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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Think Big

Michael McGilvray took his wife's company from $2 million to $63 million by applying big business computing knowledge to her already successful business.     More...

Key Question:


Find ways to use more technology.

Q: What does Michael do that makes his supply chain smile?

A: He bears the technology burden for his free lance sales people, for the makers of the products that they sell and for the retailers that put the products on their shelves. In other words, he created digital workflow, (see the discussion about going paperless below) not just for the functions that take place under his roof, but for all of the steps in the process that eventually puts money in his pocket.

  • What can you do to make it easier for everyone in your supply chain?
  •  What digital functionality do you have now?
  • What can you add now?
  • What would you like to add as you find the money to commit?

In another episode Howard Kent says, "Don't sell white toilets on the internet." Howard studied business in college and left his job as an automation specialist in a big company to go to work for his father-in-law. He knew from his studies and experience that he could use computers to streamline business functions. Today this sounds so "ordinary" because everyone is using computers. However, Howard has had the goal to work efficiently for 30 years. This mindset has kept him current on technology and software solutions and the enhanced capabilities each brings to business. He was an early adopter of the integration of his customer/prospect database and an automated fax program that generates sales leads and sends out customer support information, all while he sleeps.

Q: Why is technology important to small businesses?

A: By using it, you can look and operate like a big company. Today's desktop computer has more power and capacity than computers that took staffs of 30 people to run as recently as 1980. Software programs can be purchased to do repetitive tasks that formerly took entire departments of employees. What has become a truism, as futurists once boldly told us, is that technology is leveling the playing field between large and small businesses. We also now know it keeps extending the playing field and changing the ground rules. Prior to 1994 and the introduction of Mosaic (and soon Netscape) people would call you crazy if you said you could open a business within 24 hours with less than $1000 investment, and then have a presence in every major city of the world, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

Today, hosting services make a web presence viable for even the smallest companies. Bill Gates, in Business @ The Speed of Thought, said "The successfully companies of the 21st century will be the ones who use technology to reinvent the way they work". The key to this success is to recognize that technology is an enabler, not a solution. Technology can be harnessed to improve your business processes. Howard Kent has moved well beyond simply using technology in his own business.

What was the product that Howard started selling on the web as early as 1995? It was an "actuated" valve, opening and shutting as necessary, powered by a processor. How do you think the market will receive Ironbound's latest innovation? Testing the world's response on the web requires no human intervention (that means no payroll cost!), works 24X7, and never makes an error. Hmmm…that must be the reason Howard tried the web as a sales channel and why he continues to rake in big bucks.

Q: How does a small business decide what investments to make in technology?

A: Investments in technology should be made based on the same criteria of any other investment, what is the anticipated return? Like Howard, any small business can invest in technology to improve its own internal business processes and/or to improve the products or services the business brings to market. The important point is to make those investments that will improve your bottom line. Networking all your computers is a relatively inexpensive endeavor today. But don't network just to network.

Think hard about these questions:

  • What would be the benefit, in your business, of a common operating environment where everyone could share files and information based on security levels you would assign?
  • What would be the cost?
  • Does the benefit in increased employee productivity exceed the cost?
  • How can you use technology to improve your business processes and/or the goods and services you sell?
  • What would the technology cost you, how will you fund the purchase, and what is the anticipated return in terms of dollars and payback period?
Questions for this clip: 1 | 2

Think about it

What problem could technology help you solve?  Do you use more technology or less than those in your industry?  What are the leaders in your industry doing to implement more digital workflow?

Clip from: Internet Basics: Space and time become derivative.

  The web makes every city and town everybody's  city and town.

World Wide Web: There are four basic reasons to build your business on the web. Whether you are just starting or you are growing, the web will be the  backbone of business in more ways than most anyone imagined. It truly is a new metaphor. This is a paradigm shift. It is actually changing the way we think.

In this episode of the show we learn how you can do what big business does. The world is our market.  So, make your business an e-business, and then merge out into the world's quickly-evolving e-culture.  The time is now. 

We all must prepare today for the invevitable tomorrows.

Small Business Owners Everywhere in the world, We all will exit our business someday.

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Think Big

(In the studio) The fourth reason and the most important reason to use the Internet to build your business is to drive the business with e-commerce tools.

(Voiceover) This is where it's at. For all fast-growing companies and for certain industry segments to survive, you must be there. For example, if you do government work, you are required to have e-commerce tools.

HATTIE: So people really buy this stuff?

ANN McGILVRAY: Oh, my gosh, yes.

HATTIE: See, that's why I could never do what you do because I couldn't think of anybody who would want an upside-down skeleton.

ANN: Really?

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Product representative

ANN McGILVRAY was $2 million in sales 15 years ago. She hired her husband, who came from big business, and brought his technology knowledge.

HATTIE: Are you testing a product?

MICHAEL McGILVRAY: I was blind before I put them on and I'm still blind.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Today, they are $63 million in sales, and Michael says it's because Ann knows what will sell. And Ann says it's because Michael built the connectivity infrastructure to handle volumes of orders and shipments. They still use EDI, or electronic date interchange, to move information instantly and securely.

Editor's Note: Today much of EDI is simply called e-commerce. EDI is a private internet system that is virtually impossible to hack.

MICHAEL: What it does, it allows the vendor, who I represent...

HATTIE: Who's a small guy...

MICHAEL: ...who's a small guy, on a relative basis. The big boys who I represent also--for the most part, they already have these systems because they're affordable to them, i.e. capability.

HATTIE: OK. What you're saying is that Penney's, Wal-Mart, Target, whatever--they demand that their suppliers, who are these manufacturers, deal with them...

MICHAEL: Exactly.

HATTIE: ...electronically.

MICHAEL: Exactly.

HATTIE: And these small guys can't do it by themselves, so you do it for them.

MICHAEL: Yes. I saw this coming, in terms of working, for example, with J.C. Penney's, and they say they're the masters of their destiny and they take the position that, `If you want to do business with us, this is what you need to do.' And so you have a choice. `Do I do business with them or do I walk away from that business?' So what we did, we made, again, a financial investment in the systems. Basically, what it entails is the software that you have to purchase and necessary pieces of hardware that you have to purchase, so that you can, in effect, communicate with the J.C. Penney's and the other companies.


MICHAEL: The thing that's significant about it is that, again, sometimes you have to make investments in your business that don't have immediate paybacks, but you have to make the investment if you're going to go forward in your business.

HATTIE: Because that's the future.

MICHAEL: Exactly. And if you're either going to be a player or you're not going to be a player.

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