Wow, it feels like forever since I typed away at my laptop and put my thoughts to paper (keyboard lol). I took a brief hiatus from writing blogs for the last eight months while I focused on my clients and growing my business. The genesis of writing my development blogs was to keep myself busy as I actively waited for Prisca International to become everything I envisioned. What I found was that I was learning a lot about myself, the world (through my research), and building up a collection of material that clients would one day reference as to how they found me. So, what made me return? I decided to give my readers a gift on my birthday—as backward as that sounds—to discuss a topic that has been heavy on my heart: Technology. My hope is that by the end of this reading, your brain begins to challenge you on how you can improve your current business to make necessary updates to get, or stay, ahead.
If I were to ask you if you own a technology business, unless you worked directly with computers or devices, your answer would likely be an emphatic “No.” But if you asked me if I owned a technology company, I would tell you “Of course!” Let me explain this by first diving into the meaning of technology. This is where it gets fun. The word technology is said to come from the Greek word tekhnologia which means systematic treatment. Even further, Merriam-Webster defines technology in three ways that I find particularly interesting:
- the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
- a manner of accomplishing a task, especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
- the specialized aspects of a particular field
The overarching themes or words that keep recurring in my research are systems and processes. Every company is and should be a technology company because every company should have defined systems and processes in how they operate. These systems should be approached scientifically in that they should be constantly hypothesized, tested, analyzed, and concluded with an affirmed or new stance for the business.
I wanted to use Blockbuster and Netflix as my case study but decided to challenge myself and learn about another company that similarly failed to innovate and unfortunately was left behind by their competition. Founded in 1971, Borders became one of the largest, most popular book and music retailers in the country before they were forced to shut down in 2011. In 2010, just a year before, the company was said to have over 19,000 employees nationwide. So, what happened? Though they may not agree that they became complacent, I would suggest that Borders found a system that worked and kept it going until the wheels literally fell off. Unfortunately, they did not view their business scientifically or technically to constantly test their systems and make sure that they would withstand the fast-changing world we live in today. Borders had an amazing key product: BOOKS! People love books and bookstores, but where was the team within Borders to propose the following question: What happens to books when the world goes digital? The first iPhone was released in 2007. Maybe they did not believe that devices would take over the lives of their target audience and become the primary way to reach them. But by remaining outside of the e-book arena for too long, it was virtually (haha) impossible to join in, and unfortunately, they found themselves out of business. The story ends with Barnes & Noble buying their consumer loyalty list for almost $14M, and Borders becomes a household name of the past.
In an age where technology is advancing at an exponential rate, we must learn from history to avoid these detrimental mistakes. Whether you are a small business or a multi-level organization, I have created a list of 3 ways you can become a technology company:
- Write down all your systems and processes. (Yes, even your “secret” sauce.)
- You do not have to wait until you have several managers or employees before you start treating your business like a true organization. If there are ways that you prefer your emails to be sent or specific steps to access secure folders or documents, write them down. I have always treated my business as if it were bigger than what it is because I never wanted to play catch-up once it grew. It is better to stay ahead than try to retrace your steps.
Every business has a secret sauce, not just chefs. I am sure you believe you add something into the marketplace that has never been done before. Make sure to document this for historical purposes, but also so that you are always vetting it. You never want to have an outdated/expired item or process on your shelf.
- Have an entire team (even if it is a party of 1) dedicated to innovation.
- Seriously, even if it is something you set aside one hour a month to do by yourself, focus on innovation. Research your competitors and discover what they are doing in your space, but do not stop there. Borders did not just need to research other book retailers but also research what was happening on the internet. If they had dedicated some time to innovation, they may have found that e-books were the new wave and jumped on it immediately.
- Practice the scientific method constantly.
- The official breakdown of the simple scientific method consists of 5 steps: Make an observation, Form a hypothesis, Make a prediction, Conduct an experiment, and Analyze the results
- Determine a consistent period that you can commit to doing this (whether it is monthly, quarterly, or yearly) and perform this method on your major processes. A quick example: The current process for ordering food from you is messaging you on Instagram. You 1. Make an observation that this may not be the most efficient way to receive or execute orders, so you 2. Form a hypothesis that “If I invest in a one-page website to accept food orders, then I will increase my productivity and sales by 25% and report higher customer satisfaction.” You then 3. Make a prediction that you will see positive results because people have made a few comments suggesting this solution for months. 4. You conduct an inexpensive experiment by asking a friend to build a landing page to accept food order requests. Lastly, you 5. Analyze the results by confirming whether this has increased sales and reviewing feedback from your customers.
- Here is a bonus one (another gift on my birthday): Don’t be afraid to jump!
- I will not expound on this point to avoid spoiling my readers with all these gems, but I believe this is self-explanatory and E S S E N T I A L for all businesses working to stay relevant.
One custom that I never want to lose is leaving you with a challenge. This week’s challenge: Think about one process that is extremely important in running your business. Document it if you have not already and perform the scientific method as detailed above to see if there are ways you can improve or innovate. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. To learn more about how Prisca International can help transform you or your business, contact us here for a complimentary consultation.