Respect the Tech

A few years back, I walked into the offices of a $20 million construction company that by all appearances was very well run. Their offices were neat and clean, with inspirational slogans and the corporate mission statement hung on the wall with pride. The owner had run another similar company, taken it to $100 million and then sold out to a national conglomerate. He definitely knew what he was doing from a business perspective.

So I was a bit surprised when the server room turned out to literally be a closet with rack in it. The door was propped open and the room was still over 100 degrees. It was far from the first time I’d seen an arrangement like this, but this particular company dealt mainly in very competitive state and federal government construction projects that require detailed estimates and responses to RFPs. This data and documentation were vital components to their success … yet they danced on the edge of losing this capability to triple-digit temperatures, theft or any number of other disasters.

It never ceases to amaze me how little respect some business owners give the technology that is the lifeblood of their company. In this case I was struck by the irony of how well they maintained and protected their work trucks and tools, but basically abused their computer systems. When I asked a few questions about the details of their support and upgrade plans, their management replied with various versions of “we’re not computer guys.” But like it or not, they were: most of them spent their days in front of computers, either writing proposals or running accounting or estimating software. When I asked them what would happen if the computer system was stolen, they responded that they would be out of business in a matter of days.

A matter of days.

I’d love to tell you that the situation in general has improved over the years, but I see similar scenarios on a regular basis.

This idea of “not being computer guys” is something that business owners need to get over. It’s like saying “I’m not good with money” or “I’m not much good at making sales,” except that your business is much more likely to survive an accounting or sales disaster.

Saying that technology is not your thing may have gotten you some empathy from your likeminded cronies in the past, but it’s not a sustainable mindset. Which is not to say you need to become a geek, but you do need to take information technology seriously and either develop or hire competence in this area.

Consider the parallel of legal knowledge. As a business owner you probably don’t go around saying “I’m not good with laws and contracts,” but you aren’t going to take law classes either. You’d take this key component of your business seriously and hire quality external resources to create the needed coverage. Oh, and by the way, in seeking this help you would look for one or more reputable, experienced attorneys to have at your disposal. It’s unlikely that you would hire your teenage nephew to write those legal contracts for you.

You’d never do that. Right?