Internet access was becoming more common; web browsers like Netscape were introducing us to the World Wide Web, and many businesses had "always on", broadband internet connections. I looked around and saw an ice age coming for the mortgage industry.
Image credit: flickr - William Warby - used with permission.
If internet access was getting faster and easier to use, and more households were going online every month, and businesses were available to sell outside of their local geographic location, AND... If money is the ultimate commodity - who would care where their mortgage comes from as long as the money gets there and the terms are favorable... Why will anyone need to pay a mortgage broker in the future when they will be able to get a mortgage loan online - quickly, easily, and with minimal costs?
And with that I retired from the mortgage industry (and the only career I had known since graduating from college in 1991.)
Turns out I was wrong - very wrong. Not only are mortgage professionals still heavily relied upon today, but with my early adoption of technology in the mortgage business I could have built myself a lucrative brokerage in the early 2000's. Oops!
We are in the middle of the greatest technology shift in the history of the world. The changes we've seen first-hand over the last 20 years are amazing, and we'll experience even more over the next 20 years - the types of things which will be in textbooks for hundreds of years.
But that doesn't mean all technological change is good, or at least - good for you personally. Some tech makes your life easier, or it might make your business better. Other tech seems to just get in the way.
More Failures and Successes
Smart Phone - I bought my first smart phone in 2004, a Treo 600. It was a phone, sure, but I was able to email and research the internet directly from my phone. It also sync'd my calendar and contacts from Microsoft Outlook, which means I had instant access to almost everything I needed, without having to worry about accidentally leaving my organizer-folio behind somewhere. This provided me, like my cell phone in the 90's, a big competitive advantage - at least for a few years, until Apple introduced smartphones to the masses.
Palm Pilot - I had a PDA in the 90's as well (Personal Digital Assistant). This was like an early smart phone, but without the phone part. It seemed like a great way to make use of technology, and the ability to carry something that fit in your hand instead of a big pile of papers was a promise of the future. In reality, unfortunately, it was often slower and more cumbersome than the papers it tried to replace.
Blogging and Email Newsletters - Probably the single largest impact in my business life was to take my marketing online. I started emailing a monthly newsletter in 2004, and added an online web blog in 2006. It seemed like an efficient use of resources at the time; little did I know I would be building a whole new business around the same platform in 2016!
Looking to the Future
Technology is going to keep coming at us; smaller and faster every year. Some technology will make your business better, or your life better (or both!), while other won't make any sense to you at all. The key is to embrace technology without being a slave to it. Stick your head in the sand and you're dead; spend all day tweaking your newest toy and you aren't doing any work that matters, and you're dead.
Find the middle ground, like Goldilocks, and you're in the game.
Twitter. I haven't yet figured out Twitter. I can't express a full opinion in 140 characters, and I don't like taking my news in bite-sized pieces coming at me through a fire hose. Maybe I'm missing the boat and I'll have to embrace this medium at some point. Or maybe I'm saving myself hundreds of hours of wasted time. Time will tell.
Bluetooth Early Pregnancy Test? Who would ever use this? I can't imagine installing and using an app to see what happens to the stick my wife pee'd on. Let alone all the spam you would inevitably get when the app reads the contents of your phone and sends information to 3rd party marketers. No chance; not for me.
Self-driving cars, zero-emission technology, artificial intelligence (especially coupled with robotics), molecular biology (like nano-bots) - there will be new things available in the next decade or two that I can't wait to discover and use - many of which I don't even realize how much I "need"!
Tech is coming, and you can't slow it down.
Don't be intimidated or put off by new things which could make your life better or your business more profitable. If you avoid new technology long enough, you'll be the guy watering his front lawn with a hose and yelling at the kids to keep it down.
That being said, you don't have to dive headfirst into the tech pool either. Just because something is smaller, or bluetooth, or "smart", doesn't mean it's going to make your life or business any better.
Choose technology. But choose your technology thoughtfully.
- Chris Butterworth