ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS

GREAT IDEAS FOR ENTREPRENEURS FROM THE THOUGHT LEADERS AT CASEY NEILON

KEY TAKE-AWAY

Entrepreneurs should be asking themselves this question: What new technologies are out there that might provide breakthroughs for us, and how & when do we utilize them?

Be Open To What New Technologies Can Do For You

Your mindset regarding what technology can do for you is one of the most important indicators of whether or not you’ll realize a breakthrough.  Here are some indicators of a closed mindset toward technology:

  • The way we’ve always done things is the way we’ll always do things.
  • New technology is too expensive.
  • Technology only helps big companies, and we’re a small company.
  • Who has time to track all of that stuff?
  • Tech companies make a lot of promises, but rarely deliver.
  • It’s just too complicated to be useful for us.

Here are some indicators of an openness to new technologies:

  • We have to budget for new technologies because we know we can’t afford to fall behind.
  • We have to find the right people on our team who get excited about technology and turn them loose to do the research.
  • If a competitor gets their hands on new technology before we do, we could lose market share.
  • Our next big advancement will probably come from technology.
  • We have to innovate and create better ways of doing things.

When you look at these lists, which set of statements best describe how you view technology?

Pay Attention To Updates To Your Existing Technology Stack

The most readily available technology advancement may not come from some completely new technology stack or even from an app that you haven’t utilized yet.  It could come from technology you already own and use ­— as long as you keep it updated.  The simplest way to stay on the cutting edge is to know what you’ve already paid for, install the updates regularly, and use it to the fullest.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised more than once in my career to hear about some great new application only to discover that we already own it.  This is especially true as cloud-based applications have become commonplace.  If you pay for certain application suites, you might already have a productivity enhancer in your company.

Most software developers are in a competitive environment where gaining market share is not as important as keeping market share. Due to this fact, if the developers acquire new software apps, they may add them to an existing suite to keep their customers happy and up-to-date.  If you aren’t aware of these additions, there’s a chance you may never use them.

Attend Conferences

Conferences are one of the best ways to learn about new technologies and how other businesses like yours are using them.  When you attend a conference, you just might get the chance to interact with a real software or hardware developer.  Many technology companies are in the habit of sending engineers to conferences precisely because they know potential buyers might ask them questions.  Who knows how to answer tough questions better than the people who developed the product?

Conferences are also where many technology companies tend to introduce their latest developments and enhancements.  This can be a great opportunity to see a piece of technology being used in a demo.  Then, you can compare how the demo stacks up to the way your company uses technology.  Attending the conference might even stimulate some new approaches to using technology that you haven’t considered.

On top of that, conferences tend to be great places to get discounts on new hardware and software.  An organization that is rolling out some new application may offer significant discounts to develop what they call an install base: organizations who adopt their products.  Sometimes, the cost of attending the conference can be more than offset by the amount of money you save on the new technology.  That’s a real win-win.

Notice The Advertisements In Your Industry

Advertisements are based on interruptions such as “We interrupt this program to bring you this special message from our sponsor.”  Everyone hates that, but industry advertising is somewhat different.  My advice is that you don’t discount it as a complete interruption – here’s why.

Industry advertising – whether in a trade publication, online, or at a conference – tends to come from businesses who are stakeholders in that specific industry.  They have a vested interest in getting their message out ONLY to the right people, not to just anyone.

If you ignore ads, you might just ignore some great new technology that could really help your business.  Of course, like all advertising, I recommend that you approach it with a degree of skepticism and look for proof of claims.  Even trade advertising can be prone to overstating the facts.

Have A Formal Strategy For Vetting New Technologies

This is an important point when strategizing – just because technology is new doesn’t always mean it’s great or right for your company.  Here are some suggestions for helping you vet new technology to ensure you get the best result:

  • Pick people to research technologies who have an aptitude for it and who understand your business goals.
  • Be clear about what you want new technologies to do for your company. Set specific goals such as improve productivity by 20%, help us break into a new market, or reduce operating expenses by 15%.
  • Establish a budget for new technologies based on the rate of return you expect. In other words, don’t expect a huge bump in productivity from a nominal investment.
  • Be careful with companies you’ve never heard of. New companies with new products might be just what you need to achieve real competitive advantage or could be a disaster in the making.  Here is a simple guiding principle: the less you’ve heard of the company or product, the more proof you should require before you act.
  • Remember the MythBusters motto: experiment on a small scale before going large scale. Have a small team or even just one individual use the product for some period of time.  Learn what they liked and didn’t like about the product and then use that information when you introduce it to the rest of the company.
  • Be sure to factor in the cost of training and the amount of time it will take for your team to learn to use the technology effectively.
  • Track the results of the new technology utilization so you can analyze whether or not it was worth the change.
Next Steps

As a COO, I’ve seen what great new technology can do to create a real competitive advantage.  However, I also know that life gets in the way and we all get busy with our jobs.  For your company to reap the benefits of new technology, there are a few simple practices you can utilize, such as the ones I’ve outlined here.  If you have questions about anything I’ve described here, let’s have a conversation.

POSTED BY

Debbie Vaughan – COO, Shareholder
I am the Chief Operating Officer at Casey Neilon. In this role, I manage the firm’s operational support functions, including human resources, information technology, facilities, firm accounting and coaching. My focus is to manage the internal operations of the firm so that the shareholders can concentrate on serving our clients.