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Q&A with Craig Smyth – Engineering Lead for Global Small Business Sales, Cisco

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On January 20th, business leaders, top executives and top Canadian SMEs came together at the Canadian SME Business Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Craig is Cisco’s Systems Engineering Lead for Global Small Business Sales, leading the global architecture strategy for the Cisco Designed portfolio, and was part of the event’s “Your Business and Technology: What’s Next?” workshop, where he discussed the future of business technology with Matt Sergeant, CTO of Ideal, and I.


Your role at Cisco has taken you around the world, supporting small and midsized organizations across more than 140 countries. What are the common challenges you’ve noticed growing businesses around the world share?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen has been keeping up with the changing technology landscape. The variety of devices connecting to networks is growing every day and keeping these devices secure requires constant attention. In the same light there is so much new opportunity for small businesses, and seeing the impact the right technology can have on a business is incredible – from uncovering sales customer insights to streamlining supply chains. Technology is playing an integral role in helping businesses succeed wherever they’re based.

New generations of platforms are also opening the door for small businesses. For example, just a few years ago, Facebook, Uber, and YouTube were thought of as standalone platforms. Today, they’ve transformed into economic operating systems on which new business models are being created.


As a follow-up, what are some of the common opportunities they share?

The barriers to entry in business have never been lower! Setting up functional systems and accounting for a company can be done in a few hours. You can recruit support employees globally, with various skillsets and at many levels, with Upwork and Fiverr. E-commerce has completely transformed supply chains to make them more modern and efficient. Unified core software products have never been more affordable and feature-rich.

The knowledge-based business has really been the beneficiaries of these tools.


Turning to Canada, what role can technology play to help our small and growing businesses overcome these challenges?

The willingness to learn how new technologies are impacting an industry is becoming an increasingly important factor in small business success. It may seem overwhelming at first trying to keep up with all the changes, but intuitive interfaces have made adopting and using technology easier than ever. Just look at the vast libraries of YouTube videos and how-to guides available online – you can learn how to use new tech in minutes.


That all sounds incredible. If we were to break it down, what is the first step you recommend for a growing business that wants to get more from technology?

Join or create a mastermind group of peer businesses in the same industry. That way you can collaborate together on technology strategies to help flatten your learning curve. You’ll see the rate of new ideas coming toward you will multiply.


What is the role of the technology partner in all of this? Why should a small business look to them instead of buying and installing their technology direct?

We know time is one of the most valuable resources for small business owners and often there isn’t enough of it in the day. A technology partner can give you the speed, reach and expertise you wouldn’t have otherwise.

For example, after bringing new technology into the business, optimizing the setup is a critical phase where an experienced partner shortens the implementation timeframe. Our partners have a strong network of IT subcontractors, so they can help deploy technology solutions wherever your business is based, no matter how remote, at a speed most small businesses can’t match.


You were at the SME Business Expo on January 20th, participating in our small business workshop. Can you share a little bit more about the workshop and what attendees learned?

Technology can be intimidating for businesses of all sizes. With this workshop, we wanted attendees to understand they don’t have to be an expert in technology to use it to transform their business.

We really focused on how growing businesses can make the most out of technology, simply and securely. Matt, the CTO of Ideal, illustrated that brilliantly through his own experiences with technology, including Cisco Meraki. We also discussed the common challenges and opportunities that come with adopting new technologies and had engaging conversations with audience members. It was a great event and I always love having the opportunity to connect with small business owners in person.

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