Start acting like a technology company.

If you don’t think that you’re a technology company, bad things are probably about to happen to your business — like Netflix disrupting Blockbuster bad. You’ll never see disruption coming. Worse yet, you wont be expecting it.

Here is a really scary statistic: only 72% of Fortune 500 CEOs said they were concerned about the rapid pace of technological innovation. I’m afraid for those other 28% who believe technology isn’t about to siege war on their business.

Why?

Every single company is a technology company.

In today’s economy and landscape, every single company — irrespective of industry, size or age — must operate as if it was a technology-based business. Failing to understand this simple fact is going to be the downfall of those other 28%.

Let me give you a personal example:

Back in the spring of 2013 I took over a healthcare provider that had some deep structural challenges. Until that fateful day in March I had played exclusively in the start-up world — small teams, servers outnumbering employees and zero brick-and-mortar presence. Suddenly, I was captaining a ship that consisted of 3 clinics, 50+ employees and thousands of patients every month. This was the big leagues.

We held a town-hall during one of the first weeks where I chartered our new path forward:

We were going to operate like a technology startup. Our single greatest competitive advantage was going to be speed.

Blank stares. No one believed me.

Skeptics said there was no point in trying. I heard things like “this isn’t how things are done” or “we’ve always done things this way” or “this isn’t how everyone else operates” or “this is healthcare — change and innovation don’t happen quickly”.

Unacceptable.

I wasn’t about to accept the status quo. I refused to become an accessory to this self-perpetuating crime where healthcare had to be expensive, slow and reactionary. I wasn’t about to be handcuffed to the old ways of doing things.

I told everyone to zoom-out on our business.

“Let’s examine what we really do”, I said. “We are an incredibly well funded technology startup”.

It was true: we booked patients and checked them in electronically. Their paper requisition was digitized as part of the check-in process. We took digital pictures of their insides — whether that was an x-ray, ultrasound, or mammogram. Those pictures — along with a host of metadata — were transmitted from clinic to click via our own point-to-point microwave network backbone and stored in one of our data warehouses. A radiologist would pull up those digital images to make a diagnosis. Then we’d send a report back to the referring physician. In theory, we didn’t need to employ a single piece of paper in our clinics.

Sounds like a pretty sophisticated technology company to me.

Every single day I reinforced this new outlook: we’re a technology startup and we’re going to behave like one. We’re going to find new ideas — directly from our employees whenever possible — and implement them as quickly as possible. Sure, things will probably break and we’re going to live in various states of perpetual chaos, but it will all be in the spirit of being a speedy, sexy, pioneering startup company.

It worked.

It took a bit of time, but sure enough our people began to identify with this new way of thinking. No longer were we a traditional, lethargic healthcare company. No way.

Instead, employees took pride in being part of a “startup” company where we were constantly questioning and challenging the status quo. They told their friends and word spread within the industry — it became our single greatest recruiting and retention tool because everyone in the industry was frustrated and tired of how things were being done.

Results speak for themselves.

As a direct result of our technology-startup focus we grew our top-line by more than 60% (to tens of millions of dollars), improved the return on investment from our human capital and significantly reduced turnover and associated recruiting costs.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Are you acting like a technology company, or are you one of the 28%?

The point I’m trying to make is this: the companies that least expect to be technology companies — like my radiology practice — are generally where technology is going to have the greatest impact. You can either use that impact to your advantage — or leave it to someone else, which will be your ultimate disadvantage.