Editor’s Note: In the age of machines, people make the difference

Email is simultaneously the best and worst thing that exists in an office. I can be contacted nearly instantaneously from anywhere in the world, which is amazing. However, much of the business that I conduct on a daily basis is done entirely through email, which is a shame.

There are people I work with whose voice I’ve never heard, whose face I’ve never seen. Yet we’ve come to establish a productive, working relationship through this modern medium.

Time is the commodity that today’s communication technologies preserve. A phone call takes less time to make and complete than meeting someone and having a conversation. Email is more time-efficient than both. But how can what’s lost through the latter be measured?

Email has limitations

Columnist Steven Marks, founder and CEO of Main Street Gourmet, tells the story this month of a big deal he was working on with a large potential customer. Knowing he was competing against another company for the business, Marks improved his pitch through email. It didn’t go as planned.

“Email, with all its simplicity and efficiency, has its faults. It can’t convey the whole message — the right tone, emotion and intent,” he says.

Character is what emails lack. And character is one trait columnist Michael Jarrett ranks higher than any other when hiring.

“Values influence every step a person makes. You want someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit, character, respect and strives for excellence. Honesty and integrity create trust, which is a cornerstone of our business and is the main trait we search for,” he says.

“With the right people in the right positions, the right foundation skills and the right training, our business grows.”

Sarah Forrer, co-owner of Main Street Cupcakes, understands that people are at the core of business, whether it’s a service or product that’s at the core of a transaction.

During our interview for this month’s feature, she said, “We always say that we’re in the customer service industry and our business just happens to be cupcakes. People might not think they need cupcakes for anything, but when the opportunity comes up they’ll remember that they dealt with us — they knew us personally. And that’s what we try to do — we try to let people get to know us because people do business with people.”

Bless the ties that bind

Relationships rule in business. As we assembled the stories of our Smart 50 honorees, Doug Hartley, CEO and president of Portage Precision Polymers Inc., had one that stood out. His company’s comptroller committed $1 million in accounting fraud, which meant the company had to re-file three years’ worth of tax returns. His customers supported him, placing additional orders and keeping material prices low. Had those relationships not existed, his business could have failed.

“We need to choose our partners strategically,” says columnist Anthony Margida, CEO of the Akron Global Business Accelerator. “When chosen properly, strong strategic partners go a long way in growing a company.”

Character is still king. But nowadays it’s traveling through a very impersonal medium.

Adam Burroughs is assistant managing editor & digital managing editor for Smart Business Akron/Canton. He is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Akron/Canton. Reach him at (440) 250-7062 or [email protected]

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