Keeping Up With Technology
Small businesses sometimes need to think like large corporations if they are not going to fall behind their competition. This is especially true in the area of technology. Advances in technology are affecting almost every industry. Do you know what’s happening in your industry and how it is affecting your business? More importantly do you know how it might affect you; in say five years’ time?
There are many examples of major corporations who missed out on potential markets because they were focused on current technology. IBM for instance was very late entering the personal computer market because it was so focused on mainframe computers. Kodak never recovered from its lack of interest in digital cameras when the technology first appeared. Even Apple lagged behind when it came to entering the market for laptop computers.
Why is it that some companies are late to the party when new technology becomes available? Technology that would allow them to introduce new and improved products to their customers. Often, it’s because customers show no interest, they like tried and trusted products they know and love. At least until that shiny new product is introduced by your competitor and they take their business across the road.
That’s the challenge; if you listen too closely to your customers’ conservative views, your competition might take a leap of faith, use the new technology and come up with a bigger, better, brighter, more effective and ultimately more attractive version of what you sell.
Successful companies are those that follow technology advances in their industries. In fact, the truly successful ones develop and commercialize new technologies and constantly bring the next generation of whatever they sell to their customers to address their current and future needs; even if they don’t know it at the time. The secret, of course, is in the timing.
Small businesses on the cutting edge, take this one step farther and look for new technologies that will allow them to develop products that don’t necessarily meet the needs of their mainstream customers today, but which do appeal to emerging markets. In this way they use new technology to grow their market.
None of this is to say companies should lose focus on existing customers and current products. It requires a balancing act between servicing existing needs, while being fully aware of what is coming next in your industry.
A good example can be found in the typesetting companies of the mid 1990’s who ignored the new technology that allowed people to design page layouts on their computers. Almost overnight phototypesetting was redundant. Those that were ready to offer their customers computer page layout won the day.
There is a great deal of skill required to identify which technologies are going to change your business; which will make what, or how you sell more attractive to your customers and which will be ignored. Unfortunately, the more forward thinking, or maybe psychic entrepreneurs will win the day.
Email – How Not to Get it Wrong
There are so many ways to screw up email and even when you don’t actually screw it up, email etiquette lies in wait to mess with you. A big faux pas, for instance, is when someone sends an email to a dozen people and includes all the addresses in the “To:” line. If you do that you are sharing what may be confidential contact information with other people without their permission. This can tick people off and make you very unpopular. The way to overcome this is to BCC (blind carbon copy) everyone and only enter your own email address in the “To:” line.
Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things that can get you into trouble when you email someone. Here are 10 tips to help make you a better email correspondent.
- Check before you send anything to ensure you haven’t accidentally forwarded past emails with information you would rather not have the recipient see. Lurking in that email thread could be confidential information, or perhaps private views about people or projects that you’d rather not share. We’ve all done this, and it can be extremely embarrassing.
- Never send an email when you are angry, sit on it overnight before re-reading and sending it, or maybe not send it all. In fact, don’t create angry emails in your browser at all, write them first in Word and then when you are sure it’s what you want to say you can cut and paste into your email browser. That way you won’t accidentally send it by mistake and regret the storm you’ve unleashed.
- Never email when a quick phone call would be more efficient. Too often we end up writing long emails covering all our bases when a 30-second phone call would be more effective. The same goes with texts; long texts should be short phone calls. Keep all emails as short as possible.
- Which leads to a longer note about short emails. People generally fail to read entire messages, so it’s best to limit emails to one, maybe two points if you actually want someone to answer your questions.
- If someone sends you an email and CC’s other people, remember to “reply all” otherwise you will wonder why, later, that so-and-so is not up to speed with the conversation. Unless of course you intend to cut them out; in that case it might be better to start a new thread rather than reply only to the sender. The reason? You might say something you don’t want anyone but the sender to read, but then the sender in a subsequent post re-includes the original people and your “private” message is now embedded in the thread and open to all. Always be aware of which of the following you are using; reply, reply all, forward, CC and BCC.
- If you are attaching documents to a message, consider whether you should PDF that Word document. This is important, for instance, if you don’t want someone editing that contract you sent over. The other thing to beware is sending very large files via normal email as they can run afoul of your recipients’ email limitations. There are plenty of services that can help you send large files, just Google something like, “how do I send a large file?”
- In business correspondence; avoid emoticons, jokes, or forwarding something outrageous that just might be a hoax.
- Be crystal clear in your message. Nothing is more annoying to people than when they have asked several questions and you answer, “yes.” Ensure you adequately reply to each question.
- Take a few seconds to consider what you write in the subject line. People often lose emails amongst the dozens they receive every day; ensure they can locate yours easily.
- Receiving email can be another major source of stress. Spam and phishing emails are a source of frustration and danger. One tip to ensure you don’t click on anything untoward is to check the email link behind the name. You’ll be surprised how often that email purportedly from your bank is actually from a Gmail or Hotmail account.
Email is a fact of life in business, but it’s also a major timewaster and something that can cause confusion, misunderstanding, and worse. The problem is, we often read and write emails too quickly and without sufficient thought. Take a step back, take a little more time with this important communication resource and give it the respect it deserves. You will be glad you did.
Coach’s Corner – What else?
Sometimes we find ourselves caught in repeating a bad habit or ending up in a situation that we have experienced before which has not served us well. How do we avoid those situations or break the habit?
When we think, déjà vu, or here we go again, we need to stop and figure out ways to move forward in a different way. We need to find alternatives to those past negative behaviours which resulted in less than desirable actions and outcomes.
How do we shift our thinking? How do we come out with different, more positive results? This is where a coaching mindset comes into play. We need to ask ourselves questions that shift our thinking. Questions that allow us to explore alternative ways of responding or acting. Here are some examples of questions you might ask.
What have I done before in this situation? How effective was it for me? Although you may have recently experienced some negative results in similar situations, have there been times when you were actually successful? What was different in those situations? Reflecting on past circumstances and looking for ways to reach more positive outcomes can help you to reach your goals.
What would a mentor, boss, or coach do in this situation? Often if we think of someone who we respect and admire for doing the right thing in adverse situations, we may come up with an idea that is not a repetition of our past actions. How would they respond? What would they advise? What actions would they take?
“To change habits, we must study the habits of successful role models.” Jack Canfield, Author
What else? This is another question that is often used in coaching situations. As we look at alternatives, it is helpful to ask this question over and over in order to dig deeper for more and better responses. If we simply stop when we’ve asked it only once, we are not necessarily led to a best approach. “What else?” can be a powerful question which leads to a better outcome when asked numerous times. What else can we think of? What else can we do? What else is there?
Asking ourselves questions, leads to changes of behaviours or alternate responses to situations.
“You cannot change your future; but, you can change your habits, and surely your habits…will change your future.” – Dr. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India
Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching