2017 was a good year for many businesses, including my own. I earned a few bucks, brought on a few more clients and - most importantly - learned a few things. Here are just a few bits of knowledge gleaned from the past twelve months that should help all of us navigate through the next twelve.
1. Keep your hands to yourself
Oh, and whatever you're thinking...don't say it. Keep your mouth shut. Don't touch. Don't comment. Don't talk about anything but business. Do I even need to write this? Apparently I do because some of the country's most well-known business leaders, politicians and celebrities haven't been doing this. I know that the great majority of men do know how to behave with their female colleagues and employees. But for the rest of you...stop.
2. If you're not prepared for ransomware, you're going to get screwed
Ransomware is the first malware where its makers can actually make money. Guess that's why it’s now a multi-billion dollar a year industry and is expected to explode in 2018. Chances are you will be attacked. Update your security software. Get your people trained. Subscribe to an online backup service.
3. People who complain about millennials are idiots
"They're lazy! They don't work hard! They’re soft! They're not reliable!"
Oh, stop it. The millennial generation now makes up about half of the working population. Sure, these people have different (and in my opinion healthier) priorities about work-life balance. But it's not up to them to adjust. If you want to attract the best talent to your company it's you who has to adjust. And besides, weren't your parents saying the same about you when you were their age? And their parents about them?
4. Shark Tank is not the best show on TV for small business
Actually, it’s not even close. The best show is Nathan for You on Comedy Central. It's in its fourth season and just as hilarious as ever. Nathan Fielder -- who got "really good" grades" (except for that C+) in a "top" Canadian business college -- comes up with the very best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) marketing ideas for his small business clients. Some of them get national attention. Ever hear of "Dumb Starbucks"? The "petting zoo hero?" "The Movement?" Yup, they're all fakes and all him. More importantly, the show demonstrates in all its cleverness the harsh reality of running a small business in the 21st century and the lengths we'll go to get a new customer!
5. It's time to go back and re-watch The Terminator
First of all, it's a terrific movie with iconic lines like "I'll be back" and "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." OK - maybe that last one wasn't from the Terminator but it was still a great line. More importantly, the Terminator is literally showing us...reality! Robots. Artificial Intelligence. Software bots. This is all real and it's all happening now.
Facebook Messenger had more than 300 million business exchanges last year and gives its business customers an easy way to automate their actions and improve customer service using bots. Amazon is adding robots to warehouses every day. Uber is testing driverless cars on city streets. If you're not considering how these technologies will impact your business in the next few years then you probably won't have a business to consider.
6. Big companies really, really suck at protecting our data
This year saw giant data breaches from the likes of Uber, Equifax, Yahoo, Arby’s, K-Mart and…oh the list goes on and on. Let's not forget -- these companies annually invest hundreds of millions of dollars in cutting edge technology and super-smart people whose job is to do nothing else but protect our data. Thanks, guys but…?
More and more of our business applications are hosted in the cloud, so more and more of us are exposed to the loss of data by those giant cloud-based providers we oftentimes trust blindly. Does this make us lose faith? It doesn't make a difference. It's all going cloud regardless. Let's just make sure to double-check our backup procedures and have a contingency plan. Cyber insurance doesn't hurt either.
7. My laptop doesn't matter
Sure, the cloud raises a few disturbing issues (see above) but it also has its benefits. Now I can get my data anywhere, anytime and integrate it with just about anything…on any device.
Once upon a time I obsessed over a new laptop or desktop computer - how fast? How much memory? What size hard drive? These issues just don't matter now. For most business people -- unless you're a gamer, a Netflix addict or a prolific downloader of porn -- a low level device, a Chromebook, even a phone is enough to do what we need to do.
8. Shocking is no longer shocking
Kim Kardashian's start-up business was a sex tape. Pot shops are opening up around the country. Legalized gambling is a growing business. Sites that encourage cheating on your spouse are profiting. More people are buying guns than ever. Prostitution continues to be a big business in Nevada...and everywhere else. As long as it's not against the law you can bet someone's got a business, and you know what? Good for them. Who am I -- or you -- to judge?
9. Social media is not free
Back-in-the-day you could start a Facebook or Twitter page, post a few thoughts, engage with people, create a buzz, grow your followers and sell some products. Not anymore. There are billions of people using these services and if you think your company is going to get any attention just because of a brilliant tweet, you're tweeting up the wrong tree.
Facebook and Twitter are now publicly held and shareholders don't want engagement...they want profits. Translation: unless you advertise, promote, boost and otherwise pay to play on these sites your brilliant thoughts will quickly disappear into the ether without so much as a like.
10. Finally, optimism really does matter
If I've learned anything from last year's presidential election is that talking about doing something can be just as good for business as doing it. In 2017 the stock market reached all-time highs, the economy grew faster, unemployment fell and the business community's confidence rose to new heights...all because our President said he was going to make America great again. We're really not (and I'm not sure that we ever really were). But that doesn't matter. Optimistic leaders inspire confidence and create opportunities even when they're covfefe – ing on Twitter.
See that? You're actually smarter than you were 12 months ago. Now imagine how smart you’d be if you spent just a little more time reading Scientific American instead of this silly blog.
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