Q: Hey Steve – So I recently took the plunge. For various reasons I left my corporate gig of 10 years and ventured off on my own. I have always wanted to be my own boss. But my question and problem is this: How can I compete against large companies like my former employer? I am small but don’t want to look small and definitely we do not act small, but we also don’t have their budget and manpower.


A: Funny, I was recently speaking about this very subject with Rowan Trollope, Group President for Small and Medium Business and cloud services at Symantec (a company I do some work with.) Rowan was telling me the story of a friend of his who owns a small business based here in the U.S. but who has a robust global presence. His pal definitely competes with the big boys, and does so very effectively.

His secret? Software as a Service (SaaS).

You might have heard of SaaS, many small business people have, but it also remains a bit of a hazy subject for many, and that’s too bad because, like the small business above, SaaS is an affordable, powerful way to run and expand a small business. SaaS is a way for SMBs to get vital IT services, affordably, online, and on-demand.

It is a great way to be small but look big.

Essentially, SaaS is a way to deliver software, especially business applications, over the Internet. Instead of buying programs, you use the software over the Net as a service. Among other advantages, with SaaS, there is no huge front-loaded investment, the services are incredibly reliable, and you can also reduce your need for IT support. Some of the more common SaaS offerings include Basecamp for project management, the aforementioned Symantec’s cloud services, and Salesforce.com for customer relationship management.

Aside from many other advantages, Trollope explained that SaaS allows small businesses to get advanced technology – technology often associated with large corporations – at small business prices.

Example: Let’s say that you have a team that works remotely. Instead of buying some expensive project management software, installing it on servers or laptops, protecting it, having to update it every year, etc., using the same sort of program as an SaaS application allows your team to access the program from anywhere, on any laptop, and for a lot less money than buying the whole suite for a lot of users.

Or how about all important areas of small business data security and backup services? Of course, this is where my associates at Symantec excel, but the point is, using SaaS to secure data is smart for businesses large and small alike.

Not long ago I was working on my new book. I usually back up my work fairly often, but for some reason had not in a while. Then I lost a chapter of the book. That is when I went to SaaS for all of my backup needs.

The issue is even more vital and more acute when we are talking about businesses with more data. While we all know by now that securing that data and backing it up is critical (some of us learn the hard way), it does not always happen on a regular basis, and when there is a problem like

  • A crash, or
  • A hacker attack, or
  • A virus or phishing scam, or
  • A theft of computers, etc.

that lack of foresight becomes not only a major blunder but potentially a security nightmare.

Again, this is where SaaS can even the playing field. The ability to store, secure, and retrieve data offsite is the sort of thing that only used to be the providence of big businesses, but SaaS makes it affordable, doable, global, and smart for small businesses now too. Even with our more limited resources, SaaS gives us a level of sophistication that was unheard of even a generation ago.

Bottom line, as Rowan Trollope says, “SaaS makes your small business more effective and better able to compete – against anyone!”

Today’s tip: Looking to be happier at work? Consider telecommuting. A recent survey from Staples found that 86% of telecommuters say they feel better and are more productive when they work from home. In addition, Telecommuters say they are:

  • Happier and healthier – Telecommuters say their stress levels have dropped 25% on average since working from home. 73% even say they eat healthier when working from home.
  • More loyal – Without the schlep to the office, 76% of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time on work and say they are more loyal to their company because of telecommuting.
  • Better balanced – More than 80% say they now maintain a better work-life balance.

Have a question about using software as a service? Connect with a SCORE mentoronline or in your community today!

About the Author(s)

 Steve  Strauss

Often called “America’s leading small business expert,” Steve Strauss is a bestselling author and USA TODAY’s senior small business columnist. An attorney, entrepreneur, speaker, and brand ambassador, Steve's latest book is Your Small Business Boom!

USA TODAY Senior Small Business Columnist and Best-Selling Author
Using Software as a Service