I’ve now been working with smaller business on their digital communications requirements for nearly 20 years. And that doesn’t include the time spent with them on traditional media requirements previously.
Over that time it’s been really interesting to observe how widespread real technophobia (fear of all things technical) is and the lengths people will go to avoid technical aspects of business.
Despite a technical solution offering considerable benefits to their businesses, watching some small business operators escape from a situation where their lack of technical knowledge will be exposed would be entertaining if it weren’t so sad for their business.
These small business operators become virtual acrobats in their attempts to avoid exposing their technical incompetence.
I’m certainly no psychologist but to me it appears that technology is the one area of their lives that many feel completely out of control. It’s the one area that some otherwise very intelligent people aren’t able to grasp. This creates almost a panic response when most other aspects of their lives they confidently understand and can manage and as a result, they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.
With technology, they feel like babes in the woods and in truth, from a technical perspective, that’s what they are.
I have one very intelligent and capable client that I have inadvertently brought to tears more than once because she feels so helpless with all things technical. And I thought I was a reasonably good tech translator!
Others have deliberately continued age-old communications practices that can be taking their organisations at least 3-4 times the labour (and its cost) to achieve the same task with simple digital solutions.
The reality is that technophobia is likely to be costing their business big time.
So if this sounds like “a friend of yours”, what are they to do about it?
I have three suggestions.
1. Admit it. You suck at techie stuff
Believe it or not, it’s actually okay to not understand every single working of business. I’ve met many successful business operators over the years and few are experts in every facet of their business. What’s important is that you simply understand the importance of that aspect of your business and that you have good, reliable help to assist with it. That’s not just technology, that’s all aspects of business.
So it’s important to calmly and assertively admit to those in the conversation that “really technology isn’t my strong suit so I need you to help me with it”. That admission will save you a packet in miscommunication, delayed communication and poor decisions because it removes the assumption that you are in a powerful decision making capacity.
But doesn’t that expose you to being taken for a ride? Not if you apply suggestions two and three.
2. Find a technology confidante
Everyone has a friend or associate who gets this stuff. They really are everywhere. So find someone who has a similar business to yours in both size and business type to act as your technology “go to” person. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same line of business, but a similar business model – for example, a plumber (a mainly business-to-consumer service) could seek the advice of a locksmith and so on.
An even better situation is where you can swap advice. For example, you might be good at marketing so you could swap advice on this.
3. Join and ask online small business Groups
There are literally thousands of smaller business operators residing in social network Groups who are ready, willing and able to offer their advice on all things technology.
There is a trick with this though. While many things appear to be technology issues, they actually belong to a different business stream but are underpinned by technology. For example, book-keeping software is about book-keeping and email marketing about marketing. So in cases like this, it’s best to ask a book-keeper and a marketer well-versed in technology, respectively.
I’ve seen many techies simply give the wrong answer on occasions like this because their perspective is a technical one, not a business or marketing one.
So next time you’re talking to “your friend”, point them towards these suggestions.
You might just help them save a packet – and save face.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.