Focus On Technology Fundamentals

Jim Blasingame

This is the seventh article in a series that focuses on business fundamentals that, when followed, will help keep you out of the business obituaries. This one is about leveraging technology.

Humans have employed technology since the first caveman used a tree limb as a lever to move a rock. We've come a long way since then, but in most of the modern era, competitive advantage through technology was primarily the domain of big companies, and even then only after spending millions on a particular customized system.

But over the past 30 years, and especially for the last 10, the innovative path of technology has been both interesting and fortuitous for small business. Instead of bigger and better -- the classic direction for most growth -- each new generation of technology has actually been smaller and better.

For example, 50 years ago, the first computers were the big technology news, but each one filled up a large room. Today, the exciting news is nano-technology. These are tiny computers that (I'm not making this up) can be woven into a shirt or painted on a can.

But even if a box that can tell you when it's lost isn't on your radar screen today, it will be tomorrow. And in the meantime, there are literally tens-of-thousands of other tiny-but-powerful-and-very-affordable technologies that are leveling the competitive playing field for all small businesses.

And if the sheer excitement of technology doesn't make you want it, how about what your customers want? More and more of your customers and prospects -- both consumers and businesses -- want to do business by using technology, especially in the online environment.

The most successful 21st century small businesses are those that get excited about the smaller-and-better technology solutions that can give them a competitive advantage, and they're incorporating them into their operations and the ways they serve customers. So, is this a description of you, or your competitors?

Now let's talk about how technology and humans fit together in the 21st century.

First, employees: Once upon a time, businesses hired people and then purchased tools to support them. But in the 21st century, the most efficient companies leverage technology first and hire people to support the technology.

Now, customers: To paraphrase the central theme of John Naisbitt's 1982 landmark book, Megatrends: The wonders of high tech are no substitute for the value of high touch.

Remember what we've said about what customers think: WIIFM. "What's in it for me?" Since it's all about them, never ask a customer to touch your technology unless there is something in it for them.

Write this on a rock... Leveraging technology is one of the best ways to stay out of the business obituaries. Any questions?

Jim Blasingame is creator and host of the Small Business Advocate Show.
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