Quick response best for business

Daily Inter Lake

by Jim Mann

Businesses of all types need to be nimble and aggressive in growing and improving in a time when the economy and culture are changing at an unprecedented rate, business consulting guru Morrie Shechtman told a gathering of about 300 people in Kalispell Friday.

The Small Business Opportunity Workshop organized by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., attracted business people from across the state to Flathead Valley Community College. The all-day conference had a business-fair atmosphere with a variety of information booths and it featured panel discussions and several speakers. The conference focused on entrepreneurship and capital availability.

Shechtman commented on the importance of evolving a business and its workforce in rapidly changing conditions that are mainly driven by the vastly increased availability of information.

Shechtman got the crowd’s attention by offering examples of just how rapidly the world is changing due to technology.

Landline telephone systems around the world “are history” because of cellular technology, and paper checks and the U.S. Postal Service will eventually come to an end, Shechtman predicted.

“We will see basic institutions in our culture go by the wayside,” said Shechtman, a Flathead Valley resident who consults for companies around the world. “That’s the pace of change we are into now.”

New technology and the increased availability of information raise other issues.

“The number one byproduct of information is conflict,” Shechtman said, explaining that in business, it results in the need for adapting to new information with fast decisions and problem solving.

“If you don’t want to manage conflict this is one hell of a time to be alive. If you have conflict avoiders, they are going to drag you down … they are going to create problems rather than solve them.”

And that is why constantly challenging and training a workforce is so important. Business managers need to recognize that “leadership is a perpetual exercise in disappointment” and that addressing disappointment through constant feedback to employees is important as well, he said.

“We need a work force that that can deal with feedback about where they are disappointing,” he said.

And that raises concerns for Shechtman about the up-and-coming work force, who said younger people are now less receptive to critical feedback and they are delayed in development.

Workers in their 20s need to be nurtured, challenged and coached by their employers rather than just being left to their own devices, he said.

Shechtman was asked about the growing use of social media — communication venues such as Facebook and Twitter — and their usefulness to business.

“As with everything else, it’s a mixed bag,” he responded, explaining that they can create an illusion of having a relationship with other people but there are no commitments.

In business, he said, people need to reach beyond having fleeting online contacts with people.

A man who said he sells custom-made acoustic guitars online has encountered potential customers who don’t seem to trust the products he’s advertising, and in some cases want him to send them a guitar to try out.

Shechtman advised that in those situations he should be reaching beyond his online communications by contacting potential customers by phone.

The gathering at the FVCC Arts and Technology building was the fourth conference organized by Tester over the last year, with previous events held in Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings.

“It was a good event that resulted in new jobs for Montana businesses,” Tester said in opening remarks, referring to the first conference in Great Falls. “It was an example of working together.

“A lot of folks asked me to hold more of these events — to help give Montana’s small businesses the resources they need to compete on a level field — and succeed,” Tester said.