You’ve built up a healthy business helping entrepreneurs get the most of their IT. Your clients find solid value in your services and pay their bills on time (for the most part). Your people are diligent, creative, and thrive on collaboration.
Congratulations. You’re a star.
Still an opportunity exists for you to pursue new levels of customer enthusiasm and company growth.
The problem with maintaining the status quo
In our era of breakneck innovation, it’s all too easy to discover road hazards only after until they’ve slammed into your grille. Given the maturity of Web, mobile and other technologies, disintermediation opportunities – business models that eliminate the “middleman” – offer today’s low-hanging fruit. Thus the disintermediation innovations driven by companies like Travelocity, Netflix and Über have come to challenge the viability of entire segments like travel agencies, video stores and taxi companies.
Tellingly, Netflix’s rise caused the demise of brick-and-mortar video store Blockbuster, whose own rise killed off hundreds of independent video stores a few years earlier. Netflix now finds itself in the crosshairs of new classes of on-demand experience providers, from cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Change to Web providers like Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The point is, many recent corporate casualties rocketed to star status before getting displaced by a company with a new approach. Change happens and will continue to happen, albeit with ever-increasing velocity.
Turn stardom into superstardom
In this intense climate, the dynamics of innovation and competition can quickly reduce meteors to ashes. What’s a successful IT service provider to do?
Consider transforming your stardom to superstardom. Apply every resource your company has to offer –your leadership skills, your trusted employees, technology arsenal, political savvy, etc. – to the process of radical business reinvention.
The approach demands that you utterly erase all notions of what business you’re in – forget your taglines, slogans, and elevator pitches – and start with a blank slate. Then list the benefits your clients derive from working with you. Think holistically. Don’t write, “maintain Smith Insurance’s Microsoft SQL Server,” when you can write, “enable Smith to double sales team through $50K savings in annual operating expense.”
Once you’re done listing these benefits, take a 10,000-foot view of what you’ve got and ask the question: what line of business do we run?
Big brands routinely undergo similar transformations. Starbucks’ then-CEO Howard Schultz determined the company should not focus on high-end coffee but rather on providing a unique experience, a “third place” between home and work. E-tail startup Zappos dismissed the ambition to excel at selling shoes online from the outset, aiming instead to “deliver happiness.” Make no mistake: vision can drive huge value creation. CEO Tony Hsieh’s vision made Zappos very attractive to Amazon, which in November 2009 bought the company for $1.2 billion.
It may take a few sessions before you arrive at an answer that’s not “IT services provider.” That’s perfectly okay. Once interesting answers do start to surface, however, ask the next question, “What must we do to establish leadership in this business?” As the previous examples suggest, the answers may have nothing to do with IT.
The goal of this process is not to throw the keys to your company’s success out the window. On the contrary, it’s to take a fresh look at the core elements of your success and to retool accordingly. The ideas that emerge from this process will feed into other strategic endeavors, including your sales and marketing strategies and your corporate mission statement.
Keep in mind the overarching goal of all this creative brainstorming: to end-run the threat of obsolescence by reframing your already-successful business. To transform your business from stardom to superstardom. After all, there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe and a lot fewer superstars.