Steven D. Strauss - Making the most of your technology investments

Steven D. Strauss

Steven D. Strauss

SMB Expert
Steven D. Strauss is the country's leading small business expert. An internationally recognized lawyer, columnist, and speaker, Steve is also an author of 15 books. Steve's highly syndicated business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly at USATODAY.com He is also the small business columnist for Microsoft, and AT&T who calls him "America's Small Business Expert."

A highly sought after commentator and media guest, Steve has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg Television, The O'Reilly Factor, and the BBC. He has been a regular guest on MSNBC's small business show, Your Business. Steve has been seen in many magazines and newspapers, including Time, Inc., Entrepreneur, New York, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, and scores of others.

Steve regularly speaks to groups the world over regarding business matters, including a recent visit to the United Nations. He has also recently acted as the small business spokesperson for Bank of America, Humana Insurance, and Capitol One, among others. Steve has given speeches for many companies and organizations, including HP, Staples, the United States embassies in Jordan, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia, the United States State Department, the Small Business Administration, and Bausch & Lomb.

Finally, Steve is the president of The Strauss Group, Inc: Strauss Law Firm, Strauss Seminar Co., and Strauss Syndication. He graduated from UCLA, the Claremont Graduate School, the Coro Foundation, and the McGeorge School of Law.

 

Several years ago, I wrote a book called The Big Idea. It was a fun book to write because in it, I got to share how everyday people had an "eureka!" moment and how they turned that inspiration into a popular, innovative product. The book looked at inventions like Teflon, Velcro, the microwave, and many more.

Probably my favorite tale in the book was that of Chester Carlson, the inventor of a process he called "photoconductivity." Carlson worked in a patent office in the 1920s and the process of copying patents by hand drove him to figure out a better way; necessity being the mother of invention and all that.

But try as he might, Carlson was unable to sell his revolutionary technology to anyone. Eventually, a small photographic manufacturing company called Haloid bought in. Though it took more than a decade, tens of millions of dollars, and a renamed product, the result was a runaway "overnight" hit – the Xerox machine. And the main reason why the invention took off was that, in the end, the machine Haloid produced was super simple to use: Turn a knob to the desired number of copies, hit "print," and there you go.

There is a lesson there for all small businesses. We live in an amazing age when any small business can look as big as a big business. And the reason is technology. Technology has leveled the playing field. Between phones, computers, the Internet and all the rest, small businesses now have access to tools that enable them to compete with just about anybody, and look professional and polished in the process.

However, that is only true if they take advantage of, and choose, the right technology. Indeed, choosing the wrong technology can be a costly and time-consuming mistake, and if there is one thing I have learned in my years as both an entrepreneur myself and as the small business columnist for USA TODAY, that is that small businesses can hardly afford expensive mistakes.

So how do you make the most of your technology investments? The best answer is to learn the lesson of the Xerox machine. The simpler and easier you make your technology adoption, the far greater the likelihood that it will be a hit at your office. One thing we all know is that small business people, employers and employees alike, work hard and wear many hats. Time is of the essence. As such, the biggest mistake you can make when buying new technology is to purchase something that is…

  • complicated
  • time-consuming
  • hard to figure out
  • or all of the above

People for the most part are creatures of habit, small business people included (or especially). Getting them to successfully adopt a new technology is far more likely if the technology is smart and makes their job easier. If it is too complicated or hard to understand, you will likely have just wasted your money. This is true even if the technology is supposedly useful because actually, if no one will use it, it's not. So you have to be very thoughtful about the technology you purchase.

In the end, what works is to adopt technology that is simple, intuitive, and affordable.

That is why I am so excited to have teamed up with AT&T SMB Telephony – they make the sort of technology that I am talking about. They make phone systems with just about any feature your small business may need: Extended reach, cords or cordless, PBX functionality… you name it. As they say, you get "big-business features at a small business price." I love big businesses that get small business.

But whether it is a phone system or new computers or software, the secret to getting the most out of your technology is ease. Pick a manufacturer and a product that are easy to understand, learn, adopt, and implement.

Do that, and people will be copying you.