NEW YORK (
) -- The more technology I acquire and the more mobile I am, the more convinced I am that we need more power outlets. There never seem to be enough available outlets (or sometimes not any!) for all the people with computers or other devices in any given location.
Last month, I was out meeting clients with time between meetings, and rather than drive back and forth to the office I opted (as I usually do) to work at various coffee shops and restaurants. A well-known national brand coffee shop had 10 tables or so, but only two outlets. Another restaurant I visited had 30 tables and another 20 booths, and again, only two outlets.
The other day I perched on a too high "café" chair at a too low "café" table with a 12-foot cord running down the center of the community table to a six-plug surge protector. While a community table is a good way to meet new people, it is not such a good workspace.
Until wireless electricity charging and recharging exist, it would seem that businesses need to recognize that having the infrastructure to support the technology of their customers would be a wise investment. Imagine the advertising campaign: "An outlet for every customer! NO waiting. No loss of your network access. All devices welcome!"
I will admit that not every customer is looking for an outlet (at least not an electrical one). However, business traffic can be significantly influenced by the convenience and comfort of being able to work on-site and customers are making decisions where to meet based on how accessible the Internet and power are, plus how much the atmosphere of the location supports their ability to do business. This is particularly important when you have choices that provide comfortable booths, power outlets, free wi-fi, and a quiet (or quieter) atmosphere (no psychedelic punk rock, rap, or even classical music blaring at 300 decibels) and space to get in and out of the tables and chairs.
I have found that need for power will drive even the most shy of people to ask a "favor" of sharing the outlet or lending a power cord for a few minutes. And that brief "interruption" often leads to a meaningful conversation. For me, it's led to potential clients and resources for my current clients and business.
Today as I am finishing up this article, a restaurant only having a single available outlet (and my being strategically located to use it) led to a stranger in the restaurant approaching for a favor. Not only did she need the power outlet, she needed to use my power cord, and had a looming work deadline, with no time to head home and pick up the cord. Of course I willingly shared my power cord and space, in complete sympathy for the situation (and hoping that someday, somewhere, when I too am powerless and cordless someone will return the favor).
Now if things had gone according to "plan" today, I would have completed this article an hour ago. But I spent an hour talking with the lady who needed an outlet and it was an hour well invested. She may or may not become a client, but I know that her computer is recharged and so is she. She will at least be a great outreach person for me because she interacts with people in my target market. I didn't lend a power cord and share the outlet to get new business. But I certainly won't turn it down.
So maybe I was wrong. The world doesn't need more power outlets . . . just more connections.
Lea Strickland, M.B.A., is the founder of Technovation Entrepreneur , a program that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into businesses. Strickland is the author of "Out of the Cubicle and Into Business" and "One Great Idea!" She has more than 20 years of experience in operational leadership in Fortune 500 and Global 100 companies, including Ford, Solectron and Newell.
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