Great news: Personal communication tools--pagers, cell phones, and voice mail--are speeding up selling cycles for many small businesses. Not-so-great news: Executives say the tools are making them too accessible.
More and more wired professionals are calling "time out" and setting limits on how much the new technology controls their lives. Take the case of Karen Settle, CEO of Keystone Marketing Specialists, a $5-million company in Las Vegas.
Settle shudders at the thought of trying to run her business without her two favorite tools: an Erikson cellular phone and SkyTel SkyWord pager. "Stand in line to use a pay phone and then, dial 36 numbers to make a call? No way!" But a mobile telephone can wreak havoc on a sales call if it rings at an inopportune moment. That's why she uses the cell phone only for outgoing calls, rarely leaves it on, and asks clients and employees to leave brief messages on the 800 number of her pager.
Whenever she's out of the office, Settle clips the pager to her waistband and sets it to "vibrate," not audio. The 240-character limit on messages helps keep them short and sweet, a virtue fast fading from e-mail and voice mail. Settle has equipped all of her key employees with pagers as well. Her sole guideline: If it's a client issue, use the pager. She uses her own pager for additional tasks. If she can't be there in person to give an employee a pat on the back, she leaves a message on his or her pager: "Good job, I like how you handled that."
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