How AI can help you get ahead in business

Artificial intelligence is giving small business owners an edge.

Artificial intelligence is giving small business owners an edge.

“In the past, all the power was with the big organizations who had a highly skilled and specialized workforce; now AI is leveling the playing field,” said Tom Hewitson, chief AI officer at General Purpose, the UK’s leading professional training center for AI, during WeWork’s webinar Small Business in the Age of AIwhere small business owners delved into how artificial intelligence gives them a competitive advantage.

And if those advantages aren’t noticeable yet, they will be soon. 

Hewitson pointed to how startups are flourishing due to AI, with the UK government estimating that 50% more companies will be founded over the next 20 years. At the same time, more than two-thirds of small business owners (68%) anticipate GenAI will allow them to better compete with larger businesses.

Why AI? According to Hewitson, AI saves small business owners time and money while adding value to their organizations. He emphasizes, “With AI, something that used to take a lot of time now takes no time at all.” 

Take it from Becca Magnus, the founder of verbal branding studio Magnus & Co, who used a mix of AI tools to conduct a comprehensive strategic audit for Audi in a single day, a task that usually would take her about two to three days, saving Magnus days of work. 

Our experts impart their real-life AI use cases to show all small business owners how you, too, could benefit from using AI (no matter your experience level).

How to use AI to gain an edge as a small business owner

  1. Streamline your research

To have a successful business, you have to understand your market. And AI can simplify that process. 

As the founder of the Meta-specialist company Metaphoric, Lucia Banjo helps businesses grow revenue through Facebook and Instagram ads and uses AI to extract customer motivations and challenges to produce better content. To do it, Banjo exports customer reviews, uploads them to ChatGPT, and then asks it to pull out top buying motivations, pain points, and other themes. “I use that information to create content that speaks to the pain points people care about, rather than the pain points my client told me, saving me loads of time on the ads,” explains Banjo. 

Hewitson also points to Perplexity, an AI search engine. “It’s amazing for researching new problem areas, hypotheses, or markets you might want to go into — and much faster than you could previously,” Hewitson says.

  1. Expand your creativity

There’s chatter about AI hindering creativity, but AI could boost your creativity (if you know how to use it). 

Magnus uses AI tools Midjourney and DALL·E for image generation. Before AI, Magnus would spend hours looking for a specific image to communicate an idea, trawling and trawling Pinterest and Google. Before she knew it, she’d wasted hours and still found nothing. Now, Magnus saves time (and has some fun!) by using AI to create images that convey her big ideas.

“If you need to get an idea across quickly, AI will get you there, even if you feel you’re not creative,” adds Magnus. 

Craig Jenkins, the European director of Australian bridal shop Made with Love Bridal, uses AI to unlock creative blocks, playing with Midjourney to create new and interesting concepts if they have a design block on a wedding dress.

A note on AI’s creative limitations: Use AI for starting blocks, not finished products. Magnus uses branding (which is all about differentiation and distinction) as an example. “You cannot use AI to create a differentiated brand, but you can use it to get you started,” Magnus explains.

Hewitson agrees, noting that AI cannot replace writing, either. “If you just use ChatGPT to write something and hit publish, that’s not a good way to build a brand or SEO…You must do some work yourself.”

  1. Enhance your customer service

Customer service is challenging for every industry. Customer service is especially challenging in Jenkins’s industry when most brides are experiencing high emotions, making how you respond crucial. Jenkins uses ChatGPT to help get emails right when crafting thoughtful responses to brides.

“It’s just the first draft, but [ChatGPT] gets us 60% of the way there,” says Jenkins. Plus, having this starting point avoids people procrastinating, speeding up response times. 

Jenkins similarly utilizes ChatGPT to respond to customers’ Google Reviews. “We’re so happy to get these, but when you get a lot, and you’re busy, it gets overwhelming,” notes Jenkins, who uses ChatGPT to give every reviewer a nice, detailed, and distinct answer, speeding up the task. 

Psst…Another tool for your customer service arsenal, suggested by Hewitson, is Intercom, an AI chatbot.

  1. Optimize your meetings

You know how people say, “That meeting could’ve been an email?” Well, that could change once AI joins meetings. 

Banjo streamlines all her meetings with Fireflies AI, a software that automates meeting notes. It transcribes all her calls, summarizes the next steps for her and her client(s), and makes it easier for her to reference past discussions without requiring lengthy email exchanges.

Beyond transcribing meetings, small business owners can also use AI to schedule and move meetings. For instance, Hewitson mentions Motion AI, a tool that reviews your calendar, identifies which meetings can be rescheduled to free up time, and schedules tasks based on estimated durations to allow for focused work.

  1. Improve your ideas and your decisions

AI can be a sounding board to help you ideate and make sounder decisions. AI can even do it in a way that makes the unrealistic realistic, like simulating a conversation between, say, Stephen Bartlett and Elon Musk about your business and then making conclusions based on that.

It seems outlandish, but it’s a strategy Banjo uses to help aid decision-making. “I’ll ask ChatGPT to act like Steven Bartlett or Alex Hormozi for a particular business perspective…it’s like having a board of directors.”

Banjo also uses Pi AI to organize upcoming decisions. “I’ll do a brain download of my 10,000 thoughts, and [Pi] will organize my thoughts for me, such as my top actions for tomorrow,” explains Banjo. “It helps take what can be quite messy in my head and organize it.”

Why Everyone Can Learn To Use AI

“Everyone can be an AI expert, and everyone has a right to have an opinion on how AI should be used,” says Hewitson.

While that may be easier said than done, Hewitson is a living example. Although Hewitson is the chief AI officer at General Purpose today, his background is in the arts, and his career began as a journalist. His journey shows that anyone curious and determined, regardless of background, can learn and apply AI.

Or ask Jenkins, who sent his team of non-tech people to a General Purpose course; by the next day, they were all using AI.

Should you get overwhelmed by the options, take Banjo’s advice: rather than trying to keep up with all of the updates and tools, focus on what you do in your day now and how you can use AI to be 5% better today or 10% better tomorrow.

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