You know the difference between a jungle and a garden. There’s design and structure, a clear pathway to help you navigate, and, of course, a gardener. Does your business have a technology jungle or garden?
Your industry’s best practice contains helpful and, possibly, necessary advice, but don’t let it dictate the whole of your business operations. You must take what works best, use it, and disregard the rest. Your business is not the same as others in your industry. If it is, you aren’t doing anything new and you can’t have a unique value proposition. Your profits are in a race to the bottom.
Yet, more often than not, this is what we find businesses first attempt when it comes to technology. The business buys cookie-cutter Cloud services, VoIP systems, CRMs and ERPs because the product name contains their industry and touts, “Best Practice.” The business tries to adapt their processes to fit the product. And, worse, it is all done in an effort to reduce costs in order to keep up with the competition.
This is what the race to the bottom looks like and it’s easy to see how it came to be this way.
Technology is often misunderstood. What is best equates to whatever is Best Practice. But Best Practice isn’t about doing something new; it’s about reducing costs. The industry leader of a technology demands a premium, but the potential return is limited. The technology is already late and it’s greatest value lost to the competition years ago. This creates an opportunity for the cheaper, cookie-cutter products. The savings never materializes, because the implementations grow too costly as one process after another must be changed to fit the business.
Best practice is the practice that works best for your business. Technology is no different. But we are. We help businesses in the construction, legal, and financial industries to adapt and adopt technologies to produce new results. Our responsibility is to position your business as a leader and innovator. Let others learn what is Best Practice from you.
Beyond the service rendered or the money paid, you want a vendor or client who creates opportunities. When you hire a vendor or take on a new client, you make an investment. Traditionally, you spend dollars or time in exchange for dollars and time. A good investment strategy involves diversification and selecting companies with multiple revenue streams. The same holds true of your vendors and clients.
A client or vendor who actively introduces you to opportunities or shares a connection offers more than one product and market. The chances of their long-term survival and a better return on investment is greater. This helps you to see the value a small business may bring over a large corporation and facilitates the creation of lifetime clients, no matter to what company the person may relocate.
When you interview a new vendor or client, ask who they work with and if they’re willing to make an introduction. This should not surprise nor offend them. If you’re doing business with a small business that isn’t creating opportunities for you, then you’ve accepted additional risk without a return. Get out. Select a large corporation or, better yet, move on to a small business that performs.
Sherwood Chamberlain helps businesses in the construction, legal, and financial sectors. We’re more than happy to help our clients and vendors to become acquainted.
tl;dr Nerds don’t have to be antisocial. In-person communication tells us more than plain text ever can. Contact creates trust. Enthusiasm is contagious.
As IT workers, we are affectionately called nerds and geeks. As such, we’re well aware our brand does not call to mind anything remotely resembling an extrovert. What people imagine isn’t just the opposite of a “people person”, but something wholly satirical. SNL’s Nick Burns, The Big Bang Theory, and The IT Crowd come to mind.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that when we tell our clients a technician will be at their office every week – whether they ask us to be or not – that we are met with more than a little bit of hesitation. Sometimes, there is a look of interest at the sheer novelty of it. More often than not, Why? is scrawled upon their faces.
“Why do you send a tech to my office ever week?”
We thought we’d take a moment to answer that unasked but most evident of questions.
1. Body language is important
Allow us to point to the obvious. Our clients don’t actually ask us why. We only know that they want to know why because we’re sitting in front of them, looking at their puzzled expression. In a nutshell, this is reasons 1, 2, and 3.
Body language accounts for 55% of what’s communicated. Though this figure isn’t exact, it’s a good rule of thumb. When we’re face-to-face, body language let’s us know when someone is distracted, angry, or we haven’t made ourselves clear.
2. Touch brings trust
Touch brings trust comes from FastCompany’s excellent article detailing the benefits of in-person communication. As noted, a handshake and the proximity of another human being creates literal (and figurative) warmth. When people are warm, they feel safe.
We often work with our clients when they’re under a deadline or regarding sensitive data. Sometimes a technology is profoundly confusing. Our clients must trust us to do what’s best for their business.
3. Emotional contagion
It’s happened more than once that in our excitement for what a new technology means for a client’s industry, we start speaking in the technobabble we promise not to use. We correct it as soon as we catch it, but, hey, we’re human.
That works the other way, too. Sometimes, we don’t know what a project, deadline, or new hire means to our clients. An email labeled, “Exciting News” or a non-committal text reading “important” just doesn’t quite convey the moment.
When we’re face-to-face with a client, we get it. We have no choice but to get it. Excitement is contagious. Whether it’s a momentous event, the urgency of a project deadline six months out, or whatever monotonous process is sapping the creativity out of the business, we know where to align our efforts to help our clients produce.
One more reason
We promised just three reasons in the title, but there is a fourth. The fourth reason is so near-and-dear to us that we think it deserves its own post. That reason is to ask questions. Not just any questions and especially not annoying questions. We ask the kind of questions that improve productivity, reduce stress, and build your business.
We agree that we’re defying a stereotype when we send a team member to your office every week. We know that can be a little confusing at first. We hope that you will agree it is a great and necessary change from how technology has previously been administered. Do spread the word that gone are the days of one-sided communiques from on high that tell of the great, new features that you will love despite your inability to use them. Instead, introduce a friend, face-to-face, to Sherwood Chamberlain, the friendly, human face of technology.
tl;dr Scroll down to the section, “3 questions for profitable software purchases”
It’s a very rare occurrence that someone says to us, “I saw this really cool software and I’d like to spend thousands of dollars on it to show off to my friends.”
Most people start with a need and then buy software for that need. A person needs to create custom PDFs, so they buy a PDF Creator like Adobe Writer. A manager needs reports to track how often the sales team converts a lead, so a CRM like Salesforce is purchased.
Put another way, most people don’t spend a Saturday “window” shopping Crozdesk for fun (that joke slays at the IT Comedy Club).
But, if people buy software to meet a need, why is it so many businesses fail to see a return on investment from their software purchases?
The answer is simple: Most people buy to fulfill their need, not the needs of the business, regardless of the type of software or expense. This isn’t necessarily borne of some undesirable trait. We’re obsessed with productivity. Sometimes, in our desire to increase our productivity, we forget that the only productivity that matters to the business, is the productivity that increases profits.
How, then, do we protect ourselves from our zeal and make productivity about business profits once again? You should ask yourself three questions.
3 questions for profitable software purchases
In what way does this software increase business profits?
Ask yourself if it effects labour, capital, or materials. Labour: Does it free a team member to do another, more profitable activity? Capital: Does it reduce the cost to complete an activity? Materials: Does it replace a good or product (e.g. paperless systems).
Does this software require additional training or a change in workflow?
Training can be costly and time-consuming. A software that can handle the needs of a complex business will generally be more complex than the typical, out-of-box solution. A protracted learning curve can delay the return on investment or, worse, prevent a busy business from ever making use of the software.
Who will be responsible for developing or maintaining the software?
As the person responsible for authorizing large purchases, it is fairly common in small businesses that the financial officer becomes responsible for software. In other cases, it is the department head. In either event, this is often not ideal. Managers rarely have time to dedicate to learn a new software, conduct workshops, or sit on the phone for long periods of time to work through the technical details of API integration – the things necessary to earn a strong return on investment.
The questions above will start you in the direction necessary to make profitable software purchases. Identifying the ultimate end goal – profits – will eliminate the majority of wasteful software purchases. Understanding the associated costs of training or the change in workflow will help you decide the best time to implement a new software. Choosing the right person or team to be responsible for the development of the software will give the software purchase a long tail, increasing the return on investment many times over.
As a business technology productivity firm, our clients expect us to not only understand why things fail and how they succeed, but to take action to ensure they succeed. If the post above has left you with questions for your business, we hope you will reach out to us. We’ve turned our clients’ purchases into investments, from losses to profits. We can do the same for you.