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50 Years in Business

This year turned 50 years old. My father started the business 50 years ago and I took over in the mid 90s. This milestone has me thinking about how the culture of business has changed over the past 50 years, and how technology has had such a profound impact on business during that same time. While technology has greatly impacted the types of products or services we deliver, it has also impacted how people work and interact inside a business. If you have been in the workforce for 30 or 40 years, you know how using a computer at work has fundamentally changed how you work, and how you interact with your coworkers. If you have been in the workforce for less than 20 years, you likely have known nothing different. Most interactions with your coworkers are probably through technology, like instant messaging, texting and email. Some ways are more efficient then others. How often have you spent 30 mins crafting an email to send to someone 20 feet away when a 2 min chat would have sufficed. “Well I need to cover my a$$ and document my thoughts and interactions” is often the justification for that time spent drafting a 3-paragraph email. But we all know so much is lost when we hide behind a screen and communicate. You likely have more frequent and shorter interactions with co-workers then long pre-scheduled meetings. When I think back to the makeup of our staff 20 years ago, in the late 90s, there were more face to face meetings, and more face to face interruptions. Today it is less meetings but more interruptions via an instant message from a co-worker with a “quick question” or a text message asking for clarification on a topic. How many people in your office think you have ignored them if you have not replied to an email within one business day? This is the pace of business today, and it is greatly propelled by technology whether we like it or not. Today, when I look at our staff who are in their twenties and thirties, I don't see a bunch of “me me me” millennials who want everything handed to them on a silver platter. I see a bunch of ambitious smart people who want a balance between work and life, but who also want to be successful in their career. What has been the most profound thing I have noticed is how my use of technology has inhibited my ability to communicate with this demographic. For example, we post a job online in all the usual places and draw potential candidates to apply often between the ages of 20 and 60 years old. Once that happens, how we interact with those candidates greatly depends on their age. We have missed countless opportunities to bring on smart, talented young technology experts because we used older methods of communicating and assessing their skills. Now I could dig my heels in and say “they need to adapt to me because I am the boss and don’t want to change”, but that just hurts our businesses’ ability to grow and expand. When we realized that connecting with the younger generation of applicants via social media and texting, rather than email, and doing interviews via recorded video calls works better, we suddenly opened up a world of opportunity. If we're going to be around in another 50 years as a business, we need to adapt not only to the changing technology and how that affects our services, but also to how our most valuable resource, our people, use that technology.


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