How to run a people-first business in a digital-first world

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

This excerpt is from Chapter One of Peoplework: How to Run a People-First Business in a Digital-First World by Austin Allison and Chris Smith.

In the pre-digital revolution, there were limited fractures in the communication chain. Before the twentieth century, if you wanted to buy just about anything (land, professional services, retail products) you would meet the person or business selling the product face-to-face. It was a simple way of working together. The terms of sale and all other pertinent details were established while we were “belly to belly.” Then, you would come to an agreement, or not, and part ways. Deals truly got done in “real time,” and the more people-to-people (P2P) interactions you had, the more sales you made. The bottom line? Sales always have and always will happen when two or more people work together without friction. Period.

The digital revolution established a grid, a digital foundation, and this grid can build and grow any business to unprecedented scale. Without the digital grid, the only option was meeting face-to-face, which resulted in arguably fewer frustrations than there are today. It is how we react to these new, and often initially frustrating, ways of communicating that will define us during the people revolution. Will we accept digital interjections, while still embracing the face-to-face interactions of the good ole days, in order to see results? The answer is yes…Peoplework!

Our grandfathers would call Peoplework common sense. Physically connecting with another individual creates the ability to sell without using a machine as the mediator. Today, however, here is what would typically unfold: We would begin by talking on the phone, likely after several missed calls/voicemails, and then we would exchange text messages. As things progressed, we would bounce back and forth several lengthy e-mails, and along the way, we even manage to connect on a few popular social networks.

The irony of course, through all of this digital correspondence, is we would likely conclude that we never even need to meet in person. Our grandfathers, used to the old business model, would likely find this scenario frustrating. So, is there a way to juxtapose the post-digital revolution with the ways of old?

Absolutely! This is the goal of Peoplework, which is only now possible thanks to the rapid advancement of technology during the last decade. Peoplework is about getting back to basics, with a digital twist.

The concept of Peoplework is as important as the Internet is to a business. It provides a change in the way people interact with one another and the way businesses operate. The people revolution is a new era that provides opportunities to put people first in a technology-driven world. The sooner you become a Peoplework business, the more you will gain.

Smart phones and tablets have created anytime, real-time connections. They also provide access to unlimited information. Thanks to massive digital innovation during the twenty-first century, we can work from any Starbucks with any other person on the planet. Inconveniently, however, we have more usernames and passwords than we do customers! As a result, the same things that connected us, in many ways, disconnected us by creating physical barriers. Sure, we are always connected, we never turn off; we also never look up to see who is standing right in front of us.

Accidents occur on a daily basis as a result of being so fully consumed by our digital connections. Watch any congested pedestrian area and you will see people so engrossed in their electronics that they run into things, or do a quick search on YouTube for “woman falling in fountain at mall.” We are a people always on the go, but we never leave anything behind. In the Peoplework era, we utilize digital means to work together…again.

In hindsight, while the industrial revolution brought us to today’s modernized society, it also set us up for a tremendously inefficient transition to a digital and mobile world (i.e., the printing press versus a thumb drive, telephone poles versus satellites). Most companies and entrepreneurs are focusing on the digital revolution and the influx of technological innovation as the revolution that matters. After all, a mobile-first society is officially the new normal, if you haven’t noticed. So companies are racing as quickly as they can to digitize their existing processes. Digitization, however, is just a moment in time on a larger Darwinistic journey. Technology is not the destination, but it is a powerful tool, like fire once was, that propels people forward. The sooner organizations realize that technology simply enables you to work better with people, and then refocus on said people, the sooner they will thrive. You can’t ignore technology in business in the same way that you can’t ignore people in business. Our goal is to get you to merge the two while elevating the value of people-to-people interaction.

The beauty of the industrial revolution was that the rate of growth, the rate of production and the speed of delivery became faster than ever. Essentially, the power grid went mainstream. For the first time, it truly felt like what we now call a “first-world society.” Machines, not people, were producing the goods for the big companies. Being at the forefront of the industrial revolution allowed people like the Rockefellers, and their businesses, to become legendary.

The first people to access the power grid won and won big. Once the grid was generally accessible, however, the modern world expected power. It was no longer a sales benefit or unique value proposition that a company kept the lights on. Things that were once a company’s biggest competitive advantage, like access to technology or social media channels today, instantly were not.

This is exactly what will happen in the people revolution. Your mobile app and strong API might help you win now, but those days are numbered.

It’s back to basics and basics involve humans.

Peoplework: How to Run aPeople-First Business in a Digital-First World is now available on Amazon.

Further Reading

Peoplework articles on

 — Here some additional articles published in Inc. about Peoplework by my co-author Austin Allison.

We raised $73,280 on Kickstarter for Peoplework.

 — Not only was Kickstarter a case study in the book, we used the platform to prove that people, not publishers are the future.

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