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TMCNet:  Small Businesses are Bullish on U.S. Economy, Finds Vu TelePresence Survey

[May 18, 2011]

Small Businesses are Bullish on U.S. Economy, Finds Vu TelePresence Survey

ZELIENOPLE, Pa. --(Business Wire)--

In the post recession economy, technology continues to play a pivotal role in small business competitiveness, according to a survey of businesses with 10 to 100 employees released today by Vu TelePresence, a leader in integral technology communications services for small and midsized businesses. Over half (55.2%) of small businesses are making investments in technology in 2011, and more than 90 percent (96.4%) believe that employing the latest technology is vital to stay competitive.

The survey indicated that small businesses have a renewed level of optimism about the U.S. market - a point in line with President Obama's messaging that small business innovation is key to moving the country forward. Specifically, nearly 60 percent of small businesses say they are confident in the U.S. economy, with 83 percent planning to expand within the U.S. over the next five years. However, small businesses are facing new challenges in this economic climate that threaten to make advancement more difficult. For example, although the vast majority (96.8%) believes face to face communications are critical to fostering business relationships, nearly three quarters say rising transportation costs have put a crimp in meeting clients. As a result, 80.8 percent feel challenged when managing client relationships. Ultimately, small businesses are being squeezed by cost and time management.

"In today's connected and skeptical world, personal engagement is key," says Devita Saraf (News - Alert), chief executive officer of Vu TelePresence. "Today's business environment requires greater transparency and authenticity found in face to face communications, which builds trust with customers and is a crucial component in growing the business and maintaining a loyal clientele base. While in-person meetings are the most desirable connection, the reality is that telepresence is the next best thing in building effective, business relationships."

Further, over half (61.6%) of respondents continue to feel disadvantaged compared to larger competitors when it comes to the use of technology. Namely, they do not have the IT resources to manage complex technical systems, and their budgets are limited.

That said, theyare challenged by finding the time to address areas necessary to the success of their business, including developing new product and business ideas (84.8%) and managing client relationships (80.8%).

With reduced in-person meetings, small businesses are finding new ways to address cost concerns when it comes to customer and prospect engagement. According to the findings, nearly half (48.6%) of small businesses have increased their use of videoconferencing over the past year, while 21.4 percent have decreased travel to client offices. More importantly, 75.2 percent of respondents see videoconferencing as a good substitute for face-to-face meetings.

To address this issue head on, many are turning to telepresence solutions for a flexible and convenient solution. Nearly four out of five (78.6%) small businesses are using videoconferencing as a way to stretch their time and resources; however, the largest obstacle to small businesses' use of videoconferencing is the low rate of adoption by their client base, according to 58.9 percent of respondents. As client communication is a top priority for small businesses, the lack of customer adoption forces small businesses to use other less-effective means of communication.

"To be successful as a small business, entrepreneurs need to find new ways to differentiate themselves by creating a deeper platform for customer engagement," says Larry Shulman, chief executive officer of LMS Technical Services. "As a small business owner, using videoconferencing technology to connect with clients was the first step, but offering the technology as a service helped my company to form new and stronger relationships. More importantly, it offered both my business and my customer base the flexibility needed when work and life are one in the same."

Additional Survey Findings Include:

  • Given five additional hours per week, 66.8% of respondents would use the time to think of new business ideas. Only 34.2% would use the time for personal activities like taking a lunch break.
  • Nine out of 10 (88.8%) small businesses think email is no replacement for meeting with clients in person.
  • 84.4% of small businesses find videoconferencing effective in building customer relationships.

"We are working to differentiate ourselves and connect with the small business sector through tailored offerings," says Saraf. "It's not just about providing them with technology that enterprises are using, rather it's about understanding the intimate connection between small businesses and their companies - knowing that every decision, every investment they make, from what they spend on their business to how they spend their time, has a deep and personal impact on their families, employees and ultimately their futures."

For more information, please visit: www.vutelepresence.com.

Survey Methodology

Echo Research completed 500 online interviews with small to mid-sized businesses during the month of April 2011. Small businesses were defined as having 10-100 employees and $2 - $100 million in annual revenues. In order to qualify for this research, participants were responsible for making day-to-day decisions for their business, or share in the responsibility. The margin of error associated with the overall sample of 500 is +/- 4.4% at the 95% level of confidence.

About Vu TelePresence

Founded in 2006, Vu TelePresence is one of the leading telepresence solutions providers for the small and midsized business marketplace. Addressing the telecommunications needs of this market, the company's flagship solution, Vu TelePresence and its Vu TelePoint conference suites, provides an affordable solution with Fortune 500 level service. Vu TelePresence is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, with Vu TelePoint locations in most major US and India cities (with future expansion into Europe and Central/South America) including New York, Chicago, Oakland, Boston, Irvine, Cleveland, Seattle, Columbus, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.


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