using their consumer mobile phone package primarily for use in a small business. Actually, I am surprised that number is not higher. Over the last six years I have worked for three small UK businesses, and every one of my colleagues used consumer tariffs for business use. The reason for this is that there is no clear alternative, or any reason not to choose the consumer option.

Big company professionalism for small business budgets
In the not too distant future, you will see more compelling reasons for you to choose a small business solution from your mobile operator. Beyond the shared minutes and dedicated customer care teams, you will find communication solutions that allow you to be contactable wherever you are through a single number, making it easier for your customer to get in contact with you whether you are sitting at your computer at home, next to your desk-phone or even on a bus or on your laptop in a café. You will be able to send and receive emails, share calendars and access company records from any smartphone, and in many cases including the one you already own, instead of needing to upgrade or change your phone.

With professional grade, configurable Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) systems, high-definition (HD Voice) telephony and conference calling, virtualised answering and appointment scheduling services, document and calendar sharing, seamless mobility and much more, you will be able to present your company as a professional and trustworthy partner equal, if not better, to any of your closest larger rivals.

Many of these solutions will be offered on a rental basis, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model meaning very low capital expenditure, with manageable and predictable monthly service fees.

All this means that you can get on with running your business, growing, competing and capitalising on the changing market conditions, instead of worrying about whether the phones are getting answered or orders are being lost.

CommuniGate Systems deliver all of these benefits directly to your business and through mobile operators with the industry's most complete Unified Communication solutions for small businesses.

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