Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

By Ari Kaplan

The technological landscape has reshaped the way white collar workers cultivate and promote their businesses. This article offers insights on taking advantage of enterprising techniques to stand out and reinvent yourself as an insightful chameleon rather than as an isolated purveyor of facts and figures. It details the importance of offering resources instead of simply selling; reveals strategies for increasing your searchability and distinguishing yourself in an economic recovery, and offers advice readers can immediately use to strengthen client relationships.

Between my college graduation and my first semester of law school, I spent a year living in Kobe, Japan, working for the Japanese government through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

During one of my vacations, I made a last-minute decision to visit Nepal and flew into Kathmandu late one spring evening in 1994. I was alone, with only a backpack and a Lonely Planet guidebook. I recall a single telephone in the airport and I waited in what seemed like a very long line for an opportunity to call a few guesthouses in the city. As I waited, I paid little attention to the travelers around me or to their systematic usage of the phone. I periodically looked up from my book and noticed that each subsequent person on the line lifted the receiver, dialed, and waited for almost the exact same amount of time as the preceding individual.

As one walked away, another stepped forward, lifted the receiver, and executed the routine. It was very mechanical and efficient. There was, however, one problem that went unsaid until I had an opportunity to play the game.

The phone was broken!

Each person took the same steps and realized the same result – failure. They thought those steps worked for their predecessor and simply followed his or her lead. They were unaware of the earlier results so they left in confusion without saying a word to their fellow travelers.

Upon realizing the trouble, I turned to the person behind me and informed him that the handset did not work. He smiled and waved as I walked away to either find another pay phone or some other type of travel assistance.

When I looked back, I was surprised to see him holding the receiver attempting to make a call. Even more startling was that despite my advisory to him and a few others within earshot in the line, not a single person left. Not one.

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