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I try to write about three times per week. Most of it is pretty good and will probably help you grow your business. If it doesn't, then I probably can't help you.

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

Of Paper and Technology

posted this on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at about 9am.
doodle note taking

A number of years ago, as I was in an undergraduate class, I was using my computer to participate in a presentation. The instructor did not like me very much and ended up giving me a discounted grade for the entire course because I was using my computer during the presentation. I know, because she told me that she did it for that reason.

Even after explaining and demonstrating the fact that I was contributing to the presentation by my use of the computer, the attitude of the instructor was that I was simply not paying attention.

For years now, I have noticed a significant disparity in the attitudes of technology and paper. If, during that same presentation, I had spent time jotting on a piece of paper there would have been no concern from that instructor. In fact, I could have spent most of the time writing completely frivolous things on that piece of paper and no one would’ve cared.

Even recently, I was in a board meeting and someone specifically said that it was inappropriate to use a computer during a sit-down meeting. I explained that often times I pay better attention using my computer because I can research relevant topics and type notes for the meeting much more quickly than on a piece of paper.

It is fascinating to me the norms of society that say if you use a piece of paper to take notes you are paying attention but if you use a computer you are simply goofing off.

I am a terrible notetaker. If I have a computer in front of me I will take very impressive notes. When I have a piece of paper in front of me I will doodle and write random thoughts that have little relation to the presentation.

Next time you want to disparage someone for using a computer in a meeting, you might want to consider that they may be actually participating more than you are.

Five Tech Skills You Must Know

posted this on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at about 3pm.

reel to reelI have always enjoyed learning new things. I am not necessarily an early adopter but I am definitely interested in learning and understanding technology earlier than the majority.

I believe that we should learn to live effectively in the world around us. In order to accomplish that, we have to understand to tools around us.

I believe that there are a few key technologies that every businessperson should know to operate in today’s marketplace. As a teacher of college students I can confidently say they need to understand these skills as well.

Before I share my list of the most important things to learn, I want to demonstrate how this should work. My father-in-law is a retired farmer. He was a very successful farmer but I am confident he never used a computer. He never learned how to plug in a DVD player. But, he didn’t need to. He needed to understand the tools of his profession. He could fix and drive any tractor. He knew how to work with what he had and, more importantly, he knew how to figure out how to make things work that make a farm a success.

So, understand that these tools are important for people in business and for students. It is simply not acceptable to say, “I don’t know how to do that.” You must know these very basic technologies to make it in today’s business environment.

  • Email. People in business know (hopefully) how to check email. But I am amazed how many people fear to check the settings of their email or change their password. They don’t even know the name of the email application they use. Often times they don’t have a clue how to properly compose or properly format an email. Your email provider always provides your email settings. You should know how to check the settings and see if they match. When using Outlook or any other mail program, you should know how to go to the preferences for your mailbox and type in the settings provided. Don’t know the setting requirements? Ask. Moreover, you should know how to format your email and use salutations and signatures.
  • Skype. Being able to communicate quickly in any collaborative environment allows for greater efficiency. Instant messaging tools, like Skype, are important tools to facilitate communication. You may not use it on a regular basis, but you need to be familiar enough to be able to when the requirement arises. You need to know how to use instant messaging and video chat. Download Skype and connect with someone. Don’t know with whom to connect? contact me and I’ll let you practice.
  • Screenshots. Taking a screenshot of you computer screen is a very easy way to show people what you see. If you have a problem with your computer, you should be able to take a screen shot and send it off to others. There are myriad tools for both Macintosh and Windows… many are free. They allow you to mark the image up and covey you opinions quickly and easily. For Macintosh, you can go here or for Windows, you can go here – Windows XP or here – Windows Vista/7. You can even simplify the whole process, and get cool markup tools by spending a few dollars for Snag It (worth every penny).
  • File Sharing. It used to be, in order to share large files, you would have to have access and know how to use an FTP site. Now, file sharing is made much easier by tools that are readily available online. Never should you say, “I can’t email it because it’s too large.” You should never say, “Let me FedEx you a CD.” Tools like Drop Box and Box make it very easy now. I use Drop Box and I can share large files, for free, without even inviting others to join up. If you are on a Mac, one of the easiest ways to share screenshots and files is with Droplr (I’ve never used it, but there is apparently a Windows Version, too.)
  • Microsoft Word. I’m not talking about how to type or how to choose bold. I’m talking about inserting images, tables, headers, footers and, most importantly, comments & edits. Formatting your Word documents properly can set you apart from others in your organization. Formatting of paragraphs, bullets, numbers and ensuring that it simply looks pretty will go a long way to adding credibility to the way you communicate. Being able to take a document from another then add edits and comments allow you to use the collaborative elements of Word to your advantage. (While you’re at it, learn Excel, too.)

These five areas of tech are basic and fundamental to being able to communicate in today’s online world. Don’t demonstrate your ignorance and not learn how to do these very basic things. You simply do not have the luxury of saying, “I don’t know how to do that.”

Technology Doesn't Matter

posted this on Monday, September 19, 2011 at about 9pm.
Flux Capacitor

Running your business in 2011 requires a bit of understanding of technology. Even the least technical jobs, such as lawn care professionals, are sporting smart phones to check email, talk to his staff and connect to his clients.

The challenge is that technology can be a bit unnerving for some business owners. It’s not unnerving because it’s technology, per se. It’s unnerving because of the need to understand, yet again, something new.

Social media, blogs, iPhones and Android, search engine optimization, flux capacitors… how do we keep it all straight?

Let me suggest that technology is only a tool. It’s no different than a hammer or drill except it’s a tool that solves a different problem. Until we understand that the technology we use is meant to solve a specific problem, we’ll continue to focus on how hard it is to integrate technology into our business and marketing efforts.

People NOT Social Media

Social media isn’t a new concept. Connecting online in a social setting has been around since the first public bulletin board system was born on February 16, 1978. It’s only been the last few years that social media has really exploded.

The problem is forgetting that social media is really about the people. All online bulletin board systems, discussion forums, blog comments, status updates and tweets are about connecting people with people.

Social media is the tool. How do you connect people together is the problem it solves.

Story Telling NOT Websites

Websites are more common now than ever. It’s been a little over 20 years since the first website was published. On August 6, 1991 Tim Berners-Lee, a CERN physists created the first website. It didn’t take too long before Yahoo, Netscape, AOL and Amazon were part of the daily lexicon.

In the beginning, story telling wasn’t as important because only the innovators and early adopters could even access the Web anyway. However, now with billions of websites, competition is fierce to get your message out.

Websites are simple a tool for telling stories. Your story will come in many ways. The best stories are very creative told with picture, graphics and interactivity. But, stories can also be very technical, dry and boring. The better your stories, the more people will come to learn about you.

Communication NOT Email

Since the first email was sent in 1971, it has changed the way business is conducted. It’s been nearly 20 years since it really became a mainstay of corporate communication. Unfortunately, email has been an escape from reality for too many business people. It’s becomes a place to hide from the challenges that face us. If we don’t want to talk with someone, we send an email. It allows us to measure our words to the point that we end up being too vague or too rude. To make matters worse, most email writing is poor, at best.

Communication is a two-way street. It takes a listening and a speaking side for communication to happen. Most business people make the mistake of thinking that communication has taken place when the other person is not really paying attention.

Email is simply a tool that helps to facilitate communication. However, it still can not replace a simple conversation via the phone or face-to-face. Even other technological tools, such as video conferencing, can help to facilitate communication more effectively.

Creativity NOT Computers

In 1984, Apple Computers released the Macintosh and the face of computing hasn’t been the same since. Software has enabled the average computer user accessibility to professional quality tools. Even simple tools such as a word processor or a photo-editing package allow the least adept feel like a pro.

Computers, in fact, have a tendency to stifle creativity. Leaning on clip-art, copy-and-paste and photographic filters prevent us from coming up with our own, new ideas. We tend to favor the tools that offer the least resistance to getting our job done.

The result? We generate the same drivel as we’ve done in the past.

Computers are tools. Computers provide us more availability to things that will help us be creative but we have to be careful to not limit our own minds. Sometimes a pen and paper or whiteboard can allow us to be unencumbered in our imagination and then we can take it to the computer when we are ready to put our ideas to work.

Accessibility NOT Smart Phones

By 1930, land-locked telephone customers could place a call to an ocean liner in the Atlantic Ocean. In the 1990s, texting began to become another effective way of communicating short messages quickly.

In 1996, Nokia released the first phone that could be classified a smart phone. In 1997, the term smart phone was made official. With the release of the iPhone in 2007, the smart phone officially became a household term. Now, walking down the street, sitting in a coffee shop or even at church, you see people glued to their phones.

The argument for a smart phone is the ability to be accessible to anyone at anytime. However, it often results in more people playing Angry Birds and checking email in the middle of a movie instead.

Smarts phones are tools that provide greater accessibility. If you aren’t careful, the very thing that promises greater accessibility could actually prevent it.


These tools are not new. These tools have been around for many years. We seem to think of them as new because they are shinier now than there were in the beginning. They have become mainstream. They have come to the point where they now mean something to a greater percentage of the population.

Don’t get hung up on the technology but, instead, take the time to understand what the tools are meant to do. If you focus on people, story telling, communication, creativity and accessibility, you’ll find greater success in everything you do.

Business Before Technology

posted this on Friday, July 15, 2011 at about 2pm.
It's a Bug's Life

When John Lasseter was directing A Bug’s Life, he had the goal to top Pixar’s performance of Toy Story. His team realized very soon that most of their experience from Toy Story was meaningless when applied to A Bug’s Life because of the scope of the new story.

A Bug’s Life was the first fully digital, wide screen animated production and new technological challenges were brought to bear. In fact, John commented that they were “drowning” in the technical issues that arose.

One of the producers told John that they were limited technologically to produce crowd shots with more than 50 characters. Could you imagine an ant colony with only 50 ants visible at any given time?

John’s response?

“I am willing to accept that if that is all you can do, but I willing to be that you guys can do better. “

They formed a team called the “crowd team” to solve the problem and they over came the technical issues and A Bug’s Life was the highest grossing film of 1998.

When thinking about running your business, you have to be very careful to not get caught up in the newest technology of the day and focus on your business. Don’t let technology get in the way.

Sometimes the technology is part of the business requirement. We just have to not let the tech get in the way. Start with understanding your business objective (sell more stuff, decrease costs, communicate with customers) then focus on what will get you to that end.

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