My mind is on technology these days because our parent company, BNP Media, is hosting an Internet retreat. We will be educated on the various potentials of Internet revenue. In other words, we are going to learn how to do the same business we do-provide superior information to our readers-through cyberspace.
Although most computer users don't watch "shows" on their computers, still relying on television, how far off is it that Internet access will be commonplace on everyone's TV? Forget the inconvenience of sitting at a computer at a desk. You'll have a nice remote control or wireless mouse, and you can sit on the couch or recliner, surf the Internet like you surf channels, and watch shows or movies you would on TV-except it will be online, broadcast via the Web rather than from TV stations. If that sounds far fetched, who would have believed even five years ago that everyone would have a cell phone?
We have to learn to evolve along with the technology. How have you evolved as a contractor to utilize this evolving technology? For many, converting to a computer accounting system from paper was the first step. I asked a contractor I know how his company uses technology.
"As a product dealer, we have a Web site where we can check warranty status, availability of stuff or even do research on equipment," says Chris Handsy, Madison Heights, Mich. "If someone needs a special piece of equipment, I can educate myself if it's something I haven't seen before."
Using the Internet as an informational tool benefits contractors immensely.
"The other day, I came across a product that was so cheap, I wanted to know where it came from," he adds. "Sure enough, it came from China. I use the computer mostly for part and equipment availability. We don't have to waste time on the phone or wait for a return call on these types of things anymore."
What else is there? Having a company Web site with pictures of successful jobs, in addition to your work ethics and philosophies. Do you have a video cell phone? You can take pictures of your jobs to view later, familiarizing yourself with projects before, during and after. Get customer's e-mails and stay in touch with them. Invite customers to showcase their completed projects on your Web site and even see if they'll offer testimonials. I'm sure there are many more things more that contractors can think of that I cannot. Your job is to sell your products and services. If customers are aware of all you are and all you have to offer-which can be communicated on the Web in the exact words you want-they'll be that much more confident in your services. After all, you'll never get a chance to say everything you want to in person to your customers. A Web site, with nearly limitless space, can.
Computer technology is officially ensconced in our everyday lives. The phonograph, the dial on a TV (or on a phone, for that matter ... or even the traditional phone itself), and many aspects of interpersonal interaction have not so much disappeared as evolved. We still listen to prerecorded music but it is stored and played in the digital format rather than analog. We still do banking and buy tickets for flights but often through computers rather than with a banker or travel agent.
In the past, personal computer marketers attempted to make the PC a commonplace tool. Marketed in the '80s, this first generation of personal computers seemed to recede, having no practical use for most people. However, the Internet and the computer as a communication medium changed that. Instead of a vehicle for playing games or storing recipes, computers went from storage machines to communication machines. Today, people can even meet their spouses through the Internet.
I find the Internet to be an impressive sign of technological advances underway and to come because it resembles the ship's computer of the original "Star Trek." Capt. Kirk could ask the computer a question and it could answer it because of stored information. Is that so different from a Google search? (Be patient, I'm sure we'll one day have the option of the computer answering in Majel Barret's voice).
And, like Chris Handsy, visit the sites of manufacturers and trade publications like Walls & Ceilings, where you can expect a lot more bang in the months to come, because we too are evolving. It's the 21st century, after all-the human adventure is just beginning.