Tools of the (Future) Trade

By Beacon Staff

Ever have one of those vendors that supplies something that is so amazing that you can’t cure yourself of them?

I deal with one of those in the software side of my world. And of course, their customer service is nowhere near ideal. They rarely communicate with their clients. They do a few things that are downright rude.

And yet – the stuff I get from them is so productive for me, even though it pains me to deal with them, I still use it.

I don’t recommend this situation. In fact, I’m already working myself out of it, despite the fact that I love the tool and despise the actions of the company that sells it.

Recently I got an email from a client that suggested a new idea for their organization that was out there well beyond what the aforementioned tool will do. Admittedly, there are other reasons why this tool isn’t appropriate for the project, but that is beside the point. There’s not much out there that will do what was asked for. What is out there is over the top expensive, and of course the client can’t go anywhere near there.

That’s the gist of today’s conversation: future speak.

When wearing the tech hat, my job is sometimes to put things in front of clients that challenge them, that make them think, “Hmm, why haven’t we been doing this since 1924?”

2 years and a few months ago, Apple released the iPhone on the scene. To a man (or woman), anyone I’ve ever discussed it with who hasn’t actually held one and used it says something like this: “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?”

That’s not an altogether bad thing because actually using it does open your eyes to what is possible.

Look at AT&T. Almost universally disliked or at least, not very well liked by a lot of folks.

Despite them being the sole provider of cell service for the iPhone, Apple still makes fun of them (for good reason in many cases), usually because of the quality/features of their service. Amazingly, AT&T’s churn rate (how many people leave their service each month) is just over 1%. That’s a record low for AT&T, but it isn’t so much because of their service. It’s because they’re currently the only way to get service for an iPhone in the U.S.

The point about the iPhone is that until you use a next-generation, game-changing tool – it just might be hard to see why you even need such a thing. It’s your job as the best, smartest, most dashingly attractive (maybe that’s pushing it) vendor in your market to create things like the iPhone for *your* customers.

I don’t necessarily mean hardware or telephones. I mean game-changing stuff, whatever that stuff might be.

A game-changing device transformed the business of an also-ran cell provider, just like the next big thing in your niche can transform your market or your customers’ market.

The questions you need to be asking yourself:

What is your industry’s next iPhone? IE: the next game-changing product, service, technique or whatever.

Does my current toolbox allow me to go there? Your toolbox might be intellectual property law, water quality sensors, draw knives, programming tools or circular saws. Doesn’t matter. Can you stretch their abilities such that they *really* stretch what you create?

If not, are you going to let them hold you back? Are you going to let them hold your customers back?

I was talking with a friend in the software business the other day who was complaining a little about waiting for a “roadmap to the future” from Microsoft. He was waiting for that so he could map out his own product line’s future.

I asked him “Isn’t waiting on someone else’s roadmap like not having one of your own?” I told him that I felt it was my job (and my clients’) to have the vision and my vendors’ job to put the tools in front of me to make it easier. If they don’t, I see no reason to sit around waiting on them.

What do your tools need to do to allow you to build the next big thing you need to build?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.

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