Turn your business into a technology company (Part 4)

Turn your business into a technology company (Part 4)

__Listen before you leap.

In a recent interview, a former CEO of Apple Computer, John Sculley, talked about entrepreneurship, innovation and new “disruptive” technologies. He said his Apple business card back then didn’t call him Chief Executive Officer. It said: “Chief Listener” …

As you transform your business into a technology company, you’ll have important decisions to make. You, too, will need to become a “chief listener.” Not every exciting new technology will be right for every business.

Not long ago I met a young farmer from Zambia who told me of innovations he was introducing on his smallholding of only a few acres:

He knew he had to introduce hybrid seeds to increase his yield… seed technology.

He was using fertilizers and testing out different application methods… soil management technology.

He was introducing storage bags to protect his harvest from losses… technology.

He was interested in buying a dryer to ensure that he could extend the life of his crops… technology.

He was using his cell phone to find buyers for his produce, and had set up a website… technology.

He regularly talked to other farmers and exchanged information on Facebook and Instagram… technology.

He was using solar power to light up his home and power up some of his equipment… technology.

He was part of a cooperative planning to buy a tractor and other equipment to improve productivity and output… again, technology.

He was aware of what other young progressive farmers were doing all over Africa, using social media to keep abreast of news from Ghana to Brazil and beyond… Technology, technology, technology.

This young man had done his homework and was in the process of making careful technology choices on his path to prosperity.

So, how might you get started? If you’re already in business, you must first take the time to listen — to your customers, your business team, and a few trusted experts, whether many or few. I’ve already discussed the importance of reading…

# What do people in your market or industry say they want? Is it available? Why or why not?
How can technology help?
# How can you and your team do your work better — more productively, efficiently and quickly?
How can technology help?
# Do you know what your competitors are doing?
How can technology help you do it better?

The business magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes once said: “The art of conversation lies in listening.”

__Listening is a critical form of market research that doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.

“If we were supposed to talk more than listen, we would have two tongues and one ear,” said the great American writer, Mark Twain in the 1880s.

Twain was reportedly offered the opportunity to invest in the first telephone by its inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, but he decided… no. I guess he didn’t like the sounds of that new technology! I wonder who he listened to? Back then, a telephone was no doubt a very disruptive idea.

Basic listening homework includes deciding the right questions, then:

# listening to customers, suppliers, competitors and experiences of trusted others;
# consulting with experts (not just the ones trying to sell you new technology).

__Please don’t just wake up one morning and decide on “impulse” to spend or invest lots of money just because a salesman or so-called expert tells you that new technology alone will make you rich and successful. You must do your homework first!

In today’s high-tech world, people still talk much more than they listen. Did you know the words “silent” and “listen” have the exact same letters in them? There are so many more ways to do your business research now than ever before.

Everyone can learn and benefit from being a “Chief Listener.”

To be continued. . .

Image Credit: KMW – Ubuntu Hope

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

7 Replies to “Turn your business into a technology company (Part 4)”

  1. Afterthought 1. Nobel laureate writer George Bernard Shaw said almost 100 years ago: “People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are they who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” Think about it.

  2. Pastor Shingi writes:

    I am a pastor in a mainline church and I am ‘listening’ to you and what is going on in the world of technology. I am confident that the way I do my ministry can be enhanced and be more effective through the use of technology. Thank you for your teachings.

    My reply:
    Even the church is not immune to the impact of technology, when we use it as a tool. Personally I’m amazed by how much technology has impacted my devotion and study over the last few years:
    When I go to the church service I carry an iPad, and record the service. This allows me to study the service in greater depth later.
    On my iPad I have all the Translations including the Hebrew and Greek, which means I don’t need a Concordance. Having all these Translations in one place is just amazing. I use an Online platform called OliveTree, and an App called study notes.
    For you as a Pastor the opportunities are endless:
    For instance all your teachings should be available on YouTube (I follow many Pastors on YouTube). Online tools like YouTube and Facebook are now more effective and cheaper than an older technology called Tv.
    You should be using platforms like Yookos, and Facebook to also deliver your messages;
    You should offer your congregants payment options to make their tithes, and offerings.
    You can have Online church services every week, and make your ministry global!
    If you sit down today, and draw up a list of technologies you could be using, you will find at least 25!

  3. Sirjeff Dennis writes:

    I’ve been a poultry farmers since when I was 17 till now I’m 22, technology has taken me to places where I’ve never dreamt of. With the current technology I’m using about making my own chicken feed with modern millers, using automated facilities like drinkers, feeders, heaters, brooding lamps, freezers and abattoir I’m making a handsome profit while improving lives and providing jobs to my fellow youth.

    We are now moving ahead to create something that would directly link our products and customers.

    You can read my story featured in how we made it in Africa

    My reply:
    I loved your story!
    During the negotiations for the renewal of AGOA with the Americans one of the sticking points was the poultry industry in Africa. Whilst I time and space does not allow me to talk about the issues; let me say I learnt a lot about this incredible industry. The opportunities for you will surely reach the sky.
    Step up your application of technology. Keep looking for ways to use technology to drive your business!
    As soon as you have introduced something,immediately start the next…always tinkering!

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