Don Tapscott On Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve

How tech-savvy would you consider yourself and your salon or spa operation? Are you missing opportunities to increase the bottom line, because you’re behind the curve on the adoption of new technology.

Don Tapscott is an expert on using technology to increase profits. He’s an entrepreneur, consultant, and adjunct professor of management at the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, and his insights range from big-picture understandings of technology, business, and society to practical applications of new developments in IT. Tapscott leads University of Toronto’s Global Solution Networks and is heading up four multi-million dollar research programs. He recently released a TED eBook titled Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success. And, he’s the co-author of the international bestseller Wikinomics, it’s even more ambitious successor Macrowikinomics, and the generation-defining Grown Up Digital.  

Tapscott will address salon owner and their teams at Serious Business, in New Orleans, January 18-19. Before he shakes things up there, he stopped by and chatted with SALON TODAY about the business benefits of being a technology adaptor:

SALON TODAY: The salon industry is a bit fragmented when it comes to technology. Some owners are still booking clients with a paper appointment book and pen. Others utilize state-of-the-art software, maintain lively web pages and are active in social media. How do you convince tech-wary owners that they are hurting their business by ignoring technology and how can they stay ahead of the technology curve?

Tapscott: It’s important to understand the direction in which the Internet is moving and the innovation it makes possible.  In the early days of the World Wide Web companies and individuals saw the technology as a way to publish their views and attract an unlimited number of readers and viewers.  We talked about the “stickiness” of a site, and its ability to attract eyeballs.  That was yesterday’s Internet.  Today we can see the Internet is a platform for collaboration, enabling companies to meaningfully connect with business  partners, employees and customers.

From a salon’s perspective, we are not talking about simply digitizing existing process.  Yes, it’s progress if your customers can go online to see what times are available for appointments and make the appointments themselves. And your site will send them a reminder as text message or email the day before rather than calling customers on their cell phone.

But that is just step one. You want to engage with your customers and help build a sense of community around your business.  Use social media tools such as Facebook or on your own site to stimulate a discussion with and amongst your customers about the latest styles and trends.  Develop ongoing conversations with customers that extend beyond the time they spend in your chair.  Rather than seeing yourself as simply a vendor of service, build a community with your customers that will increase their loyalty to your business.

Of course, all salons should have wi-fi available, and stylists should use a tablet to show customers available styles and  treatments.

SALON TODAY: Changing the way you think about anything takes some serious dedication and self-awareness. How can a salon owner successfully bring his or her team along the journey of change (whether it’s technology-based or any new policy/procedure)?

Tapscott: There are two types of people in this world:  The digital natives and digital immigrants.  The digital natives are young people who grew up with technology. I call them the Net Generation. Digital immigrants are baby boomers like me, for whom all of this is new and often confusing.  Digital natives are ideally suited for today’s new businesses. They are savvy, confident, upbeat, open-minded, creative and independent, which makes them a challenge to manage. To meet their demands for more learning opportunities and responsibility ownership, instant feedback, greater work/life balance and stronger workplace relationships, companies must alter their culture and management approaches, while continuing to respect the needs of older employees. Properly cultivated, this generation’s attributes are a critical source of innovation and competitive advantage to an organization.

If you are a digital immigrant and the owner of salon(s), you have a responsibility to learn the new social media.  Technology use is a precursor to understanding. Intimidated? Then ask your younger employees to show you how it is done.  Encourage your older employees to adopt younger mentors.  It will be an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better.  Show leadership for change, rather than telling employees what to do.  Engage them in thinking through a whole social media strategy where they will become involved.  Help them provide good insights and accept responsibility for effectively using the media themselves. 

SALON TODAY: In your recent book, “The Digital Economy:  20th Anniversary Edition” you talk about building a social business. Many stylists are very young and have grown up with social media, sharing their photos and life through social media outlets. Now that these former students are professionals, what practical advice would you offer them when it comes to sharing on social media outlets?

Tapscott: This is an issue all young people face.  They have their younger years online and all the exuberance and excesses that probably came with that time.  Now they are young professionals and would likely want a different online image for their customers.  It’s important to control who your friends are.  Understand your privacy choices on Facebook and use them wisely.  Make conscious decisions rather than accepting the Facebook’s or any other sites default privacy provision.  Keep your personal and professional lives separate.  Do not link your Facebook business page to your personal pages.

I can understand why a young stylist would want to keep in active touch with her/his colleagues from school.  They are your peers and good sources of advice as your career develops.  Nurture those connections.

SALON TODAY: If a salon is not utilizing technology effectively and proactively, how will this affect the business in the short term? What about the long term? How will tech-savvy clients perceive a business that’s lagging in the technological world?

Tapscott: A salon that rejects social media will suffer both in the short term and the long term.  You may have older customers that don’t see the convenience of online booking and brainstorming ideas with their stylist.  That’s fine.  But these customers will become increasingly few and far between.  As your salon grows it will need to reach out to new customers.  They will want to know if you are savvy regarding current styles and that you are open to suggestions.  If your salon does not have a social media strategy, the time to get one is now.

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