"All of these gadgets require an intense reading of all the instructions because the buttons are pushed two or three times," she says. "To maximize your use, you really need to understand your new wireless gadget."
One reason she enjoys text messaging is that she believes she communicates better through the written word than in voice conversations, and it has the added benefit of creating a communication record. "It helps me tremendously to put something in writing and then send it to managers," she says.
Dennis Garcia, president of Potomac Management Group in Alexandria, Virginia (403rd on the Hispanic Business 500), says telephone conversations don't have the same clarity of communication as the written word. "I like a message to be very distinct," he says. "I think that what is imperative to business now is getting the message right the first time."
Mr. Garcia says that's one reason the BlackBerry Wireless Handheld is so popular in the Washington, D.C., area. "The BlackBerries are winning out over cell phones 3-to-1 because you just get pure text in," he says.
Made by Canada's Research In Motion, the BlackBerry is a combination cell phone, organizer, and text messenger that enables users to send and receive e-mails in what is essentially real time. They're popular among members of Congress who need to communicate constantly with their offices, Mr. Garcia says.
He recently upgraded to the BlackBerry 6710 because it has a built-in cell phone. This wallet-sized device also has a built-in thumb-typing keyboard and navigation track wheel and enables users to send and receive attachments.
At less than five ounces, the BlackBerry 6710 also offers Short Messaging Service (SMS) and browser capabilities. SMS is a form of short-text messaging that is quicker than sending and receiving e-mails. Like Ms. Pliego Stout's Nokia 3590, the BlackBerry 6710 comes with a built-in browser that enables retrieval of news and information from the Internet in text form.
Mr. Garcia says he sometimes shuts his cell phone off, but he checks his BlackBerry at all hours. His cell phone is the compact Motorola V60I, which fits easily into a shirt pocket. Initiating or ending a call is simply a matter of opening or closing the cover, unless you choose the "key answer" option.
Ariel Schmidt, president of Atlantic Graphic Services in Clinton, Massachusetts (number 431 on the Hispanic Business 500), recently purchased a device equivalent to the BlackBerry. The Palm Tungsten W is an outgrowth of 3Com's Palm Pilot, which revolutionized the personal organizing world several years ago.
Jason Schmidt, Ariel Schmidt's son, says his Argentinean-born father keeps well connected with two cell phones - one to carry with him and the other installed in his car - and, most recently, the Palm Tungsten W.
Mr. Schmidt says his father uses the Palm Tungsten W as a daytime organizer and a place to store lists, memos, and notes on meetings. It also stores his address book, has an earphone attachment for easier telephone communication, and sends and receives e-mails.
Elizabeth Pohl, president and CEO of Trinity Construction Enterprises in Albuquerque (number 306 on the Hispanic Business 500), says having a contraption that can do everything isn't always a positive. Some devices that try to do too much don't do anything particularly well, she says, and some features trumpeted by marketing departments go unused.
"My frustration with technology is that there is always the latest and the greatest," she says. "If it works, I don't want to change it. If it doesn't have the functions that I need now or if I can't use it three years from now, I don't want it."
Ms. Pohl says one technological advance she would like to see is wireless Internet access. She uses her laptop computer whenever she travels or whenever she's in the field visiting job sites. She would like to be able to access the Internet from wherever she happens to be.
"If I can access the Internet, I can access either my main computer or main printer or go to multiple locations for information without having to come back to the office to do it," she says.
Widespread wireless Internet access is still a long way off, but airports, hotels, and cafes increasingly offer hubs that provide it.
Ms. Ardisana says that although she uses her cell phone a lot, her favorite form of communication is e-mail because, like Mr. Garcia and Ms. Pliego Stout, she believes she can communicate more clearly using the written word. On the road, she uses a Dell Latitude CS laptop to send and receive e-mails from her hotel room because it's small and lightweight (4.3 pounds) and has a docking station that enables her to grab and go.
"I travel a lot, and there's nothing worse, particularly these days, than schlepping a bunch of stuff through an airport. I want the lightest-weight stuff I can schlep," she says.
She also owns a Palm V that she uses to keep her calendar when she's out of town. It serves as her phone directory, which she finds particularly helpful when traveling. The Palm V, like other handhelds, allows her to electronically exchange business cards with other handhelds, a feature that speeds up the process and provides less interruption in meetings. "I'll be in a meeting and someone will say, 'I'll beam this over to you,' " she says.
Ms. Pliego Stout uses a Palm III to keep her calendar, phone numbers, and addresses. She says she uses it daily, and at the end of the day she prints out what she has done.
"Once you get very familiar with how to use these electronic gadgets, you just cannot live without them," she says. She also believes such gadgets help her run her business more effectively by making it easier for her to stay in touch with her 18 offices around the country.
"When I started my business, I had always a fear that I would not be in contact when I had to travel, and right now that is not a problem," Ms. Pliego Stout says. "I'm connected and in control."
But not everyone is enamored with the high-tech, wireless world.
Stephen Martines, CEO of Steve's Equipment Service in the Chicago area, says he fired an employee recently for spending too much time with his PDA. "Every time I looked at him he was punching something into that thing or downloading stuff onto the computer. He spent more time with that than he did with his customers."
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