This is clearly seen in the story of Jim Fairchild who heads up a one-person firm, Coggin & Fairchild Environmental Consultants, Inc., which made $3.6 million in 2006. IW's Alice LaPlante asks, "How does he do it?" The answer is illuminating ï¿¼ and instructive for smaller businesses:
"By keeping things simple, leveraging relationships with other companies that he uses to build specialized virtual teams for specific contracts -- and knowing which technologies are necessary for running his business, and which ones would just distract from his core business of cleaning up contaminated ground water and soil for corporate and governmental clients."
Technology is Fairchild's business partner and employees and he chooses carefully. The Internet plays a "huge role" in his company but so does the ability to be mobile. Writes LaPlante: "But because Fairchild is constantly away from his office, he needed mobility to have ubiquitous access to this information. For simplicity's sake, he didn't want to carry around different devices for different purposes. For that reason, he now leaves his laptop at home, and traded in his cell phone for an iPhone."
And, his iPhone actually makes good business sense because he needed an all in one device. "He forwards his office phone to his iPhone, so that he's always available to clients; he checks his email obsessively; and he can look up anything he needs on the Web from anywhere. When he needs to pull in contractors for a job, he emails or texts them and, because of the relationships he's built over the years, usually gets instant response, whether it's a price quote or an on-site meeting with a client. And he's placed electronic devices at all the sites he's monitoring to track the pollutant levels, which he can monitor from his iPhone. He creates, signs, and sends his contracts over the Internet, and uploads any documents -- including complex technical specifications -- as needed from either his iPhone or his office computer."
The key for smaller businesses is also this: "Despite this utter reliance on technology to achieve his work, Fairchild is not a gadget freak. He's not interested in acquiring technology for technology's sake." Fairchild is quoted: "I don't feel the need to upgrade every time something new comes out. Because of the time it takes to get up to speed, I have to make sure it offers a specific advantage before I'll buy."
Respect what technology can do for your smaller business. Each of the other entrepreneurs profiled do. Take Dave Novak, whose one-man operation sells shower heads on the Internet. He just incorporated live chat on his Website which "allows him to be very efficient at both sales and support, as he can monitor multiple chat sessions at one time."
Perhaps the most illuminating ï¿¼ and instructive -- quote for smaller businesses is from Dave Lu, who developed a Website, Fanop, which is described as a "network of social portals where "communities of interest" could access, contribute, and share content on topics dear to their hearts." Obviously, there is a great deal of technology fueling his business, but LaPlante writes that for Lu, "the most rewarding part has been doing the things he wasn't trained to do. After working at Yahoo and eBay as a product manager, he got his MBA at Stanford before founding Fanpop. Yet he finds himself doing everything from graphic design to HTML coding to business development, accounting, and finance.
Lu is quoted: "Because we all chip in for anything that needs to be done, we're 150 to 200 percent more productive than large companies."