If you look back with envy at the entrepreneurs of the 1950s and 1960s and wish you had the opportunities they had, then take a look around at where you are.  The landscape may look different, but this is also such a time.

Here are the things that I know: the rules of business engagement have changed; the smallest businesses are the ones who’re best at taking advantage of these changes; engaging with people online is the quickest and easiest way to grow your business; engaging online gives people a good sense of you without you having to meet them face to face; you can be as awesome online as you are in real life.

The rules of business engagement have changed.  People no longer want to be broadcast to.  They’re suspicious of people who come into their lives unannounced, and they want to get to know people before they part with their hard-earned cash.  They value convenience.  And the way they want to do business and consume information has changed.  More times than not, they choose to do business with companies who get that, and make it easy for them.

Some businesses still haven’t woken up to these facts, and are spending ever more amounts of time, effort, and money doing the things that’ve worked until now, except that now they’re doing them louder, more frequently and with increasing fervour.  Others have heard the news, but don’t believe it’s a game-changer, so are paying lip-service with a LinkedIn Company Page, a Twitter account that rarely gets used, and a blog feed that gets updated on an ad-hoc basis with the company news bulletin.

The businesses that are winning, and that’ll continue to grow as the 21st century marches on, are the ones who’ve embraced the new order fully.  These are often the smaller, more agile, more forward thinking businesses; those who’ve someone on board with their eyes fully open and wide-awake.  Businesses like yours.  You’re in business at a pivotal time in the world: personally, culturally, and professionally.  The internet has changed the way we do business, and you have the opportunity to make that work for you before the rest of the business world catches up or falls by the wayside.

Engaging with people online is the quickest and easiest way to grow your business.  You can engage with people anywhere in the world.  Even ten, fifteen years ago, you’d need a pot of cash to do business overseas: these days you need wifi and a device that let’s you connect to it.  Solopreneurs are running multi-national, six and seven-figure businesses from their iPhones!  That’s how huge this business change is.  Of course there’s more to it than just buying an iPhone and getting online, but those are the basic tools you need to take your idea and make it happen.  If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will!

The internet, and its ever-expanding raft of business tools, mean that you can give people, specifically your prospective customers, a really good sense of who you are, what you stand for, who you help, how you help them, and what you’re like to work with, without ever meeting them face to face.  Instead of having to turn up at countless networking events for weeks on end in order to establish and build relationships, you can do it all from the comfort of your office and often in a fraction of the time.  And when you do meet people in real life that you want to build relationships with, you can accelerate that by sending them your blog posts or newsletter.  You can even write blog posts that answer the specific questions they have: how special’s that going to make them feel!

When businesses started to use the internet it was okay to build a website and then leave it to do it’s stuff as an online brochure.  That’s no longer good enough.  People expect a lot more.  Apart from the fact that you won’t be offering your prospective customers anything that helps them engage with you, most people who come onto your website and find nothing new there will wonder if you’re still in business.  I know it can be hard to start adding content that counts.  And that finding the time when there’re so many other things to do can be tricky.  But it’s what’s going to help you make the most of this time of opportunity.  Your business does something amazing for other human beings.  It’d be a shame if they didn’t get to know about you.