hy did "Sam the Record Man" just close shop? Sam was a wonderful personality, a hard-working individual, a man of integrity who built his business from nothing over many years. Your business might share common elements with Sam's. But remember, we're living in a rapidly changing world.
With a name like The Record Man, is it any wonder the business went under? Records aren't even made anymore, and haven't been for some time. The memory of them is not yet enough to make them sought after antiques-but soon will be. Be sure to hide a few in the drawer for a cash windfall in future.
The message? You have to change with technology changes. No matter who you are. The technological changes that have occurred in the last 50 years are astounding. And most of them have affected us personally.
Television, which has had such a huge impact on us, wasn't even around until 1956. Yet, then it went from being an amusement for the wealthy to a "right" for even the poorest in a few short years. Personal calculators, portable and wireless phones, hand-held computers, and other gadgets that are now commonplace have been around for an even shorter period of time.
They have not only had an impact on us personally, they have meant major changes in leadership. Or perhaps I should say they should have had an impact on leadership. There are still those who don't understand how to deal with such incredible change.
I have three simple guidelines for you. They are elements that will help you deal with the new technological realities. My ground rules are simple: 1) learn to live with new technologies; 2) do not be dictated to by technology; 3) when you take up new technologies learn to listen to people in lesser positions, especially those who are younger and probably more comfortable with the high-tech than you are.
You absolutely must look at new technologies
You don't have to update yourself right away, especially if a technology (like DVD, for instance) is still in a developmental mode. But you must try to get a handle on it. See what, if any benefit, it could be to you and your business.
In my own field of consulting, speaking, and authoring I have gone from no computer, to laptop, to a small computer, to a much more powerful computer, and then to networking. I am now pondering what future changes might be beneficial to me. Teleconferencing, voice recognition, and graphic manipulation hold some possibilities.
The point is, don't be afraid of new technology. Sure, there will be a learning curve, but there is in everything. (Just be sure the learning curve is not done during productive business hours). As humans, we like old hats and shoes. But they don't last forever. Move on. Keep looking around. Go to your nearest "Staples" store and wander through the ever-growing and very competitively priced, high-technology sections. You will find many new ideas you can use for your own business.
Don't be dictated to by technology
With all the changes you see around you, there is a tendency to panic. You may feel you're being left out of the swim. But you have to ask yourself: "Do I need a hyper cell phone that enables me to call the world from Mt. Everest (which in your physical condition you couldn't even climb right now)?"
Don't let technology drive you. Drive it yourself. In your spare time, look around at what's available. Or avail yourself of the advice given regularly in Small Business Canada Magazine, or in sections in our daily newspapers. TVO on Saturday afternoon has a one-hour program on computers designed to be understandable for the businessperson.
Then take this approach. If the new technology or service will increase the efficiency of your business, it's just possible it could be useful. Try a hands-on drive if you can. If you decide it's a gimmick, forget it. You don't need it.
Don't be ashamed to learn from others
At the speed with which technology is advancing, even my assistant's young granddaughter, in her pre-teen years, is being left behind. He doesn't hesitate to ask her the answer to questions that have been vexing both of us. But the other day she said to him: "Gramps, I just don't know the answer to that. The equipment's too new!"
A wise man can learn from a fool, but a fool never learns. There are five ways you can learn technology: 1) Hire an expensive consultant. That will help his/her cash flow. 2) Read the manual. A last resort. 3) Fuddle around. Can be fun but time consuming and dangerous. 4) Ask a friend. Carefully. 5) Hire a student. It pays.
If you are serious about getting either new equipment or software up and running right away, and cutting your learning time, hire a consultant. It can be expensive, but it's often the most efficient business way. Make a plan before you call.
Asking a friend for help is a good way to go, especially if that friend has been through his/her own start-up problems.
One of the best strategies is to hire a knowledgeable student. Most are desperate for work, and don't really have any idea how much they know about new technologies until they get a chance to prove it.
Three years ago, I hired a student to do my first and very simple few-page Web site. Visit it at www.bender.ca and have a look at what he developed for me over the years. I am proud of it, and so is he.
Used properly, technology can help to build business. That's that real lesson from our incredible information technology growth.
© Peter Urs Bender
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