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How solopreneurs can keep technology intrusion in check

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Olivier Bataille

Today, 210 million small businesses exist around the world. The average number of employees in these ventures? Just one. There’s never been a better time to be a SMB solopreneur.

These armies of one represent a new generation of workers who are saying goodbye to their 9-to-5 cubicle gigs and going it alone.

These founders are from all walks of life, include all ages, and span multiple industries.

It takes a lot of hustle to become your own boss as well as your own salesperson, marketer, customer support agent, IT guru and product lead. Wearing multiple hats is made possible by the mobile devices, apps, and cloud-based tools that are often taken for granted.

It’s creating a golden age of entrepreneurship where working anywhere and growing a business without growing staff are the new normal.

This way of working is very recent. Return to the mid-90s for a moment, when Coolio ruled the airwaves and Pixar first introduced us to computer animation. Workplace technology was more of a hindrance than a helping hand for entrepreneurs.

When I co-founded an online insurance marketplace in 1995, our technology cost tens of thousands of dollars and took months to configure with multiple specialists involved. We had to install a T1 into our office, buy two SGI workstations, an Oracle database, Netscape Communications Server, and, to keep the closet server room cool, install a portable one-ton air conditioner that the last person out of the office emptied every night.

Twenty years later, newer, more powerful versions of that stack are available for a few hundred dollars per month and configured in minutes. And nobody has to be on “air con duty” anymore!

It’s not just tech entrepreneurs who have benefitted from the improvements. Cost-effective applications and services work hard for today’s era of SMB solopreneur and give individuals in any industry the ability to better run their businesses.

These individuals believe in the power of technology as a GoDaddy survey recently found 72 percent of SMB owners would choose remote access to email, calendar, and documents on a device over an assistant.

Working anywhere enables control of the SMB solopreneur’s schedule which is one of the primary reasons people become their own boss – 62 percent report that the unstructured nature of their day allows them to work around other activities and leaves them feeling more fulfilled.

That said, there’s a downside that needs to be kept at bay if we want to sustain a healthy economy of micro businesses: the always-on mentality that increasingly comes with the territory and the technology. We’re hard wired to snack on the brain candy our feeds of notifications and updates stream to us non-stop.

The SMB solopreneur can solve hard problems in ways that will be replicated on a global scale.

For entrepreneurs, the concept of work/life balance was already tenuous. With no one to blame, or praise, for the failures and successes, the pressure really is on and business owners struggle to switch off. The combination of that stress with omnipresent connectivity can overwhelm the benefits of being in control.

To pull this off successfully, it shouldn’t be seen as a question of balance, but a question of retaining control of choices and integrating different elements of family and work life together.

To avoid physical and mental burnout, work needs to be combined with the life of SMB solopreneur.

In the future, we’ll no longer think in black and white terms of work/life balance but look instead at the empowering ways we can continue to connect while not interrupting our daily lives.

There are many life hacks, but carving out the first 2-2.5 hours of peak productivity time in the day as protected time is a great starting point tip to help kick-start the most cognitively demanding tasks.

And more broadly, if you assign designations to your day and stick to them, you’ll reduce anxiety by feeling in control as well as genuinely increasing your productivity. And with that, you can feel less guilty about switching off when you need to.

Technology providers also need to improve integration without placing the burden on business owners.

They are too busy to keep up with advances in technology and tech-speak: 79 percent of SMB owners do not know what it means to have ‘software delivered in the cloud.’

The early improvement to efficiency that we’re seeing with Single Sign On solutions is just the start. The next stage of IT’s democratization will see our apps working better together, with services like IFTTT connecting different services and using simple ‘recipes’ to set-up the connections.

We don’t want to replicate a digitized version of our analog hodge-podge of papers, documents and sticky notes, but instead deliver ecosystems where siloes are broken down to allow better collaboration and efficiency that’s integrated seamlessly into our lives.

The best is yet to come for the tech industry over the next decade as billions more people are set to come online with Internet-enabled devices, needing gainful employment.

They will look for affordable, easy-to-use, and connected technology to help them start, run and grow their ventures. The ability of the SMB solopreneur to make an impact will be one of the most heartening outcomes of technology-enabled innovation.

By helping them integrate their lives and the technology they use to run their businesses, the SMB solopreneur can solve hard problems in ways that will be replicated on a global scale.