One day I walked into Best Buy and members of the sales staff started throwing boxes of PDAs, digital cameras, iPods, cell phones and notebook computers at me. Each box was wrapped in a soft bubble that floated in the air. They had given me a huge net to catch all the gadgets and gizmos they were throwing at me. But then I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock blaring and realized I was only dreaming.
Sometimes I think about technology being a great gift for an entrepreneur, one that can help circumvent the hassles of running a business 24/7, starting out cash-poor, and often crisscrossing the country to meet clients, venture capitalists, and even to woo prospective employees. Certainly, this holiday season there are a number of hot items that may make a small businessperson's dreams come true. Here are some of my picks for the entrepreneur's holiday wish list.
HP Photosmart A716 Compact Photo Printer
Whoever said, “a picture is worth a thousand words” was a very wise person, but little did they know about HP’s new compact photo printer at the time. This little wonder helps you seal the deal with prospects or clarify problems with customers. Instead of looking at an e-mail or squinting at a screen, print a photograph of your new product, new hire or new design for your client -- whenever you want. While your competitors are struggling with crude descriptions or waiting in line for photos to develop -- you’ll be signing contracts in January 2007.
Where to find it: HP.com
Lenovo 3000 Series Notebook.
Notebook computers are vital tools for mobile entrepreneurs. They need their offices to travel with them and often a reliable, feature rich, powerful but economical notebook is the perfect choice. I did an extensive search for a notebook and am perfectly happy with the Lenovo 3000 N100. Costs range, of course, depending on the specific model you buy. If you are looking for a gift that has Bluetooth and WiFi, 4-in-1 card reader, plenty of USB ports and S-video, too, the Lenovo 3000 series is what you should consider.
Where to find it: Lenovo.com
80 GB iPod -- for business not pleasure
Over the past several months, I’ve been using my Apple iPod and really like it to store my favorite music from today and yesteryear. Of course, Apple makes several versions of iPods and now is joined by Microsoft’s Zune and so many other brands in making portable “MP3” players. But guess what? iPod’s are not just for music but are perfect business tools to store data, educate yourself through podcasts and carry your own entertainment for when you travel on business. The 80 GB version can store up to 20,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 100 hours of video -- or any combination of each.
Where to find it: iPod.com
BlueTie hosted e-mail
While just about everyone business has e-mail, I bet there’s at least one (if not more) business owners in your life whose business could use help in managing their e-mail. If they’re stuck using a free e-mail service, or find that their e-mail is always down, have them check out BlueTie. It’s a low-cost, hosted e-mail service that not only manages e-mail but does it quick and with powerful features. There's even a free version. If you type in "dinner with Ramon, tomorrow," it knows when tomorrow is, who Ramon is (if he’s in your address book) and that dinner is not at 3:00 p.m. but later. If you or someone you know lives or dies by e-mail, Bluetie just might be their life preserver.
Where to find it: BlueTie.com
Between my business card scanner, notebook computer, wireless broadband and all of my other gadgets, I’m ready for business this holiday season. But every entrepreneur -- even me -- can always use the next latest, greatest technology tool. Don't have a GPS system? Maybe you'll get one this holiday season.
Ramon Ray is an author, speaker, technology writer and former small business technology consultant. He publishes Smallbiztechnology.com, a website that helps small and medium-sized businesses strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses.