Is AI Right for Your Small Business?


As a small business owner, you’ve probably never thought much about artificial intelligence. Until now. Welcome to the brave new world of AI-powered business tools, where the waves of change are coming fast and furious.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but we’ve got you covered. This guide will help you navigate the hype and steer you toward tools to help your small business thrive.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Until recently, “artificial intelligence” might inspire visions of IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer, or nightmarish images of HAL from the science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, plotting a hostile takeover of humanity.

Today’s AI is not a single supercomputer like Watson or HAL but an umbrella term that’s typically used to cover a vast and fast-developing array of technologies. And it’s not just for industry giants anymore.

In simple terms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. The goal is to enable machines to think, learn, and make decisions like humans do.

Sound scary? Before you freak out, remember that many of you already may be using AI-powered tools such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Translate to complete tasks.

So why all the recent buzz? Enter Open AI’s ChatGPT.

ChatGPT became an overnight sensation when it was introduced in November 2022 — nearly a million users signed up in the first week to test out its free and user-friendly chatbot. With ChatGPT, small businesses can quickly generate web content, computer code, and so much more without expensive human labor (in theory). Other AI tools have the potential to boost productivity by helping to automate tasks, streamline decision- making, and improve customer experience.

Who knows if IBM envisioned this new wave of AI tools when it created Watson? But the technology looks like it’s here to stay, and the potential benefits could be a game changer for your small business.

What Are the Pros and Cons of AI in Business?

For some, AI is an exciting tool with unlimited potential. For others, it poses serious risks. Even OpenAI’s website warns of limitations such as inaccuracy and bias. So before you get swept up in the frenzy, let’s review the pros and cons of AI in business.

AI Pros:

1. Streamline tasks: AI can help you reduce time spent on mundane tasks such as data analysis and coding by automating tasks. In one recent study, programmers who used the AI tool GitHub Copilot could complete a job 56% faster than those who didn’t use it.

2. Boost productivity and lower costs: With AI, your business can quickly create high-quality content without high labor costs, freeing up time to focus on other aspects of your growing business.

3. Provide insights: As a successful business, staying on top of shifting trends is essential. AI-powered tools can analyze large amounts of data, allowing you to detect subtle changes in the market and gain an edge over competitors. As we’ll explain below though, it’s always a good idea to confirm what’s generated is accurate.

AI Cons:

Like all powerful technology, AI may create serious challenges that will need to be addressed as it evolves. And because these changes are happening so fast, few business owners have had the opportunity to consider the potential consequences.

1. AI is disruptive: While many industry insiders argue that AI will enhance most jobs, the fear of widespread disruption and layoffs is well-founded. According to a recent Goldman Sachs report, as many as 300 million jobs could be lost or diminished by this recent wave of artificial intelligence.

2. AI can be biased: AI can generate human-like text, as it’s been trained on the collective writing found on the internet. The results are impressive. But like the humans who program these systems, they can also be biased.

3. AI is sometimes wrong: AI tools can produce false or outdated information. ChatGPT openly admits that its system can sometimes “hallucinate” plausible- sounding but incorrect answers when it doesn’t have accurate information. Because of this very real risk, it’s a good idea for you or an expert in the relevant subject area to carefully review your AI-generated content.

4. AI may create intellectual property issues: Because AI platforms can pull together information from a variety of published sources, it’s raising questions about who actually owns the AI-generated material.

How I’m Using AI as a Writer

Even with all the potential risks, I couldn’t resist trying out the free version of ChatGPT and quickly found myself plugging in crazy scenarios for song lyrics and rom-coms. It won’t win any Oscars, but the results were downright impressive, and AI has become a powerful asset in my writer’s toolbox:

  • Research assistant: As a freelance writer, I often need to conduct extensive research for a blog or feature article. AI Chatbots can quickly skim documents and generate summaries, saving me valuable time and effort. But remember, AI can make mistakes, so always use your expertise to fact-check and verify results.
  • Content creator and editor: By entering a few basic parameters, AI chatbots can generate engaging content for websites, blogs, and social media posts in seconds. If I’m struggling with a paragraph, I’ll plug in my draft and ask ChatGPT to suggest edits. I can then refine my prompt with specifics on tone, style, and length to improve results. For a final pass, I use the AI writing assistant Grammarly to recommend tweaks.
  • Creative coach: AI can be a great tool to get the creative juices flowing. Just plug in your draft and ask your chatbot to help you brainstorm a catchy title or transition line. Experiment and have fun!

Start Working Smarter!

This is the first in a series of articles regarding how AI can help your small business grow. So stay tuned for more tips and tricks on how to navigate this exciting new frontier. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll be there to help you work smarter.

Courtney Hayes

Born and raised in the fishing port of Gloucester, MA, I grew up listening to the sea stories of local fishermen. My first job was “chum girl” on my dad’s tuna boat, where I spent my formative years covered in fish guts. Since then, I’ve worked as a researcher, blogger, and writer for documentary films. When not at work, you can find me surfing the cold waters of the North Atlantic or searching for warmer waves around the world.

Courtney writes on a number of topics such as risk assessment, starting a small business, and financial resources.