Worldwide Vice President of Small and Medium Businesses at Microsoft
Q: As an entrepreneur, how do you maximize the productivity of technology without becoming distracted with it?
A: When I was 16 I managed a windsurfing shop, and we didn’t even have a phone. I had to go to the shop next door and use their old rotary dial phone. It was about as far from efficient as you can get.
There’s a vast gulf between that era and today’s world, and it’s easy to become paralyzed by indecision when it comes to technology — or fall into the trap of spending your time and attention optimizing your tools instead of focusing on reaching your goals.
So how do we make the right call about when technology is actually moving us toward our goals and when it’s becoming a distraction and a time suck? There’s no hard and fast rule, but in my experience, I’ve learned to check in with myself periodically and ask some blunt questions about how I’m using technology.
Is technology making my job easier or harder?
Technology should make your life easier and give you the flexibility to adapt quickly to the changing needs of your business. This measure of worth applies to everything from the apps on your phone to the infrastructure that powers your business applications and the PCs and devices that help your people do their best work.
For example, if you’re a salesperson who is tied to your desk as a result of technology that doesn’t sync across your different devices, your time meeting with customers and growing the business will significantly decrease.
Does my technology ‘just work?’
In general, the best technology solution for entrepreneurs is the one that takes the least amount of time and effort to set up, configure and maintain. This is where cloud-based productivity solutions can really help: The cloud gives you access to the resources of big IT without the need to build it out yourself. It also makes it possible for tech companies to deliver devices and services that are designed to work together, making cloud-based productivity apps easy to use and manage so you can spend time and attention on your core business. Additionally, by running your applications in the cloud, you always have the latest in updates and security. In other words, this is another way to minimize distractions.
Am I really the right person to deal with this?
“Tech support person by default” is one of the many roles an entrepreneur fills. But there are more valuable uses of our time than helping employees with password management and troubleshooting applications. The vast majority of entrepreneurs need someone with tech expertise to help them get and keep their technology running. Fortunately, there are many good IT partners out there who can help you choose and manage the right technology for your business.
In closing, I invite you to be even more brutally honest about one fundamental question: You know your priorities the most, so are you spending your time every day in a way that moves your business forward? If you’re spending all day browsing message forums to find the “perfect” settings for the hot new productivity app or being a slave to email, instant messaging and social channels, it could mean that you’re using technology as a way to avoid taking care of core issues in your business. Finding the right tools and partners for your business helps tremendously in cutting down on distraction. But for entrepreneurs, nothing beats commitment, clarity and focus.