Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world. If you’re ready to embrace AI but you’re not sure how to get started, consider these five ways you might use AI in your business.

Until recently, using AI may have involved simply asking your phone for directions, setting a reminder or changing a song on your playlist. But recently, you may have seen a lot of media buzz around how AI is being used to create content, including writing essays, letters, social media posts and creating customised images, videos and artwork. Now, the latest advances in AI tech have seen the rise of tools such as ChatGPT, Jasper, Canva Magic and others.

It seems that AI is not a passing fad: it could even change the way your business works. We asked one of our SBDC small business advisers, Mark Kostner, to share his expertise on AI for small businesses.

What is AI?

“First, it’s important to set some context on what AI actually is in very simple terms,” says Mark.

“Basically, it's like creating a robot that can think, learn and make decisions on its own, without someone telling it what to do every step of the way. It can be similar to having an extra person (or more than one extra) in your business.”

According to Mark, there are a few key areas that AI can help in small business. You might use AI to:

  • Get things done in less time
  • Increase the quality of your output
  • Provide expertise that may not currently exist in the business, which could help your business to do things it couldn’t previously do.

“For example, say a sole trader needs some graphics created. Instead of doing it themselves, AI can do it in a matter minutes. Or let’s say a business owner has never developed a marketing plan, there are AI agents which can, through asking a series of questions, develop a high-quality marketing plan.”

“Ultimately, AI helps to level the playing field between large corporations and small businesses, giving them access to resources that they may not have had access to before, allowing them to do more in less time, often at a higher quality.”

If you’re ready to explore the potential of AI, here are five ideas to put AI to work for you.

#1 Use AI to summarise complex ideas

As a business adviser and owner, Mark knows that saving time is a top priority for business owners. Mark uses AI to learn about an area he wants to explore.

“Instead of spending hours reading up on a topic, I often ask an AI such as ChatGPT if it knows the topic and what it knows about it,” said Mark. “I’ll also ask it to summarise the main points and to provide me with action steps I could implement.”

This technique could apply to learning more about any area of business, new developments in your industry, global trends in a field or the technical side of how something works.

#2 Use AI to create formulas and code

Most business owners use spreadsheets, formulas or coding in some way. Mark recommends using AI to get the most from your calculations.

“I needed perform some complex calculations the other day,” explains Mark.

“I started by using an AI to explain the formula, then I asked it to create me an Excel formula for it.”

You can also use AI to find errors in your formulas, write code for your website and much more.

Photo of SBDC Business Adviser Mark Kostner sitting at his desk at the SBDC's office in Perth.
SBDC Business Adviser Mark Kostner.

#3 Use AI to improve and analyse your customer data

Through Mark’s own business, he and his team ran a customer survey. They used AI to make the most of the survey insights.

“Normally, we would only include multiple choice options. It usually takes way too many resources to process open-ended questions.”

“This time, we opted for open-ended questions and dropped the 450 different responses we received into an AI. We asked it to analyse the data, group the data in themes and list them in order from most to least common. It did all of that in under one minute - something which would normally have taken many hours of work!”

#4 Use AI to streamline your processes

When Mark found that a particular process in his business was taking between 20 and 40 hours to complete, he put AI to work.

“I tasked an AI to evaluate the process and develop a new process that can deliver an outcome in under 10 hours.”

“The AI asked a series of questions and provided me with a written document outlining the steps we should take, tools we should use and then step-by-step instructions for each point in the process. This was all done in under 20 minutes. Just the day before I developed a process for a different workflow which took me over seven hours to develop.”

#5 Use AI to communicate with your customers

While there’s no replacement for human connection and interaction, you can use AI to communicate with your customers in a way which suits your business.

“AI can be used to develop proposals and respond to communications such as email,” said Mark. “It can also be trained and used as intelligent chatbots on websites, providing context-based, intelligent responses to your website visitors.”

Learn more

Check out our Simple introduction to AI for small business to learn more about the benefits of using AI, as well as the traps you should be aware of.

If Mark’s insights have made you hungry to learn more about how AI could work for you, don’t miss your chance to attend our Revolutionise Your Business with ChatGPT workshop.

If you’re just beginning your business journey, take a look at our list of the best free resources to help you start your business.

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Starting and growing
09 May 2023