Focus on Technology

Jim Blasingame

This is the seventh article in a series dealing with small business operating fundamentals, and it’s about technology.

Early in the '60s movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, is celebrating his college graduation. Perhaps the most famous line in the movie is when an older friend offers this advice: “Ben, one word: plastics.”

Consider this your small business graduation party, and I have one word for you: technology.

Technology is one of the three most important 21st century levers you can use to grow your small business, along with networking and strategic alliances. If you disagree, answer these two questions:

Would you like to be able to compete – straight up – with a much larger company? Would you like your business to become integrated in the operation of large customers?

If you answer yes to either question, I have one word for you – technology.

Below are some thoughts on using technology, followed by how not to use it.

Are you doing your accounting on computer? Are you managing prospect development and customer relationships electronically?

Do you have an automated inventory tracking system? Can customers check availability and order status without talking to one of your employees? Are you buying postage and overnight courier services online? If not, I have another word for you: Why?

Powerful technological operating resources are no longer out of reach of small business. They’re available, affordable and they work.

Growing the top line of your P&L is nice, but what you’re really after is making the number on the bottom line bigger. Watch net profit jump when you grow sales AND improve operating efficiencies through the leveraging of technology, instead of hiring more people.

Small businesses create most of the new jobs, but that’s not why we’re in business. Whether planning for growth, seeking efficiencies, or both, think technology first and increasing payroll second.

Now that you’re committed to leveraging technology at all operational levels, let me temper that strategy by paraphrasing a critical theme of John Naisbitt’s 1982 landmark book, “Megatrends.” With customer relationships, the wonders of high tech are no substitute for the value of high touch.

Making customers use your technology just because it’s good for you is a cardinal sin of the 21st century.

Use technology to find customers, serve customers and manage customer relationships. But customers should only touch technology if it benefits them, in chich case it comes across as productive, progressive, helpful and even cool.

Remember what we’ve said about the rude reality of customer relationships: It’s all about them. WIIFM. What’s in it for me?

Any technology that doesn’t deliver an acceptable answer to that prime question should never touch a customer.

Write this on a rock... One word – technology. Any questions?

Jim Blasingame
Small Business Expert and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
©2008 All Rights Reserved

Print page