Competition should always be top-of-mind for any business owner. It’s so important that Jack Welch once said, “… buy or bury the competition.” I believe competition is not just about staying ahead day-to-day, it’s about anticipating future trends. I’m often asked for tips on how to compete, and my answer is always the same: There’s no better advantage than leveraging technology.

Recent research supports that conclusion. A study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found small and midsized businesses (SMBs) that use technology grow faster and create more jobs than SMBs with low levels of technology adoption. The study concluded that if just 15 percent of low-tech SMBs and 25 percent of medium-tech SMBs became high-tech SMBs, the result would be the addition of more than two million jobs and an additional $357 billion into the U.S. economy.

Using the three distinct categories outlined in the BCG study can help you determine where your business falls based on your adoption of technology:

  • Technology Leaders - If you’re a Leader, you use a variety of technologies to power your business, including a variety of cloud services, mobile and social capabilities, web-based voice and video conferencing, and productivity tools. Leaders tend to grow faster than the economy as a whole.
  • Technology Followers – If you’re a Follower, you generally use well-established technology tools, but do not use cloud-based platforms or solutions. Your businesses’ growth in terms of revenue and jobs trails that of leaders.
  • Technology Laggards – If you’re a Laggard, you have overall low levels of technology adoption, no online presence and use computers, the Internet and the most basic office productivity tools on a very limited basis. This category is most at-risk for slow revenue growth.

Once you have an understanding of where your business falls on the spectrum, you can determine which types of technology can help take your business to the next level. Is a move to the cloud the right strategy for your business? Low implementation costs and scalability make cloud computing a strong choice for businesses of all sizes. In the cloud, businesses can leverage low-cost Web versions of the software they use most, making it easier for teams to work together. The cloud also creates greater flexibility for those operating on tight budgets. For example, many cloud services allow you to pay for only what you use, when you use it.

With the cloud, more funds are freed up for creating new jobs when less money is spent on physical servers, maintenance and upgrades. Sales teams can tap new markets. Companies can create more events to drive brand awareness and more locations can be opened and staffed.

If you’re a Technology Leader who is already utilizing cloud services, you can increase your impact by working with a vendor to develop custom applications that extend to customers. In today’s business world, it’s not about who owns the most expensive technology, it’s about who knows how to use technology to better serve consumers.

The Leader-to-Laggard scale is also helpful for identifying competitor weaknesses and new ways to use technology to gain a competitive advantage. For example, when you’re competing against companies that deliver similar products, your best assets become your intangibles like customer service and engagement. Knowing your customers habits, likes and dislikes, can go a long way in building the relationships that lead to repeat business.

No matter your current position on the Leader-to-Laggard scale, or your future aspirations, the most important thing is to know that there are a variety of technology options available to help you rise above the competition. Once you find the best technology for your business, the possibilities are endless.

Have you used technology to grow your business? Tell us about it in the comment section below.