Technology a job killer? Not for these companies

Small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy and, from my vantage point, the best chance we have at substantially reducing unemployment. Technology has been labeled as a job killer but, in fact, it has been found to be a catalyst for creating jobs for small businesses.

U.S. small and midsize businesses that leverage technology had 10 points higher job growth and 11 points higher revenue growth than "low-tech" SMBs, according to recent research from The Boston Consulting Group.

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The same study concluded that if just 15 percent of low-tech SMBs and 25 percent of the mid-tech SMBs became high-tech SMBs, the result would be the addition of more than 2 million jobs and an additional $357 billion into the US economy.

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Whereas larger businesses have added layers of management over the past several decades, small-business owners notoriously operate with a lean staff. This is especially true for solopreneurs who often bear the brunt of doing nearly everything themselves. With the latest in technology, particularly cloud technology, entrepreneurs can access best-in-class tools that only large companies could afford in the past. This means that they can service customers in a broader geographic area more seamlessly, draw upon global talent and shift operational talent.

A great example of this in practice is EMJ Companies, a small business that distributes commercial-grade building materials. They made a simple shift to using the cloud-based application Office 365 last year, which boosted employee productivity. Additionally, because the company needed less in-house technical operating support, the company was able to hire more sales and customer-facing staff — the type of staff that directly grows revenue, and in a positive cycle, allows for even more hiring. EMJ Vice President Gary Wietecha said that because of the shift to the cloud, EMJ was able to hire staff and generate six-figure cost savings.

I see time and time again where technology makes significant differences in a company's ability to grow and to hire. Cost is no longer a barrier and the tools are robust, yet too many small businesses, of all sizes and across industries, are slow to embrace these applications.

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For some small-business owners, it's fear of the unknown; for others, it's a lack of education and awareness. And there are also business owners so busy working in their businesses that they don't take the time to strategically work on their business to take it to the next level. Regardless of the reason, the consistent thread is that these business owners are missing out on an opportunity to super-charge their growth.

If you are a small-business owner and aren't sure where to start with technology, here are a few tips:

Contact a local business-advocacy group. I've found that groups across the country are taking action to empower local small businesses with technology education programs. For example, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Microsoft to provide free e-learning programs to help Chicago-area small businesses become better versed in technology and understand how it can help their businesses grow.

Find a local technology partner. There are companies across the country that help small businesses get comfortable with new technology and even manage the implementation. Marvin Korves, CEO of Chicago-based SMB Helpdesk, says that as a small business owner himself, his approach is to first spend time listening to small-business clients and then suggest how their businesses could be streamlined with technology, whether they are a solo business or have dozens of employees.

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It may seem surprising, but the results are clear. Prioritizing and using technology is critical for SMB growth and for the growth of jobs and the U.S. gross domestic product overall. Entrepreneurs that invest time to learn and implement technology are being duly rewarded and making a real social impact.

Commentary by Carol Roth, a "recovering" investment banker (corporate finance), entrepreneur/small-business owner, investor and author of "The Entrepreneur Equation." Follow her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth.