Louis Rosas-Guyon is a business technology expert, author and speaker. He specializes in helping small business executives choose the right technologies to enable growth.
An 18-year veteran of the tech industry, Louis has seen how the right technologies can make the difference between success and failure. Ten years ago he founded R-Squared Computing to help businesses make smarter tech decisions. To date he has helped over 100 companies to be better, faster and cheaper than their competition.
He is the author of two management books about business technology, Nearly Free IT and Firm Wisdom.
Lou was the kid that always found the best way to get things done.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished writing Firm Wisdom, which shows businesses how to harness social technology to record institutional memory. To be honest, that book took more out of me than I expected. So, I will be taking a short break from writing and I will be developing a seminar series teaching IT engineers how to effectively communicate with executives.
One of the biggest problems I see is that engineers might have great ideas for helping improve a business, but they just can’t communicate their ideas effectively. Hopefully, I can help bridge that communications gap.
Otherwise, I will continue to manage my business, R-Squared Computing and helping our customers work smarter, faster and cheaper. Plus there’s always family time to keep me busy too.
3 Trends that excite you?
The first trend is cloud computing. Everything is moving gradually onto the cloud. Pretty soon the software-in-a-box business model will vanish as bandwidth increases. This is far more than a trend though — it is a genuine paradigm shift which will change how we work.
Secondly, we have entered into the era where machines no longer matter. Computers will soon be everywhere and in everything — collecting, recording, crunching and transmitting valuable, actionable data. Plus, computers have gotten so cheap it isn’t worth fixing them anymore (for the most part). Between cheaper hardware and the cloud, we are no longer chained to our computers. We are entering into a genuinely mobile business world.
Third, we are taking the first real steps into the network economy. I believe that the Great Recession is the harbinger of this enormous economic change that will soon turn the business world upside-down. Between social media, the collapse of traditional marketing, the ultimate demise of economies-of-scale and the end of the industrial revolution’s ruleset, smart business owners need to start preparing for the coming upheavals. Just ask the newspaper industry.
Very soon everything we know will be wrong. Soon we will all be living and working under a brand new set of business rules. Business size will be less valuable than credibility. Small will be the new big. We are entering a period of revolutionary changes brought about by the power of regular people to share ideas. No one will be exempt from this change. The sooner you start preparing, the better chance you will have to survive.
Personally, I love that kind of upheaval. We need it to keep the world interesting. Remember, the Chinese character for “crisis” is the same as the character for “opportunity”.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas are a beginning point. From there they require planning, thought, development and action to be brought to life.
Some ideas need time to gestate — like a fetus. If you try to force it early, the idea aborts and is lost. Never try to force an idea. They must progress naturally. Whenever I find myself with a half-developed concept, I make a point of writing down as many details as I have come up with and then putting it aside. My subconscious will work on it till it’s ready.
Once an idea is ready for active development, I write as much down as I possibly can. Everything and anything I can think of is recorded. Sometimes I do it on paper, other times I do it on Google Docs. The idea is to get it down into written form for evaluation.
After the idea is written out, I spend some time organizing it into coherent datasets. Like the old children’s song — some of these things belong together, some of these things are one and the same. I organize my information into something more coherent than the original brainstorming vomitus.
At this point, I let it sit. A week or a month, it just depends on my schedule and how hard the muse has got a hold of me. This gives me time to reflect further. After some time has passed, I revisit my notes and start adding more information. Half baked ideas are fleshed out, shaky arguments are identified for research. I find the weaknesses in my idea and start shoring them up.
As I get my research done, I include the relevant bits into my original set of notes. Quotes, charts, graphs, reports, interviews and anything else goes into the same document. I try to keep it as organized as possible, but that isn’t the main priority. At this point I am mostly interested in getting my facts straight and recorded.
After all this is done, I then spend time coalescing it into something coherent and legible. That can take days, weeks or even months depending on how much I have to work with.
Once that is done, I step back and hand it off to someone I trust to review. I stop thinking about it completely until I hear from the reviewer. I ask for brutal honesty and violent criticism, and I am lucky enough to get it. Nothing is worse than a reviewer who says “It’s good. I liked it.” It must either be brilliant, or it sucks — I accept no middle ground.
At this point, it’s back to work on it – refining, adjusting, tweaking, strengthening, editing and generally making it all better. I keep sending it back to the same reviewers until they stop returning my phone calls. That’s when I am reasonable certain it is ready for prime time.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
The worst mistake I made was not keeping myself current. About 6 years ago, my business was slowly losing market share and I couldn’t understand what was happening. After early years of fantastic success, it was very strange to find ourselves losing customers. At first I blamed the customers.
However, that is never a good business practice so I spent some time talking to the customers we lost. It turns out that we had become so focused on doing what we knew how to do that we weren’t keeping current on many exciting changes in the technology field. For example, we were so focused on PCs we completely ignored Macs and Linux. This mistake almost cost us our business.
Now I preach Platform Agnosticism. We will work on any technology platform as long as it’s in a language we can understand! I have also shifted much of our efforts towards cloud migration and preparing businesses for the looming network economy.
It’s very easy to get caught up in your success. But markets are changing faster and faster these days and it’s never a good idea to rest on your laurels. You must always be looking forward and looking for the new
innovations and changes effecting your industry. Then you must move to adapt to those changes or you will die.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
As for books, anything by Malcolm Gladwell or Seth Godin is a great place to start. Both of these brilliant authors pack so much actionable and useful information into their books that you will be hard pressed to follow it all. They are both idea shotguns — they blast you with so many hundreds of ideas that something is guaranteed to stick. After that, it’s up to you to do something about it.
Since the question wants a specific book, then you should read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing because it explains the single most important aspect of marketing in the network economy. It is no longer about blasting out a 30 second ad on every TV station — it’s about building a relationship asset with customers and prospects.
As for tools, I have a few that I love. First and foremost is my black notebook. I take it everywhere and am constantly jotting down ideas, sketches, quotes, you name it. I know some people swear you can do it all with a smartphone but I still prefer pencil and paper for this kind of work. I guess I’m just old fashioned.
The second tool is Google Apps. I love having email, documents, calendars and contacts all together in one place. And with the added bonus that I can access those resources from any internet connected computer on earth gives me true freedom and mobility. Any computer can become my computer because of the power of cloud computing.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We are in a strange time in history. Within the next 20 years, the old rules will no longer be relevant and the network economy will be in full swing. Because of this change, the biggest companies in the world will be taken completely by surprise and many won’t survive. If you start preparing now, and you plan correctly, you will be in position to capitalize on those massive changes.
First, you need to start building permission to communicate directly to your customers and prospects. Spam is not your friend! Just because it’s cheap to send email doesn’t mean spam is an option for you. Nothing will kill your credibility faster than being labelled as a spammer. That means you need to send actionable, useful, expected messages that your customers and prospects won’t mark as spam.
Next, if you are in a business that makes money because of the scarcity of information, get ready to go out of business. Newspapers survived for hundreds of years because it was hard to find out what was going on around the world. Now you can review news feeds from hundreds of websites in an instant. Information scarcity is over with — accept it and find new revenue models.
Third, any business that focuses on aggregating and filtering data will thrive. Companies who pour through all the mess and pick out the gems will be prized and valued. Find a niche in your industry and become the information clearinghouse for that industry and you will survive — maybe.
Lastly, everything is going to become “intelligent”. Data will become an integral part of everything, from food to steel. Industries will be collecting more and more actionable data from every step of their supply
chain. That data will go towards helping to make their products better, faster and cheaper for customers. You need to start identifying how and where that will happen in your industry and start working on making it happen today.
What is a business technology expert and how can he help my business?
There are countless computer techs out there. You have geeks, gurus, evangelists, computer guys, techs, nerds, network consultants and technologists, just to name a few. At the end of it all, regardless of what they call themselves, each provides a different level of service and technical know-how. Too many IT consultants solve every problem by asking you to throw money at it. New computers, new servers, new monitors, new printers, but every time you spend money, you are cutting into profitability. The key is for you to identify the right person for your needs. If you run a company, what you really need is a business technology expert to help you make the right decisions about your technology.
A computer consultant is usually only interested in fixing your computers. He is not versed in any business functions and is therefore incapable of assisting you with many additional services that will maximize your information technology investments. The computer guy is great when the printer breaks or when the computer goes haywire, but a business technology expert can offer you significantly more value. Large corporations hire a Chief Information Officer to fulfill this role, but a small to mid-sized business may not need that degree of full time support. In these cases, a business technology expert will serve you well.
The key to modern business success is to be sure to align your business goals with your technology plans. Business and technology alignment has become a Holy Grail for large multinational corporations. Because these industrial monsters are so large, anything they can do to make themselves more flexible, more responsive to their customers, is mandatory. Fortunately, most small and medium-sized businesses are agile and fast to respond. Chances are your top customers know how to get in touch with you at any time of the day. However, just because you do not suffer from the problems of these huge dinosaur businesses does not mean you cannot benefit from business / technology alignment. A business technology expert will assist you in aligning your business goals with your technology investments.
The second benefit you can derive from a business technology expert is an understanding of your business processes. No two businesses operate exactly alike. Chances are your business practices have developed organically as your company overcomes new challenges. However, organic growth has a tendency to develop substantial inefficiencies that can impact profits. I have seen cases where companies print and mail out zero dollar invoices ($0.00) simply because the system was poorly automated. This is inefficient and expensive, and can easily be remedied. A business technology expert will analyze how you work to pinpoint and correct these inefficiencies.
A business technology expert will then use his knowledge and understanding of your computer systems and business processes to assist you in building competitive advantage. According to a 2007 IBM study, a business technology expert should be “…engaged as a strategic partner for process and culture change.” This means that the lonely computer geek typing away for hours without human contact is not the right choice if you want to succeed. A business technology expert will be capable of working with others and must possess advanced communication and social skills to act as an agent of positive change. The computer geek that is incapable of communicating ideas or is lacking in social skills is not what you need.
For more information visit: http://www.lourg.com/coach.shtml
It can’t all be work and writing. What do you do for fun?
Well, the most fun comes from my children. Those two little maniacs are the light of my life. Whenever I’ve had a bad day at work, nothing cheers me up faster than those two amazing kids.
Then there’s what my daughter calls “The Crazy People”. About 6 years ago I took over running a community youth theater group that specializes in stunt performances (www.urbanronin.org). There’s nothing more entertaining than a pack of high school and college students who are fearlessly trying to
impress you with amazing, death-defying stunts. Not to mention they are amazingly useful whenever I need hordes of insane teen ninjas.
I find my best Zen when I am grilling food. Steaks, burgers, hot dogs, fish — it doesn’t matter. There is something amazingly calming about standing and watching the coal flames licking the bottom of the steel grate. This is one of my favorite ways to unwind and relax.
Otherwise, I am a voracious reader. It isn’t uncommon for me to read 3-4 books concurrently. Typically they are never from the same genre either. Currently I am reading a geopolitical book, a management IT book and some science fiction. On deck, I have books about neuroscience, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, one on quantum theory and a primer for a new programming language.