Once upon a time, chocolate gave you acne. So went the 20th century myth. As it turns out, it’s not true. For a long time, entire legions of teenagers avoided chocolate because they thought it would do something that it would never do—only to later realize they could have enjoyed it.
What other assumptions do we make about today’s world that simply aren’t true, especially when it comes to running your business? Is it possible to have your chocolate and eat it, too? And what business essentials do you still cling to—even though they’re not needed on this side of the year 2000?
In some cases, running a 21st century business is much like running one in the 20th century. Some businesses have changed very little. But others are completely unrecognizable. If you want to trim your schedule—and your bottom line—it might help to do away with a few frills your company never really needed. Here are just a few suggestions:
As technology progressed to smartphones and personal phone use, it shifted away from the 20th century communication anchor that was the landline. And while it’s a good idea for any company to have a dedicated phone number for customer contact, it’s not necessary to keep that number hard-wired to your desk.
Instead, services like Grasshopper make it possible to have all the appearance and professionalism of a landline while functioning like a 21st century business—business texting, no new hardware, and transcribed voicemail. If your business still has a landline, ask yourself whether it really needs it—or if there might be a cheaper alternative available.
2. Business Cards
If you call this sacrilege, you have a point. There are still plenty of reasons to love business cards in 2018, particularly if you work in a networking-heavy field like sales. And those bold enough to get really creative with their business cards can really differentiate both themselves and their services.
But let’s face it: websites have displaced the business card as the true, must-have “flag” of anyone doing business. With studies pointing to over 70% of customers and clients researching a company online before doing business with them, the website is essential on all ends of prospect interaction. You had better have a website before you talk to a customer, after you talk to a customer, and at all points in between.
Fortunately for business card companies, some ten billion business cards are printed annually. But as the world gets more mobile and apps take the place of paper, you might want to think twice about that next investment you make in your ability to network and share contact information.
3. Filing Cabinets
What 20th century office is complete without entire aisles full of file cabinets, completing scenes that look like something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Fortunately for 21st century folk, storing information has become far more efficient. It’s even possible to scan paper documents and then store them on the “cloud,” completely removing the need for any physical storage space at your office.
Does this mean you should abandon file cabinets? Not necessarily. Any business needs to hold paper documentation. But the drastically-reduced need for filing cabinets means that if you use cloud storage for your non-essentials, you can save a tremendous amount of space and time.
Remember the days of looking up someone and manually entering their number? Instant voice communication was a modern wonder once upon a time—but these days, having a rolodex on your desk would look as out of place as having a typewriter.
What do you do if you need to update your contacts into an easily-searchable solution? Here are a few steps to an automatic system:
- Look for mass solutions like exporting contacts from LinkedIn. Whenever you can, it’s always best to avoid data entry when uploading your contacts to a new system.
- Concentrate on one solution. Many people use their email to keep tabs on customers old and new, but feel free to choose any from this list. The key here is to focus on one singular system for contact management—your digital rolodex, so to speak. It’s when you use multiple platforms that you run into trouble with importing and exporting contacts in the future.
5. Snail Mail
Until Amazon starts bombarding us with drones, there’s no getting around it: some things need to be sent along the old postal route. And while this 20th century business essential enjoys continued life in our own century, there are some ways to optimize your snail mail experience:
- Stamps.com. If you still go to the post office to purchase stamps, you can save yourself a trip with an account at Stamps.com.
- Felt. Still enjoy sending handwritten cards to valued clients? You don’t have to abandon your hobby in the digital world; Felt lets you hand-write these messages and handle sending entirely on your smartphone.
Okay, not all newsletters—today’s email newsletters are an industry in and of themselves. But the old practice of sending out newsletters with personal updates about your company has gone completely digital. That means you should spend some time thinking about whether you want to do it—and if so, what your newsletter might include.
How do you get the “personal touch” of a 20th-century style newsletter without it coming across like email marketing? It comes down to authenticity. Whether you want to spruce up your “About Us” page with personal anecdotes or include a few updates on your regular subscriber newsletters is entirely up to you.
But think about this: why bother? Social media has made it possible for businesses to correct directly with their clients on a personal basis. There’s no need to update people on what you’re doing on a quarterly basis when they see every update you publish every single day! Email marketing is useful; company newsletters, outdated. If you want to show off your company, do it on social media or even on your own website.
Living in the 21st Century
In some cases, today’s business practices are far more efficient than the technology of yesteryear, improving the lives of both customers and entrepreneurs alike. But you don’t always have to embrace modern technology for its own sake. In the 21st century world, the occasional 20th century touch can stand out. Just as long as it’s not in the form of a rolodex.