This month I was asked to discuss how technology has improved my business and life and provide some tips for how you can better use technology to improve yours — even if it’s only small steps. I’d suspect that to most of you, technology feels like both a blessing and a curse at times. We’ve all had those moments, probably on a daily basis, when we’d like to throw whichever device isn’t working as promised out the window. I’m sure I’ve put on a few good technology temper tantrums for unlucky witnesses. Nevertheless, technology is the supporting structure of my business, and I can’t imagine working and growing without it.
Where do you fit?
As a technology user you may find yourself in one of the following common categories. Technophiles: You roll the dice as an early adopter (which essentially means you’re doing free beta testing for everyone else) and buy the latest tech when it’s released. Wait and See: You hang back a year or two and wait for us early adopters to work out the kinks for you, then dip your toes in. Cold, Dead Hands: You dig your heels in and hang on with white-knuckle force to the 15-year-old piece of software, equipment or website that you think is still working just fine for you. I’ll let you do some honest self-reflection about where you best fit.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each tech-user category, of course. As technology is a core part of my business, not just in how I use it for myself, but in how I help my clients grow, I tend to be a technophile/early adopter, and I push to try out new tech as early as it makes sense. Like it or not, to stay ahead in the marketplace, we must constantly learn how to use new tools.
As a produce grower, you’re no doubt confronted with more emerging technology than you can keep track of. The boom in automation, hydroponics and grow lighting technology offers you many opportunities to take your operation to the next level. All that modern technology is great, but I often find that the technology companies in our industry can most quickly benefit from, is the technology that helps them get their house in order. Fundamental business tools that help you better organize your accounting, employees, and communications can reduce stress and improve productivity. Are you taking advantage of the technology tools that help you stay mobile, but simultaneously connected to your business operations?
The list of technology that helps me in my day-to-day business and life is a long one. But when I really started thinking about which tools help me the most, it’s hard to ignore the power of basics such as the combination of the internet and the smartphone. Building a website that is current, responsive, and puts your best business step forward is a non-negotiable these days — but the green industry is still lagging in this department. When it comes to business operations, I can run just about every aspect of my business online these days from my pocket-sized phone. Yet, in my dealings with industry members, I see a lot of untapped potential for using these tools to better manage and grow many aspects of their business. If you fall into the “wait and see” or “I’m still living in 1998” technology category, you may not be reaping the benefits of technology on the go.
Business on the go
While there are a lot of potential downsides to smartphones, they are powerful tools, and what they can do for you in your business is pretty amazing. Combine a smartphone with a few solid productivity and accounting apps and there’s little you can’t do directly from your phone. Email is of course tied to my phone, as are my personal and business banking apps; my business accounting and payroll platforms, my employee time clock, which links to payroll; and my project management software, through which I manage all my employees, contractors, and client project tasks (I use Asana, which I can tell you has been nothing less than a lifesaver). I can access all my business documents and files kept on cloud server platforms such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Asana — to name a few — and I can even work on and edit the files directly from my phone. I can run online meetings and webinars with apps such as GoToMeeting.
Not to mention, my phone serves as an excellent camera and video-capturing tool, which is essential for my work activities. I can stay connected to website activity and communications, and with a few targeted social media apps stay well-connected to my professional and personal networks. I even monitor and run my home irrigation system, which has wireless connectivity — and that of a few of my residential clients — directly from my phone, as I’m sure you can do with your environmental control systems. I even talk on it, now and then.
I treat my website and my smartphone as high-powered tools that are integral to my business operations. I spend money to keep my website current, update to new software in real-time, and I regularly upgrade to newer devices and apps so I can stay as current as possible with my mobile business activities. The ROI is well worth the cost.
While it can be tough to keep pace with new technology tools, it’s necessary to at least try to keep up. Looking for a good starting place? Audit your internal company operations to see where you might be struggling with either client or employee communication issues or redundancies. Chances are, there’s an app for that.