Small business in the cloud

BY KERRY ANDERSON

REGARDLESS of whether we willingly embrace or approach the technological revolution with caution, there is no doubt that technology is a major player no matter where we live. And, for those who are early adopters there can be great opportunities according to Brenton Johnson who is very excited about disruptive industries.

Three years ago Brenton made the move from Horsham to Bendigo and is embracing new technologies and new ways of working in the region.

His business, Uptake Digital, introduces small and medium businesses into the cloud to improve productivity and reduce cost.  “It’s a no brainer when you think about it,” Brenton says.  “Everyone should do it!”

Over the past two years Brenton has based his business at the Synergize Hub, a co-working space hosted by Haven in the Bendigo CBD, and says that it has been great for his business. 

“You can easily get isolated on your own.  The Hub surrounds me with other entrepreneurs that I can collaborate on projects with.  It’s exactly what I needed and my business has improved since moving in.”

Brenton enjoys the company of other entrepreneurs and a birds eye view of Bendigo Adelaide Bank's headquarters from his co-working space in Synergize Hub.

Brenton enjoys the company of other entrepreneurs and a birds eye view of Bendigo Adelaide Bank's headquarters from his co-working space in Synergize Hub.

Since his early 20’s Brenton started getting paid to help solve IT problems for people which directed him towards the pathway of self-employment. 

An avid learner – reading business books, listening to podcasts, and attending forums, are all part of his regular routine - Brenton has focussed on getting the business model right so he doesn’t just buy himself a job.

“Make sure you get your profitability and financials right,” advises Brenton.  “Most freelancers and small businesses make much less money than they would if they just went out and got a job. I believe this is a direct result of poor financial management and an inability to attract the right clients.”

Brenton’s original web design business struggled due to the project based nature of the work and limited scope of services offered.

“I was not offering graphic design, photography, copy, or any of the complimentary services around web design. This meant I was losing a lot of work to one stop shops who were making their money with monthly content services.”

His new business is now based on a monthly recurring revenue model. One of the big changes is that Uptake Digital has become the one stop shop and now maintains over 20 different relationships with different vendors.  

“I leverage all the resources of my partners in order to provide value to my customers. I put together the perfect solution stack for the customer, and then leverage others to make it happen. I feel like this is what I was born to do.”

“It’s a much more interconnected culture,” says Brenton, “and all about process improvement and making the products better.”

Being a small business is not a disadvantage according to Brenton.

“I offer small and agile, much more important than large and stable in this industry.  Uptake Digital appeals to early adopters who consider two years behind a massive weakness, not a strength.”

When it comes to marketing, Brenton has a simple philosophy.

“I don’t have deep pockets for marketing so I have had to think differently. I run workshops, write blogs on Linkedin, create new products, get out in the media, and ask my customer to refer me”

Developing relationships with potential customers through networking is another important strategy for Brenton.

“People have to meet you in person to develop real trust.  Often I will ask them about their business and look for opportunities to contribute an idea or resource that can be useful to them.  My advice proves that I can provide value to their business now or at some time in the future.”

Reflecting back on his school years Brenton says that he learnt valuable IT skills through a Vocational Education & Training program (VET), but there was one significant gap in his education. 

“The ability to sell an idea is the most important thing you need to know.  If people around you don’t understand what you’re trying to do you will never get anywhere.  Communication and process is just so important and teachers have no formal training in this area.”

Brenton believes that the region has much to offer business despite its slower internet speeds.  He for one is excited about disruptive and new industries.  When asked about the future, he envisages building his business up with an all cloud based team. “Or, maybe I could be a venture capitalist investing in new start-ups,” he muses. 

Anything is possible in these exciting times!

Thanks Brenton for sharing.

Brenton’s Top Tips for business

  • Be remarkable. Do something worth making a remark about.
  • Build a learning culture into everything you do. Learn from your customers, from your mistakes and the people who have done it before you, and read, read read!
  • Pay attention to new industries and new markets.  Disruption is ending all the industries that charge too much and do too little. Focus on your customer and their definition of value. Fall in love with their problem, not your solution.
  • Make sure you have a business model that can financially sustain you. Cash flow is king! Explore business models that provide a predicable monthly income.
  • Money isn’t everything, but it’s up there with oxygen. You need it to survive. Get help setting up your finances early and get someone who can provide insights into your business health.
  • Demonstrate your value and develop long term relationships with customers based on trust.
  • Do something your competitors can’t. The secret to small business success is to never directly compete with anyone with deeper pockets than you. Always offer something different.

CLICK HERE for more information about Uptake Digital

CLICK HERE for more information about the Synergize Hub


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities. READ MORE