Gadgets, gizmos and profits Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

You have all seen or know a CEO who has every technological gadget on the market. E-mails are routed to his phone, which are read to him by the computer via his earpiece. Voice mails are logged and sorted by importance based on preset filters. This person is so plugged in, he starts to resemble a robot with all of his buttons and screens attached to him.

You’ve also seen his nemesis: Mr. Old School. This person avoids technology like a disease. Forget about wireless headsets because if he has a cell phone, it’s only so the wife can contact him in an emergency. E-mails? He never bothers to check them even though the company IT guy gave him an address years ago. This guy is so anti-technology he’d power his company on wood-burning stoves if he could figure out a way to do it.

But the interesting thing is, both CEOs are successful. Both get the job done and know how to run an organization that turns a profit.

This brings up the question of how much technology should you personally be using? Some people embrace technology and have proven successful, while others abhor it and are likewise successful. So how much is the right amount?

For me, I know that there’s a lot of technology out there that would probably be beneficial, but I just don’t have the time to devote to it. Much of today’s technology requires an upfront investment in training, whether its reading the manual and trying to figure out how the gadget works on your own or having someone come to your office to show you all the bells and whistles. For me, I use some technology, but I know I could probably be getting more out of what I already have, but I just can’t find the time to get the training.

The other problem is, technology is evolving so rapidly; it’s a full-time job just trying to keep up with everything. Why spend time training on a device that may already be obsolete?

We face some of these same issues when it comes to implementing technology in our company as a whole. You want to make sure everyone has the tools he or she needs to be efficient but not pay for cutting-edge technology that costs more than any return you’ll ever see on that investment. When you are choosing technology for yourself, you can afford to spend more because it’s only for one person, and a small gain in time can pay big dividends for the company. But the problem is, while you may have every intention of getting the most out of the latest gadget, the day-to-day necessities of running a business often get in the way.

So how do you decide what technology is best for you? The key factor is comfort. Get recommendations from your friends who also run businesses and see what works for them — and maybe they can give you tips on how to use it as well, eliminating some of the training time.

Maybe the most important thing is to be realistic with both the expectations for the technology and yourself.

Technology can help you find answers, but it isn’t the answer itself. Buying the latest gizmo isn’t going to solve your cash flow problems or necessarily make you more efficient. For example, if you had a hard time communicating your vision to employees before, the device may give you the means to do so, but it’s still going to be up to you to get the job done.

Technology is just a tool to help you build your business, so be realistic about what you will use and try to ignore the “cool” factor. Too often, technology is like that exercise equipment that sits unused in your house — an expensive reminder of a good intention that never panned out. The equipment could help you get in shape, but it’s you that has to ultimately get the job done.

So keep that in mind when you are looking at the latest gizmo. Is it a tool that complements your style perfectly, or is it a $200 paperweight with a fancy screen? It’s up to you to decide.

FRED KOURY is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or