There's an old joke about a guy who goes into a hardware store to buy a saw to cut firewood. The clerk convinces him to buy a top of the line chainsaw claiming it will cut a cord of wood in an hour. The guy brings it back the next day saying it took him all day to cut just one cord. So the clerk primes it, pulls the handle and starts the chainsaw right up. The guy looks at him in amazement and asks, "What's all that noise?"
Tools are one thing but learning how to properly use them is another. Hey, I'm the last guy on earth you would want to trust with a chainsaw—I'm just not much of a handy man. But I'll learn how to use them in order to sell you one, so that you can get the most out of your purchase. Your sales people should be able to give you at least an elementary lesson in the use and care of any equipment they sell you. And you should be prepared to take additional lessons, for a price if necessary, to get to the expert level.
The same advice applies when it comes to getting the most out of your office machines, PDAs or whatever you use. I'm shocked at how many people don't know how to really use the technology for which they plunked down big bucks.
For example, a few years ago when I purchased a Trio from Best Buy, I hired the salesman to come to my house and teach me how to properly use it. Similarly, I purchased a Blackberry a year or so later from an AT&T store and also hired the sales rep to come to my office for several training sessions.
This is a win-win situation. It does cost you a bit more, but I get up to speed a lot faster, plus I get better service from my sales reps if I ever have a problem. And they make a little money on the side too.
Before my Trio and BlackBerry, there was a Palm Pilot and who even remembers what came before that. I've always had a lesson or two for each new gadget, because I'm a big believer in teachers, coaches, trainers or whatever you want to call them. I'm game for any way I can become better or more efficient.
I've had coaches for public speaking, writing, ideas/creativity, foreign languages, dancing, scuba diving and every sport you could imagine. Why not become more proficient with your office tools?
Do you know all the features on your cell phone? How about your computer, copy or fax machine? If you don't, you're not getting as much bang for your buck as you should.
Until you understand what your tools are capable of and how to make them work for you, you're exerting too much time and energy and accomplishing less. Time is money, and at the rate new technology evolves, you could be throwing away big bucks by not making all your resources work for you.
I have a library of instruction manuals, which I freely admit that I have never opened. Some assume a level of sophistication that I don't yet possess. Others are written in curious forms of English that make little sense. So I look for a live, breathing person who can walk me through my questions and answer them twice if need be. Where should you look for help?
If you can't find a willing salesperson, look to the store where you bought the machine. They often have classes available. Check out your local school district for the adult education offerings—they're not expensive and you'll find an instant network of new friends who ask the questions you haven't even thought of yet.
Every bookstore has a section of self-teaching materials entitled "(Fill in the blank) for Dummies." These are marvelous resources, and seem to be available as soon as the technology appears. Manufacturers' websites can help too. Most have an email where you can send questions and receive answers promptly.
And don't forget the teenager next door. The tech generation seems to have been born with a different set of genes.
Bottom line: You have no excuse not to improve your bottom line with the right tools.
Mackay's Moral: Hammer away until you really learn how to use your business tools.