Changing a mindset is a difficult task for anyone. But I believe that for you and your company to remain relevant in the coming years you will need to do exactly that.
Think about how you, the business leader, perceive your company. You have an office, a location most likely selected based on its ability to help serve your customers. My guess is you spend lots of money every year maintaining that facility, including landscaping, painting and even replacing the roof when necessary. You do these things not only to shape the way your employees see the company but also the way current and potential customers view your business.
But something changed along the way and it impacts the way people make decisions about your company. That something is technology, specifically the Internet's role as a decision-influencing mechanism. Before anyone even so much as picks up the phone to give your company a chance, they research your business online, making purchasing decisions based on what they find and what your website (assuming you have one) looks like.
Technology, if not addressed, has the potential to make your company irrelevant. Want some examples? Try Kodak. Here's a company who, in the late 1980s, boasted a share price close to $100 and more than 140,000 employees. Now, embroiled in bankruptcy, Kodak trades at less than $1 a share and employs less than 20,000 people. Think about how easily Kodak, once a leader in its industry, fell because other companies filled a void that they were either unable or unwilling to fill. Think you can't fall or see your market share erode?
How about an example that hits a little closer to home: equipment distribution. Last fall FEDA President Brad Wasserstrom warned dealers of the impending foray of Amazon into the marketplace. The equipment distribution model has already gone through difficult growing pains dealing with online distribution and names like Instawares and Burkett Restaurant Equipment. Think Amazon might change the game further? How will the industry handle the service and support issues?
In the equipment service segment, parts distribution giants like 3Wire, PartsTown, Heritage, Allpoints and Ecolab use technology to address the needs of end-users everywhere — a role once filled by the local service agent. Technology happened and many servicers didn't get in the game.
If you're not willing to play by the new rules of business, you'll likely find yourself out of the game. Businesses are blending technology into every facet of their operations. You don't want to accept invoice payment by routing number? Someone else will. You are not able to submit invoices electronically? Try getting paid on time from a client that is going paperless.
You may think that technology is scary and invasive and for those reasons it doesn't fit with the way you run your business. Regardless of your concerns and reservations, the world will continue changing and moving forward, with or without you.
Whatever you need to do to learn how to do business in this new age, you'd better start doing it.
The majority of companies writing checks use technology to evolve their business. They look for vendors that speak their language. Qué hablar de tecnología? Better figure it out and figure it out quickly.