Artificial intelligence has been a game-changer for small business operations. Not only are entrepreneurs using AI-powered platforms more often, but they are also leveraging the technology to make some of the most critical tasks more efficient, such as managing websites, social media and customer support. A recent AI report from accounting software firm FreshBooks that highlights small business owners found that two out of three are interested in trying AI for work purposes within the next 12 months. On this episode of The Small Business Show, host Shyann Malone is joined by Mara Reiff, FreshBooks’ chief data officer, to share her insights on the report’s findings, along with ways for small business owners to embrace AI as a tool for growth.
Much of the conversation surrounding artificial intelligence among entrepreneurs has focused on its implications for small businesses. Consequently, FreshBooks’ study examined the perspectives these individuals held in regard to AI and their thoughts on integrating the technology into their companies. “Really, what we found,” explains Reiff, “is that small businesses are recognizing there’s an opportunity there, and I think there’s insights that are telling us that people are excited to try it and figure out exactly what it means for them.”
Another important takeaway from the study was the difference in how big and small businesses are approaching artificial intelligence. While larger companies with massive labor bills are looking to reduce their costs by replacing employees with AI tools, small businesses are more interested in using the technology to augment and improve their operations. To do this, entrepreneurs have developed a number of use cases for artificial intelligence, especially in the customer service department. “Supporting customers, answering questions, fixing solutions” are all tasks that can be made more efficient through AI, notes Reiff. “I think it’s really an augmentation piece for now, more than it is a replacement [for humans] at this point.”
However, the actual applications of the technology are likely to vary between businesses. For example, construction companies are likely to have little use for generative AI since there are few tasks in the industry that can be made more efficient with the software.
Reiff notes that many have expressed valid concerns over artificial intelligence and how big and small businesses will leverage the technology in the workplace. However, for the entrepreneurs examined in the FreshBooks study, the primary interest in using AI was to grow and expand. “It’s about welcoming it into your environment and figuring out how it can make you better,” she explains. “People just haven’t figured out how they want to use it yet.” Reiff’s advice for small businesses forming their AI strategies is to start small and become comfortable with the tool before fully integrating the technology into their operations. This way, they can have more confidence in choosing the right tools for their brand and in using the technology to its fullest.