High Tech Vs. High Touch: Balancing Technology and People

Technology revolves around everything businesses do. But how do you embrace new technological solutions without losing the human element that is so important to small businesses?

Understanding and deciding how much high touch to utilize in your business is a challenge that every business owner, leader, manager, consultant and marketing expert should know. What high touch is and how it relates to the average business in today’s highly technological world is essential for growth and success.

The main challenge most businesses face is in learning how to balance high touch (people skills) with the high tech (technology) that is everywhere. How do you embrace technology without sacrificing high touch? Where and how does the “human touch” fit into our highly technological work world?

It’s not either or

As a business owner of more than 25 years who has been involved with all types of professional organizations and non-profits, and has served on many boards, I have had this discussion many times. I believe both high tech and high touch are essential to a successful business. A balance of both approaches allows a business to use technology for growth without alienating customers or clients. It creates a human bond that helps to offset the coldness of technology. Think of how differently an email can be interpreted vs. an actual phone call or visit. There is no way to attach emotion to an email, so it becomes open to interpretation by the reader. Whereas an actual human encounter leaves little or no space for interpretation. The human element of high touch allows an emotional attachment to take place.

Recently, at a business conference, I heard about the “Triple 555” trend. Simply stated, it means every five years, 50% of businesses are losing 50% of their business (customers). This is an alarming trend! The reasons for this might vary but many of them are related to the fact that the high touch or human relationship aspect of their business does not exist. Imagine working at or with a company that only uses technology for their communication! Would you feel comfortable telling them your business issues without having a human to relate to?

The proof is in the pudding

At the beginning of 2016, I informed my employees at SACS Consulting that during 2016 we were going to focus on one aspect of our business in a major way. I explained that each of us, including myself, needed to work harder on what I call “touches.” I defined this as anything that involved personal contact such as meeting for breakfast/lunch/coffee, networking events, dropping in to a client’s office to say hello and thanks, presenting to a group, referring business to another client, etc. I wanted my company, as well as each of us as individual employees, to increase our touches during 2016 by a minimum of 10% to 20% per month. I explained we still needed to utilize high-tech tools (emails, social media, blogs, newsletters, etc.) but that the emphasis would be high touch on the front end and high tech as the support and/or follow up aspect.

The end results were amazing. That year, we experienced a record year in both revenue and profits. That allowed us to spend more money moving forward on our marketing, reputation building, hiring more key people and more. But, the biggest result of a more focused, high-touch client culture was the way the business community was reacting and the buzz that was created about our company. Comments such as “You are really growing,” “I see you out everywhere,” “People are talking about you” and “You are doing some amazing things” seemed to be echoing everywhere. We also experienced increased requests from people who wanted to join our team or form strong business partnerships.

The most important result of our high-touch effort was that we were receiving increased requests for business from potential new clients, as well as gaining additional business from our current clients, all with less effort on our part. I believe businesses want to be part of, or engaged by, other businesses that can relate on a human level and produce results through positive methods.

So, how do you incorporate this into your business?

You first need to determine what separates your company from the rest. I have conducted trainings all over the country and when we discuss building their positive culture, both inside and out, I am amazed how many companies cannot clearly define what separates their company from the rest. Knowing that important fact is the first step. Everyone in your organization needs to fully and clearly understand your business, because this drives your process for all your high-touch engagements.

Make developing a high-touch company culture a full-time commitment. It is crucial everyone from the front desk personnel to the behind-the-scenes employees understand what sets you apart and what it means to have a high-touch company culture. Being a high-touch company means the culture should exist not only for your client engagements, but also internally starting with your leadership and in all employee relationships. You cannot have a successful high-touch company culture unless it is practiced both inside and outside of your organization. As we become even more technologically advanced, employees want and need to be emotionally connected to their company and its leadership. They need to know and to feel that they are part of a successful and important team. They want to engage clients and fellow employees on a higher, more meaningful human level.

People do not buy products or services. They buy outcomes

Utilizing high touch allows you to view the world through your customer’s eyes. It helps you to stay focused on the source of your customer’s pain and allows you to offer clear solutions to help them eliminate that pain. It also allows them to feel comfortable letting you in and hearing and utilizing your solutions. This process helps you to keep clients, add new clients and connect you to all clients in a stronger, more meaningful way.

We only get one chance at making a good first impression. When you include high touch into your business, supported by on-going follow up using high tech, you have separated yourself from the competition, retained your clients, developed new clients and gained a distinct advantage over your competitors.

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, is president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc. He is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Hiring Contract Remote Workers Can Benefit Small Businesses
  • More in Operations
  • Hiring Contract Remote Workers Can Benefit Small Businesses

    Hiring contractors can save your company a lot of money, but it’s important that you hire the right person and give them the necessary tools to succeed.

     

    One way for small businesses to expand is through the use of contract remote workers. Hiring people that work from home, in a different city or even a different country, can help a small business to expand while saving money. This practice offers many benefits however, it also comes with its own unique set of problems and issues. Let’s explore the pros and cons and review some steps that small businesses can take to ensure they hire correctly and know how to monitor remote employees.

    Remote workers are often contract employees that charge by the hour. One large benefit to a small business means that the business has lower operating costs. Some of the ways companies can save include:

    • Not being responsible for providing health care or other benefits;
    • Not having to pay for downtime or vacation time;
    • Saving on office space;
    • Not having to pay for the time employees may waste or spend on social media, and more.

    There are some important issues that need to be considered carefully before hiring a contract remote worker. These include monitoring time, communication and connectivity issues, motivation and productivity issues. In today’s electronic world, there are many excellent tools available to businesses that can monitor and keep track of hours, deadlines and work quality. There are also tools that allow you to conduct remote meetings, enforce security and protect your privacy.

    Every company should have a policy and procedure manual that spells out the rules, as well as the possible consequences for breaking the rules. This is just as important for remote workers as it is for in-house employees. Make sure your policies include company issued electronic devices such as phones and laptops. And always employ a strong security system on all devices. Make sure these policies are uniform and apply equally to all workers, contract remote or in-house employees.

    If you are new to hiring remote workers, you may want to try video contacts where you can interview them face-to-face online. When hiring a remote worker there are certain qualities that you should look for that signal who will be a successful remote worker. Some examples include:

    • Independent skills that tell you they can work on their own without constant supervision; Previous experience working remotely;
    • The ability to function well without the social aspect of working with others; and
    • The ability to communicate well and be able to take the initiative on their own.

    You may want to use an outside agency to help you find and hire a remote worker. If you do decide to use an agency, be sure to check them out thoroughly before you hire them. This should help prevent you from hiring any fraudulent freelance workers.

    Once you hire a remote worker, you may want to consider putting your files on the cloud. This is safe and allows you to determine who has access to your information. You can limit access to your files as needed. You will be able to control what files and information they can access through the use of passwords and other security measures.

    If your worker is outside the United States, you should be aware that they are bound by the rules of the country they live in, and not the rules in the United States. Always have any contract remote workers as well as others sign a strong non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect your intellectual property and other business aspects. Your attorney can help you with this.

    Once you hire a remote worker, give them the tools to do the job successfully. This includes necessary electronics and access to information that relates to their job. It is also a good idea to utilize a project management hub to keep track of and help to manage projects. Make sure they understand the expectations and responsibilities of the job and make them feel like they are part of the team.

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

     

     

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: House Bill 5 Municipal Tax Reform Passes Ohio House and Senate
  • More in Operations
  • House Bill 5 Municipal Tax Reform Passes Ohio House and Senate

    COSE supported HB 5 and joined the Ohio Municipal Tax Reform Coalition based on the initiative’s ability to simplify and create uniformity to the current system, allowing businesses to more easily comply and focus their time and money on what really matters - running a successful business. On December 9, the Ohio House passed HB 5 by a 60-32 margin.

    For well over a year now, House Bill 5 (HB5), municipal tax reform, has been one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in the General Assembly. Ohio has one of the most complex municipal tax systems in the country, with hundreds of local jurisdictions that all have their own unique tax requirements creating a burden for those that work in numerous municipalities on a regular basis. COSE supported HB 5 and joined the Ohio Municipal Tax Reform Coalition based on the initiative’s ability to simplify and create uniformity to the current system, allowing businesses to more easily comply and focus their time and money on what really matters - running a successful business. On December 9, the Ohio House passed HB 5 by a 60-32 margin.

    After much deliberation and argument over several provisions, the 130th General Assembly approved and came to an agreement upon four main policy priorities. The bill establishes a five-year net operating loss carry forward phase-in beginning in 2017. This provision will unify current Ohio municipal tax laws addressing an “NOL” and allow business owners in municipalities to offset losses and gains for in five year increments. HB 5 also extends the occasional entrant rule from twelve days of business to twenty days of business.

    Rob Myers, President of RHM Homes Corp is pleased to see HB 5 pass, “The book keeping and paperwork burden of tracking few hours in many municipalities has long been a drag on our business. The passage of HB5 will help alleviate some of that burden so we can concentrate on pleasing our customers and running our business!”

    The occasional entrant provision also prevents a municipality from forcing a business to pay income tax from the first day they conducted business in the city, and instead begins counting, for tax purposes, day twenty-one as the first taxable day.

    Small business owner, Kathy Skettle (Skettle Electric) told COSE, “We are a very small company registered in approximately 30 municipalities each year. The cost of paying someone to do the paperwork for filing taxes (both payroll and net profit) is outrageous. The passage of House Bill 5 is a positive step by our state government towards understanding the workings of small businesses. Its passage will save our company thousands of dollars."

    This change will provide businesses with more flexibility as to when they need to begin paying municipal income taxes. Lastly, HB 5 was also amended to include a de minimus clause, which will not require a business to pay its tax if the tax is less than ten dollars.

    Governor Kasich is expected to sign HB 5 sometime before Christmas. Following the governor’s signature, HB 5 will be effective in March 2015; however, the bill’s provisions will apply to tax year 2015 and years going forward.

    For more information on HB 5: COSE Supports Municipal Tax Reform


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: CASE STUDY: How a COSE Energy Audit Created Value (and Savings) for Christian Community School
  • More in Operations
  • CASE STUDY: How a COSE Energy Audit Created Value (and Savings) for Christian Community School

    The COSE/GCP Energy Team recently saved Christian Community School over $12,000 as a result of an audit of their building, a benefit of being a COSE/GCP member.

    Wishing to maintain the longevity of their building, the administration at Christian Community School in Grafton recently engaged COSE/GCP’s Energy Team to perform an audit of the organization’s 45,920-square-foot facility (a $5,400 value, paid for by FirstEnergy and an exclusive benefit to COSE/GCP members).

    The results of the audit identified significant savings for the 117-year-old structure by replacing the facility’s lighting system. Benefits of working with the Energy Team included:

    • reducing energy output by 65%;
    • capturing nearly $5,000 in cash rebates for the project;
    • saving $4,060 on loan interest for the project by reducing the interest rate with KeyBank. This created a cash-flow positive strategy to finance the new lighting system.

    Click here to learn more about how Christian Community School leveraged more than $12,000 in total value through their partnership with our energy team.

    COSE/GCP’s Energy Team helps members effectively manage their energy use to achieve the maximum amount of savings and benefit to their respective organizations. Learn more about the work they do by clicking here. Or, contact the team directly via email at energy@gcpartnership.com or by phone at 216-592-2205.


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Ask the Expert: How Can I Protect My Computer Network from Social Engineering?
  • More in Operations
  • Ask the Expert: How Can I Protect My Computer Network from Social Engineering?

    “Malware and related IT security threats like Social Engineering — a popular way hackers gain access to a computer network and its sensitive data — continue to increase at alarming rates. It is imperative that businesses take the proper steps to combat these increasingly stealthy threats. 

    “Malware and related IT security threats like Social Engineering — a popular way hackers gain access to a computer network and its sensitive data — continue to increase at alarming rates. It is imperative that businesses take the proper steps to combat these increasingly stealthy threats.

    “Access is often gained through personal e-mail or social networking accounts by enticing employees to click on a link or attachment with juicy tidbits on a current event or celebrity news item. Once an employee clicks on the link, it allows the hacker to load malware onto your network. Malware is malicious software that interferes with normal computer function and can send personal data about the user to unauthorized parties over the Internet.

    “I recommend implementing multiple layers of defense, kind of like speed bumps, to protect your network from hackers. Anti-virus software offers great protection, but it is just as important to implement strict policies and processes for your employees. Computers are assets of your company as much as a company car or machine tool, so the same rules should apply.

    “A few safeguards to consider:

    • Educate employees on social engineering tactics and defensive measures.
    • Install anti-virus software, firewalls, and e-mail filters and update them regularly.
    • Set clear protocols on employee computer and technology usage, including rules on accessing personal e-mail and social networking sites. Include protocols in all security and operations manuals.
    • Employ a strict password policy that uses a combination of numbers, characters and capitalization and implement mandatory password changes every 60 to 90 days.

    “A full network security audit is also a wise investment to determine what products and processes to put in place to best reduce your vulnerability and protect your business.”

    Steve Giordano is president of TeamLogic IT.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day. 

    This article originally appeared in the January 12, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: How can you look to the future without thinking about the Internet of Things?
  • More in Operations
  • How can you look to the future without thinking about the Internet of Things?

    More often than not, our energy auditors find that most buildings we assess for energy conservation opportunities could easily benefit from the new technologies of advanced controls for lighting, HVAC, and general monitoring though building automation. We hear from the employees their area is too hot or too cold depending on the season and the building never seems to feel comfortable or balanced. On the other side is the employer who frequently finds the thermostat has been adjusted by the employees and they leave it set too warm or too cold overnight and the weekends. Can you relate?

    More often than not, our energy auditors find that most buildings we assess for energy conservation opportunities could easily benefit from the new technologies of advanced controls for lighting, HVAC, and general monitoring though building automation. We hear from the employees their area is too hot or too cold depending on the season and the building never seems to feel comfortable or balanced. On the other side is the employer who frequently finds the thermostat has been adjusted by the employees and they leave it set too warm or too cold overnight and the weekends. Can you relate? 

    In a recent Deloitte survey of energy managers, 79% said their management team viewed energy management as essential in creating a competitive advantage for their organization in 2016. They have found reducing the cost of energy by even a small percentage can have a dramatic impact on their bottom line. Regardless of the size of your company or energy spend, making small to large improvements can mean dollars back in your pocket.   

    With wireless technology, cost effective solutions for controlling radiators and overall HVAC operations, building occupants and owners no longer need to suffer through the heating and cooling seasons. Wrapping up in a sweater or shawl in the middle of summer because your office feels like a meat freezer. Or in the middle of winter, when the temperature outside is 10 degrees below zero and you are wearing a sleeveless dress, losing the tie, and rolling up your sleeves. We can all relate. The implementation of advanced controls can save approximately 20% on energy consumption and are often eligible for valuable utility incentives. Not to mention, this also leads to happier, more comfortable employees who are more productive. 

    Wireless technologies are here to stay and make buildings smarter.

    There are four key trends driving the integration of controls:

    • Energy efficiency.
    • User comfort.
    • Preventive maintenance.
    • Safety and security.

    The average building wastes 30% energy each year. That 30% could be dollars back in your bottom line and allocated toward additional energy conservation measures. Despite best intentions, employees are careless and often leave lights on (especially in infrequently trafficked areas such as restrooms, kitchen, storage areas) leave equipment running unnecessarily, tamper with the thermostat, etc. Wireless and battery-less controls for lights, HVAC and other systems can drastically reduce over energy consumption, thus reducing utilities bills.

    Curious to explore how your business can take advantage of these innovative technologies that makes financial sense?  Let the COSE Energy Team assess your building and propose some options. Don’t let your building get left behind the technology movement. 

    Share
  • Email
  • More in Operations