Over the past several weeks I have witnessed, advised or helped rectify numerous encounters and situations related to technology with business owners. What I have concluded is that business owners are perhaps trusting too much, don’t know enough to properly manage their Internet presence and technology, and then are left at the mercy of others at the most inopportune of times.
Part of the problem is in assumptions that business owners make or because of what they don’t know that they don’t know. Another issue is that technology providers do not effectively communicate with business owners for optimal understanding about what they are receiving.
1. Registrant ≠ Owner: When you register a domain or have someone else do it for you, make sure you are listed as the actual registrant in the record. Being listed as a registrant identifies your association with your domain. You don’t own it, but you do have the ability to control it if you are listed as the registrant. To maintain control, you must rent or lease it for an annual fee. For more control, you should have your own business account with a reputable provider of domains so that you are paying directly versus through a third party. There is a lot of misleading information still on the Internet stating that when you initially purchase your domain, you own it. You don’t. The organization, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – www.icann.org), is the owner of all domains. Everyone else is leasing and then sub-leasing to you. Not sure whether you are listed as the registrant? Go to whois.com and key in your domain to confirm.
2. Your View ≠ Others’ View: Another area business owners do not understand is the importance of knowing and confirming how the company’s website is truly being received on the other end. Unlike your physical business where everyone sees the same curb appeal when they arrive at your business, your website Home page could look different from one viewing screen to another in color and appearance. Add smart phones and iPads and even more viewing challenges can occur in what you desire to be seen versus what actually is seen. Another area where businesses need to look is in the searchable archives on the Internet. If you have old records that appear as cached in the search listings that are out-of-date and not desired to be seen, the best and only way to eliminate them is to go to the server on which they are stored, perhaps through your previous website provider, and have these page files officially deleted from their server.
3. Designer ≠ Programmer: A lot of business owners assume today that the designer of their website is also the programmer. That is the equivalent of thinking the architect that designs a building is also the builder. Your website, now more than ever before, is the result of a combination of talented team members, and if not, it should be. Just as you would be involved in all stages of a building that your business was investing in for your operations, so should you understand the components of what is involved in building a website. This will also help you ask better questions to get at the best possible website for what your business needs from an Internet presence and operational management standpoint.
4. Youth ≠ BizTech Savviness: While your children or grandchildren may be able to help you program your smart phone in a blink of an eye, they are as intimidated as you are when it comes to shifting their techno-abilities into the business world. Keep in mind, for instance, that social media has been a personal adventure for our youth and young adults. When they are asked to conduct social media for business, they need total direction and guidance because they honestly haven’t been in that mindset. If you want it done right without needing to handhold, seek out professional expertise like you would with any other initiative in your business.
5. TechSpeak ≠ BizSpeak: This point is actually written more for the Tech industry serving small business. I could write an entire column on this alone. Stop confusing business owners with your terminology! For instance, assets to a web designer are the content, images and graphics being used, whereas to the business owner it is their cash, holdings and tangible property. Then consider terms such as “wireframing” or “GUI design” or WYSIWYG” and you begin to see why business owners become quickly frustrated by the web development process. Many business owners interpret “wireframing” to mean it is being programmed and are shocked to learn that this is actually a blueprint or schematic before the graphic design or programming begins. Hint to web providers. Call it a blueprint.
To the computer or IT guru, all of what I have mentioned here is quite basic stuff. But for the business owner, it is a source of frustration that becomes eye-opening when they must manage some of these issues. Becoming more aware of technology from an operational perspective will save headaches down the road and make it easier for your business to more seamlessly adapt with technology when ready for your next level of growth.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.