It's easy for entrepreneurs to get distracted by disruptive technologies. E-commerce, social networks, 3-D printing, cloud computing, robotics, the Internet of Things, and other breakthrough areas give young companies a chance to compete more evenly with large ones.

Innovation clearly becomes key to running a business. But in the rush to the new, it's easy for people to forget what exists that is still of enormous value.

It reminds me of a CEO at a middle market company years ago who wanted a product line to embrace a new major technology--insisted on it. Unfortunately, the corporate customers needed a substantial amount of time to change from what was already proven in their IT systems. The result: a 5 percent year-over-year drop in sales.

Here are X "old-fashioned" areas and tools that it makes sense for even the youngest startup to remember, because ignoring or throwing away value is always a mistake.

Traditional social networks

Say "social network" and people start thinking of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the like. But before the online world engulfed everyone, people had regular social networks. You knew--and still know--people from the office, professional organizations, religious groups, neighborhoods, alumni associations, PTA organizations, sports clubs, industry conventions, and many others. Although strong online social network connections can be valuable and not readily replaced, so can the older kind through which you actually know people or share strong affinities with them in real life.


Oh, the telephone, how day before yesterday. There are emails and instant messages and social network posts, texts, and even faxes. Why would anyone need a phone? Because it adds a degree of intimacy and immediacy that isn't available through other means. You can have an actual dialogue in real time and also pick up cues from voice tone and use of language to get a better sense of what is actually being said.


Yup, the paper kind. There's a mass of information on the Internet, but getting to it can be laborious, particularly when you need something that hasn't necessarily been optimized for search engines. In addition to all the books and periodicals a library may have, it also employs librarians, people with significant knowledge and skills in finding the information someone might want. If you need to do market or competitive research, better understand trends, or otherwise pull together a coherent view of something, go to a good library and ask the reference librarians for help. Chances are good that they can assist you.

Telephone and in-person customer service

Getting connected to a customer service rep via chat is a great innovation. But most people are unlikely to use it. Well-trained customer service people can solve problems to improve customer retention and help develop your relationships with your customers. For many, they represent the only human face of your business.

In-person selling

You want to sell via e-commerce, and that makes sense. But don't overlook that most commerce still happens in person, whether through direct sales, distribution, and retail. In-store demos, for example, can give people enough exposure to a product to buy. For people to purchase a new food item, having it at a grocery store can be critical. In-person sales are often a necessity for large business-to-business transactions. Make sure you're working the extended brick-and-mortar ecosystem correctly, because in most industries it's critical.