No Business Without Technology

I received an e-mail recently from a pair of intrepid college graduates seeking my advice as they start a magazine. They laid out their idea with great enthusiasm, slathering on lots of personal compliments for good measure (works every time).

I e-mailed back what may have been a sobering response, but I don’t believe in pulling punches with aspiring entrepreneurs or anyone striving to succeed. I told them that it’s tough out here for established businesses, no less startups. I cautioned them not to be naïve. The magazine business and all print media have been hard hit by the shifting economy and the rapid rise of new media.

I suggested that they shouldn’t even bother to start a magazine today unless they are prepared to simultaneously launch a strong Website. Ideally, the Website should launch first, as a test for their concept and to drum up interest and subscribers prior to the print product being released.

The point was not to discourage them; quite the contrary. I urged them to pursue their dream but to do it strategically. The time is always ripe for budding entrepreneurs; but not every budding entrepreneur is ripe for the times.

One of the fundamental dictates of our time is this: You can’t credibly start any business today without having a strong online presence. Whether you use it primarily for marketing, sales, public relations, or simple credibility building, an old saying that used to apply to trees falling in the forest has gone high tech: In business today, if you don’t have a dot-com to point clients to, some will question if you exist at all.

It’s almost cliché to say that technology has transformed our lives. Technology has overtaken our global culture, reshaping not just our personal routines, but the entire business landscape. Technology has revolutionized the game. And where it was once responding to existing business needs, technology is now often leading the charge on best practices and we are changing in response to its advances.

As a guy who still prefers the feel of paper and ink to buttons and screens, I admit to having a love—hate relationship with technology. I still carry a pad and pen with me at all times and I use them. But I’d be lost without my Blackberry. And my cell phone. And my iPod. And the digital heart monitor I wear when I work out. And my wife, who helps me troubleshoot whenever one or all of the above are