Why is it that a business of your size depends so heavily on technology? It’s probably obvious to you because you run your business, but I’m not always sure it’s obvious to the vendors that produce the technology and services you’re most likely to use, or at least want to use.
All said and done, there are two reasons you use technology: size and speed. Size matters because we’re small, but we need to look professional and large. Technology can help us do that by improving the quality and size of our products and presentations without adding a whole lot of staff or other resources. And speed matters because technology helps us do things quickly that would otherwise take us a lot of time. Simple enough, right?
I bring this up because I’ve been working on a story for future placement on this site that involves the simple job of making business cards. Well, at least you’d think it was simple. Those little 2″x3-1/2″ pieces of paper aren’t especially complicated to format, and usually don’t involve much more than printing or copying the formatted image on to nice card-stock paper. Raised letters, engravings, and stuff like that can wait until we’re a big company, right?
The business card project clarified for me just how important the size and speed issues are in our use of technology. A nicely printed business card is key to making a good impression on prospective clients. And speed is critical when obtaining our cards because if you are scrambling to get a business going, you can’t stand around and wait weeks for business cards to be printed. (On a personal note, I once skirted the time issue by laser printing a card on to tear-apart cards, only to get nearly laughed out of a conference I took them to.)
Most of the business card services I have started working with don’t get the speed or the quality issue. Whether they are online or storefront services, most seem to think that two weeks or more is plenty fast enough for you to get your cards. And most offer card backgrounds that are at best juvenile, and don’t include your own logo, or offer type-only formats that are plain at best and ugly at worst. You can get around that by uploading a pre-formatted card to some of the services, but their printing may not be up to snuff.
I don’t want to give away the business card article here, especially because it’s not really done yet. But the problems I am seeing show up in other arenas as well, often manifested in complex product interfaces, difficult installation routines, or poor quality or inconsistent results.
Many new and old companies are jumping into this bourgeoning small business market, and as they do they must keep in mind that small business owners like you work hard to keep their businesses going. They therefore need technology that is delivered quickly, works right the first time, and produces first-class results every time.
John Dickinson is editor of SmartCompany.com.