As anyone could tell you, we live in the most high-tech age so far in human history – and that means, among other things, that there is a tool or gadget specially tailored for just about every purpose you can imagine.
For small business owners, in particular, there is often a temptation to go completely wild with always searching for the best and latest tools and gadgets on the market, in order to ensure that processes are a streamlined as possible, that you have an edge over the competition, and so that you have the best possible presentation for the customer.
Here are a few tips for properly using technology in your small business, so that you are getting the most out of it, rather than just chasing it around aimlessly like a dog with its own tail.
Implement systems that actually help the customer’s experience, not just that you think are cool
As you’ve probably heard, “innovation” matters a lot in business – and there are all sorts of people out there who are ready to coach you on just how to become the next Steve Jobs, or to avoid doing anything that is in any way “predictable” from the perspective of the customer.
The thing is, real and meaningful “innovation” isn’t just about doing something that has never seen before – it’s more about doing something useful and sought-after, that no one has ever seen before; presented better than anyone has seen before.
The key thing here is that you should implement systems, and use technologies, that actually help to boost the customer experience. You shouldn’t just “innovate” in ways that you think look cool, but which don’t actually add anything tangible to the customer. In more than a few instances, these sorts of “innovations” have actually been roundly rejected by the customers they were supposedly intended to serve.
Something like a community platform software system, that allows your customers to engage in a social media-like experience, might be useful and may appeal to them, depending on the context. But adding all sorts of convoluted systems and features to your website that make it harder to actually get from point A to point B, won’t.
Time is essential – streamline time-consuming tasks that can be meaningfully streamlined, and give your undivided attention to the ones which can’t
For a small business owner, there is just about nothing as important as time, and just about no skill more important than good time management.
To that end; you should always look out for tools and technologies that can allow you to meaningfully streamline time-consuming tasks that wouldn’t require, or benefit much from, your direct attentive input.
It’s important, though, not to try to “streamline” everything in a blanket sense. There will always be tasks that really do need your undivided attention, and where any attempts to cut corners will result in you sacrificing quality in a pretty dramatic sense.
The author and academic, Cal Newport, has argued in his book “Deep Work” that this skill – in other words, focusing diligently on a significant task at hand – is crucial for professional success in just about any high-skill field, but is simultaneously becoming less common. In his book, “Digital Minimalism,” he also argues that being less “addicted” to digital tools for their own sake can help to provide the undistracted clarity that is required for this kind of “deep work.”
Get organised – use systems and tools that help you to properly keep track of things
For any person living in the first part of the 21st century, there is always going to be “too much” to get done, from moment to moment.
Workplace obligations pile high, your family duties accumulate, and all those ideas that pop in and out of your head during the day also need to be tracked, recorded, and organised, if they’re ever going to be used for anything down the line.
When you are an entrepreneur, however, the situation is significantly more chaotic – because now the “work” part of your everyday life is likely to spill over dramatically, and will probably contain many times more tasks and elements than it previously did.
Get organised as a point of urgency – because if you don’t, your professional prospects aren’t looking too good. To achieve this, you should consider what sorts of tools might help you to properly track and record everything, plan for the future (or even just for tomorrow,) and stay on top of your appointments and plans.
It may be that a high-tech, high-profile digital task management system is exactly what you need, here. Or, maybe a system like Trello is going to be instrumental in ensuring that any contractors you work with are doing what they need to do, without stepping on each other’s toes.
Then again, you might prefer to work with an old-fashioned physical Filofax, while utilising David Allen’s famous “Getting Things Done” task management methodology.
Just be sure that whatever systems you use, they really help you stay on top of things.
Don’t get too caught up in trying to “optimise” to the point where you fail to actually get the work done
Your top professional priority as an entrepreneur isn’t to perpetually find ways to optimise things; it’s to actually get your work done, and move the envelope of where your business is and what it is able to achieve.
Some level of optimisation will be necessary, and will likely do plenty of good. But if you get into the routine of constantly hunting around for the newest tool, gadget, or item of technology to really let you squeeze out an extra 1% here or there, you are likely wasting your time and missing the point.
When it comes to technology in your professional life, it’s best to employ Pareto’s principle – in other words, assume that 80% of the positive results you experience from technologies will come from 20% of the technologies you use, and then focus on implementing that crucial “20%” of technologies.
As for the remaining 80% of technologies that yield the remaining 20% of potential benefits? Well, it might just be best to cut your losses and ignore them.