Tackling ever-changing communication technologies to better your business.
By Craig Miller
I can remember when the only way to communicate in business was by snail mail or phone. That is, until the next innovation in communication hit our business: the fax machine. We launched our company in 1994 and, back then, the litmus test for whether you were dealing with a real business was whether or not they had a dedicated fax line.
Then came another game changer. I remember when a colleague told me about this new thing called e-mail. By the late ‘90s, that legitimacy test had evolved into whether a company had an e-mail address with the company name dot com. So firstname.lastname@example.org would never do if I wanted to be taken seriously. E-mail changed the face of our business as we knew it.
Get it in writing (or e-mail)
Like all of you, our business regularly communicates with partners, competitors, customers, employees, suppliers, vendors, sub-contractors, financial institutions, and equipment manufactures. The transactions we engage in with these people can reach many hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. When you play in that territory, it’s a good thing to have everything in writing. You don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a six-figure deal with both parties claiming, “He said, she said.”
I like to conduct business verbally. This comes from my Midwestern upbringing, I suppose, where a man’s word is his bond. But that hasn’t worked so well for me lately. It isn’t hard to make a mistake in a verbal transaction. Look at all the steps involved: The speaker has to say it right. You have to understand it right. You have to write it down right or remember it right. If there is a dispute later, it’s your word against the customer’s. It’s far easier to say in the first conversation, “Would you be so kind as to e-mail that to me?”
When I’ve been faithful to the written word, those e-mails have been worth their weight in ethereal gold. I remind my colleagues and staff, “Put that in an e-mail!” far more than they probably like. E-mails are time- and date-stamped, and they’re very hard to totally destroy.