I love cards — poker, rummy, even blackjack if the stakes are not too high. When I was a young man I set out to learn the finer points of some of these games because I suspected that successful play isn’t entirely dependent on luck.

I read books and watched shows. I became engaged by the strategies and tactics that can be applied. I also asked people to explain, in person, how a hand is played. I realized that I wasn’t really learning, however, until someone dealt me a hand to play for myself. And when there was a small wager on the line, the learning curve grew more pronounced.

Sure, I made mistakes that cost me a little, but in the long run they were investments in being able to hold my own at a table of serious players.

I was reminded recently of those experiences when the subject of business on the Internet was brought up. Many hvacr contractors are curious about the Web and its potential to open new doors for revenue. They also see it as a potential gamble.

To assist in the learning curve there are individuals, publications, and entities on the leading edge of training and support for those thirsty for knowledge. While it is important to understand the terms, the protocols, and the basic strategies for use of the Internet as a business tool, it is also important to “get into the game” and experience directly the abilities and limitations of the Web as it exists now and as it applies to your business plan.

As part of our regular business activity, we design websites and collateral marketing material for contractors around the nation. We post proofs of these projects, as they develop, to our website for client review. Often, it takes days or weeks to encourage the contractors to visit the Web to see their jobs. It seems that a drive to the grocery store to fill a month’s list of staples would be considered less intimidating than firing up the computer and logging on to a website. This is very telling.

Using the Web needs to become a business habit; no different than scheduling daily service calls or answering the phone when it rings.

I believe that a lack of understanding regarding technicalities and jargon gives many a reason to avoid the subject. Fearing and avoiding the unfamiliar is a natural condition. I also believe that avoiding the subject keeps people in the dark and postpones their understanding.

All of us who are in business today owe it to ourselves, our families, our employees, and our companies to get in the habit of using the World Wide Web. Use and check your e-mail often. Do routine searches for categories that may benefit your business. Taking an active role in the use of this technology doesn’t necessarily have to mean wagering a lot of money, but waiting for the message to come to you may be a slow and costly practice indeed.

Gene Crippen is creative director for Creative Business Diagnostics, Inc. He can be reached at 877-483-4903 and at www.advertising-U .com (website).

Publication date: 01/22/2001