As a technology practitioner with decades of experience, I find myself frustrated by a recurring issue experienced by business owners – the ‘tech bro’ mentality[1]. In an age where technology should be a tool for empowerment, some individuals revel in the knowledge gap, perpetuating an arrogant approach to client interactions. Let me share a couple of recent encounters that demonstrate this and delve into why it’s time for the tech community to shift gears. The stories I heard illustrated two classic tech bro views.

The first story: That is impossible!

The first was a simple story – the business owner was a long-time CRM user. In fact, putting in a CRM transformed her business when she first implemented it. But that CRM software, which was initially very affordable, had gradually increased in the licence price. Combined with going up some pricing levels with additional customers and team members, the cost of the CRM was becoming unsustainable for the business.

The business owner thought it might be time to look around. The IT consultant who had worked for them for years advised the business owner that she shouldn’t waste her time – nothing else would meet her needs. What a load of self-serving rubbish! There are thousands of CRM products on the market, and after a brief conversation, it was clear that several products could be a more cost-effective match for the business today. The transition to a new solution might be costly in some ways, and might not be worthwhile for this business, at least not right now, but simply saying “there is nothing you can do” is terrible advice. To be charitable, it may have been that this consultant was unaware of any viable alternatives, but “I am not aware of any alternatives” versus “No alternatives exist” is a world of difference.

This is a classic category of tech bro response: “I don’t want to or don’t know how – but instead, I’ll just tell you it isn’t possible”.

The second story: it’s not me, it’s you!

The other business owner that I was talking to had spent upwards of $50,000 and still didn’t have anything to show for it – not a functioning website, a functioning CRM or even a sales funnel or course platform. Such a waste and so sad. The tech bros providing that service have continued to take this business owner’s money, building up and locking her into platforms that are never going to work for her because she cannot yet fully articulate what it is that she needs. In some respects, this would be a challenging client to provide a solution for. But as a technology service provider, it is important to confirm clients understand what they are getting. If they don’t, education and building a shared understanding of goals are critical components of the engagement, long before spending thousands on building things that are not needed and will never work.

This is a version of another classic tech bro line: “I would build you what you want, but you need to clearly describe it to me first. If you don’t understand, that’s on you”.

What to do about it?

In both these cases, the solution is not a technology solution. It is a human solution. My advice to the tech bros: listen carefully to your client. If you can’t explain what you are doing in a way the client understands, that is a tech bro problem, not a client problem. It is easy to be a clever tech bro who knows more about the tech than the average punter, but much harder to help your clients make informed choices about technology and own their own solutions. They might not even need you one day – and wouldn’t that be great? Then you can start helping someone else who needs it!

Despite all my experience with technology, I still sometimes get tech bros who tell me things can’t be done or that I must document exactly what I need them to do. I push back and say, “If you can’t explain what you are doing in a way that I understand, then I don’t want to work with you”.

For the business owners and commercial teams, know that you don’t need to accept the tech bro responses. Technology can be complex and confusing, but it is possible to understand without getting a computer science degree or learning to code. Get the right person on board that can explain it to you. The time you invest in finding the right support and understanding enough yourself to make informed choices will pay you back a thousand times over in being confident in your decisions and in making the most of your technology.

I’d love to hear your stories about tech bros and your tips for dealing with them. Let me know if you have an experience to share.

[1] While the tech bros are not necessarily male (at least one here is female), it is a persona I recognise all too well