If you haven’t noticed, the brave new, digital world has arrived. All I have to do is gauge the activity in my own household as confirmation. My children, ages 14 through 19, have never purchased a single CD (they download music on their iPods). They communicate with friends through a series of text messages and iChats instead of phone calls and watch their favorite programs on laptops instead of television.
These new developments, however, are not confined to the social pursuits of youth. Emerging technologies seem to be changing the way we conduct business faster than you can tweet. As an entrepreneur, you have to either keep pace or, believe me, you’ll be zapped by your competitor.
Even a decade into the new millennium, too many African American entrepreneurs suffer from technophobia while others remain reluctant to make the necessary investment in essential hardware and software. The impact of tech upgrades has been confirmed by the Technology Partnership for Small Business Task Force, a group of tech industry leaders organized by the Information Technology Association of America (in conjunction with Microsoft, AT&T, and the Minority Business Development Agency). Formed in response to an Urban Institute study that highlighted the benefits of technology to minority firms, it found that such businesses that applied technology proved to be far more profitable than firms that didn’t use such equipment. The survey reported that extensive use of technology by these firms could add a whopping $200 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.
Bottom line: Technology levels the playing field. A small shop can operate with the efficiency of a company many times its size. Through the Internet, local firms can be transformed into effective global marketers. On the pages of our Techwatch section and small business channel on BlackEnterprise.com, our editors have offered a number of examples of companies that have discovered technology’s myriad advantages. Some have been able to streamline operations using “cloud computingâ€ to share and store documents via the Internet. Others have chopped expenditures and boosted profits through customer relationship management (CRM), allowing them to track and follow up with clients efficiently and effortlessly. Lastly, many companies have adopted social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay connected to valuable networks and expand their customer base.
I urge entrepreneurs to engage in a thorough diagnostic evaluation of your technological needs before outfitting or upgrading your organization. Why? If planned and executed properly, that outlay