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Entrepreneurship in the Informational Age
The Evolution of Technology Brings About the REVOLUTION of the Business World...and Massive Opportunity for Entrepreneurs
Once upon a time, starting a business was quite different. Perhaps not necessarily "easier", but different, for sure. You cultivated an idea for a product or service, you did your research, you scouted a location and selected a market. You promoted your business with flyers and newspaper ads, word of mouth, and - if you had the money - billboards. Your reach went as far as you were able to service, and your standing with the Better Business Bureau was your testimonial to your potential consumers about how "good" your business or service was, and established whether or not you had a "legit" business.
Then, seemingly overnight, the internet came into being. And the world changed. In millions of significant ways, but the face of entrepreneurship got a total makeover. Because now your business was visible world over with the click of a mouse. Your research became easier, but so did the consumer's. Suddenly businesses were in direct competition with others that could be worlds away. Location became less important - as the internet formed bridges worldwide - but positioning became everything. Businesses now have a lot more impressing to do when it comes to their consumers. Because the consumer has changed - and is now much more "informed" than consumers before. No longer do they necessarily view you as the authority you may at one time have appeared to be. Now they do their own research, and will tell YOU what you are supposed to know. Which means that entrepreneurs today have a lot more homework to do prior to launch, Before the rise of the internet, small businesses had a window to learn and get it together. They could launch and, to some degree, fake it till they made it, because they had the luxury of a smaller world. But when the internet opened all pathways to information, small business owners lost that window, The pressure doesn't stop there. Business owners today must not only know all the information regarding their business, product and service, but must also become well versed in the misinformation regarding those things as well. While we are looking at the advent of the educated consumer, we also see the rise of new ways to scam vulnerable people, and - sometimes very underhandedly - sway them in the direction of competition.
Ironically, while the internet made the world bigger in a lot of ways, it also made the world smaller in others. There are new ways to connect, so the degree of separation among people gets increasingly smaller. New sites for business reviews give the consumer countless outlets to vent their feelings about their experience with you and your company. Yelp has replaced the Better Business Bureau as the foremost authority on how well businesses deliver on their promises. Again, however, there is a second edge to that sword... It is common knowledge that NO ONE gets it right 100% of the time. And your record may be 99.99% wonderful. Guess what? That .001% has a voice, and an opportunity to speak as loud as desired. Social media was once looked upon as a hobby...something kids would do in between classes to extend the reach of their cliques and keep their popularity contests going. But social media has evolved too - and is now an invaluable aspect of the life of a company or entrepreneur. You are now expected not just to follow the data regarding yourself and what you offer and how well you deliver on what you promise, but also to address the concerns of those that may be unhappy. I know that when I see people complain about a business or service, and the proprietor hasn't replied to ANY negative comments, something ticks in my head. And I look for the guy who IS answering those complaints.
My feeling is that the most positive effect the evolution of technology has had on entrepreneurship lies in advertising. Getting the word out about a new business has never been more accessible - or economical. Websites are relatively cost efficient, and by simply clicking "Publish" you can now transmit your message to a bigger audience than small business owners 40 years ago could ever have fathomed. While there are pros and cons to all things, this may be the most exciting time that has ever existed for the dreamers and doers of the world. And tiny niche businesses that at one time may never have survived now have the opportunity to become household names. Once upon a time there was safety in being a "BIG" corporation, or name brand. But access to so many different types of offerings regarding pretty much everything has also given the consumer the taste for things that are unique. No longer are they relegated to the cookie cutter branding of large corporations...now they get to look for brands that speak more personally to who they are, and what they like and wish to communicate. This presents yet another exciting advantage for the modern entrepreneur.
While all things have a good and bad side, I think that what we are seeing happening right now in the world of entrepreneurship is phenomenal. All new businesses have more of a platform than ever, and therefore an increased opportunity for success. Now - at this point in time right now - the next big thing might literally be a click away. YOU might be one click away from bigger success than you have ever dreamed possible. And while mistakes on the internet don't ever truly disappear, there's something to be said for such a public learning curve. America notoriously roots for the underdog...so there may be virtue in the memory of virtual reality. With so much opportunity hanging so low on the trees of success...the only question that remains for that budding entrepreneur is really...what are you waiting for?