By Charles Barr
Strong aversion to new types of media is not new. Works of poetry and fictional writing was dismissed as untruthful and not to be taken seriously by Socrates and Plato, while television was doomed to make everyone stupid, with author Roald Dahl commenting, “Pease, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away…” And now, with the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, the focus has been on the deterioration of human to human relationships. Undoubtedly, you probably have seen mild to harsh critiques – ranging from satirical cartoons to outright editorials – about how phones have destroyed conversations on the dinner table. What about all the talk about artificial intelligence and robotics? Will they take away our jobs and even our sovereignty? Well, not necessarily.
Although criticisms about new, emerging technologies throughout history have some merit, the important insight that we can gather from all of our experiences is that it’s not about the gadgets themselves but about people’s self-control mechanisms and how these new devices are utilized. Whether it’s TV or the iPhone, the moderate use and instrumental purposes of the individual determines the benefit (or harm) that it brings — which is true for all things, period. Understanding and acknowledging this fact is especially important for small businesses that will continuously experience exponentially fast developments of technology in the years to come.
No, it’s not easy as it sounds. Even the great minds of Plato and Socrates did not completely foresee the value of fictional works, and it is unlikely for small mom and pop businesses that have been around for decades to quickly adapt to mobile marketing, social network advertising, or maintaining a YouTube channel. Yet, recent research and studies continuously remind us that businesses are more likely to successful by adopting new marketing channels and new technologies.
I remember one time when I was visiting Louisville for a large business trade show, and we were locked out of our company truck with the key missing during the craziness of prepping the booth. With a quick search on the web with the smartphones, we decided to call a local mobile locksmith who had the highest ratings (in fact, all other mobile locksmiths had zero reviews, while this guy had more than fifty). After a fast and professional service, he asked us, if willing, to leave him an online review. In the past, he had worked for a relatively larger handyman company as an employee, but he said that he found new opportunities to work for himself as he realized that customers could easily search him directly through smartphones, and that he could strategically focus on accruing online reviews, without the need of additional office staff. And that is all that made the difference for him.
The morale of the story is that the advent of new technologies will take away certain jobs (even for white collar jobs as accounting) and may disrupt existing social norms, but will certainly open up many more new opportunities for existing and new businesses. Exciting and unique relationships with local customers can be formed through activities on social media (and virally promote certain events held by your business), and managerial strategies can be efficiently executed by using online third parties, which is much more cost effective than hiring full time employees. Indeed, small business owners should be the first to adopt and experiment with new technologies, especially as current developments empower the smaller players to hire people more effectively, advertise their brands less costly, and ultimately grow their businesses’ more efficiently.