Video Conferencing Boon for Small Businesses

by : Paul McIndoe

Keeping costs under control is a challenge that most companies face, but for small businesses operating on tight budgets it is essential if they are to survive. So, any new technology, such as free calls via the internet that can help reduce costs is welcome news to the large army of small businessmen and businesswomen throughout the UK.

For those who regularly deal with international clients and suppliers it can be quite damaging to cash flow to frequently travel abroad in order to attend meetings. Previously, however, the only realistic alternatives to face-to-face meetings were phone conferences which tended to be difficult to arrange, usually expensive, and often led to confusion and misunderstandings between the parties involved.

However, the combination of internet and broadband has made life a lot easier for small and medium-sized businesses, especially those that have clients or customers in foreign countries. Although larger companies can usually afford to regularly send staff abroad, for many small businesses such an expense cannot be justified. So, those that have customers abroad must find alternative methods of conducting their business, and using internet phone and video calls can be the perfect solution.

David Wilson, Managing Director of Pipped Online Ltd, a specialist marketing agency based in the South West of England, has suppliers and customers throughout the UK, Scotland, Germany, and Canada. Constant travels to their premises took him and his small number of staff out of the office for days at a time, leading to a loss of productivity and an increase in company expenditure. But recently, he has been able to cut down international travel and reduce his telephony bills after selecting to use internet phone and video calling for his business.

For firms operating on incredibly tight budgets like PippedOnline the ability to conduct high quality video conferences via PC is literally a Godsend. Not only can Wilson get the vital human interaction necessary to develop meaningful business relationships, but he can also do it without leaving the comfort of his own office. In addition, it also addresses the productivity issue as key employees are not out of the office travelling to meetings.

He said: "We win in three ways with video conferencing. Not only can we spend more time in the office being productive, we keep costs down by not travelling and it also makes PippedOnline more eco-friendly by cutting down our travelling carbon emissions."

But, Wilson concedes it is the economic benefits that appeal to him most. In line with the figures produced by OFCOM detailing the impact on SME costs, he has seen his broadband bills drop by 20% since 2004, and his telephone costs reduced by 8% over the same period.

Now, he is also seeing the benefit of reducing international travel costs, as he regularly makes free video conference calls to his clients in Canada and Germany, via the internet. Using video conferencing is particularly pertinent for Wilson as he is able to include several staff and suppliers at any one time, although he has never got anywhere near the maximum 24 people that he could include.

He is in no doubt though that all small businesses should take up the internet phone and video calls options, although rather mischievously he hopes his competitors don't, making their cost base significantly higher than his own!