My partner and I have been talking about Darwinism a lot with respect to our businesses.  We think  this recession represents a huge opportunity to well operated business.

Think about it, in really good times, just about anyone can survive, make money and stay in business. But when the environment becomes more difficult, only those businesses who are business who are best suited to the conditions will survive. Best suited can mean a lot of things, ability to adapt, better run, have a stockpile of resources etc.

An analogy describes this in natural terms. Two Lion’s share one hunting ground when times are good and there is plenty of game around. When drought hits, the weaker Lion falters and eventually starves. The stronger Lion survives because they’re better suited and now has the entire hunting ground to themselves. When the drought breaks, this Lion still has that entire patch.  

The point is, that if you play this right, you can not only ‘survive’, you can come out the other side in a much much stronger position.

Applying this theoretical approach to the real world, take Ben Kepes sarcastic post about SAP. If a competitor like Netsuite could prove to the market that they are by far a better proposition and actually put SAP out of business or so severely damage them that they retrench to a niche. The upside is huge, only one player in the field to win all the business. (I’m not suggesting this is likely BTW).

If you buy into the SaaS proposition, then this is the opportunity this ‘recession’ now affords you.  Check yourself out, do you have what it takes to not only survive, but to profit from this situation?

If you are in old world businesses like my partner and I, how does this apply? Are your nearest competitors struggling? If so, what can you do to make it even tougher so that when the tide turns you are the only game in town.

Some might view this as harsh, but survival of the fittest binary.  Which one are you going to be?

How you define your business has large impacts

Let me frame this with an real life example.

My partner and I own two small businesses, configure express woman’s gyms. Like all small traders, we often have to put a lot of trust in our staff. Occasionally this doesn’t work out, the classic case being when someone doesn’t turn up to open up for business (gyms start early!)

Now, if they are the only person on shift (which happens), we currently have no way of knowing that the business isn’t open which is absurd because we pay a company to monitor it for break in’s etc. But, THEY WON’T OFFER US A SERVICE TO TELL US WHEN THE PLACE INSN’T OPEN despite us asking.

Why not? Well they answer thus, “we’re a security company, that isn’t what we do”.  Which is true, but they have a system on premise already that can tell when people are in the building, their system will alert them when the alarm hasn’t been set at the right time of night, their system will even tell them to call the premise if the alarm is unarmed at an odd hour.

If they simply redefined their service offering as “we’re a monitoring and alerting company” then bingo, whole new market proposition, market differentiation and even more important, more money for virtually no extra work.

To me there is a strong lesson here for all businesses, even our gyms. Think about how your collective definition of what you do shows up. Is this still relevant? Can, with a small tweak you create even more value.

Some examples for you,

We’re in the weightloss industry  OR  we’re in the beauty industry or the health industry

We’re a CRM company  OR we’re in the PaaS industry, or we are a hub for SaaS applications (salesforce.com)

We’re a search company OR we’re in the  business of ordering the worlds information (Google)


Which is more powerful, relevant and commercially sound?

So what industry are you in?

Money needs to flow to the Artists

There's quite a fracas between ISP's and the recording industry kicking off in New Zealand at the moment as a controversial piece of legislation comes into force. It's nothing new in so far as other governments have been silly enough to try and make ISP's the fall guys for a miserably inept industry and business model.

All of the counterfactual to the ISP's has been from the industry, not the artists. People who say they want to protect the artists ability to make money.

Well I have no doubt it is about money, but I can confidently say that its got virtually nothing to do with the artist because its not them that makes the money.

Check this out from Steve Albini , a guy who produces records. According to his generic picture, the artist receives just 2% of the profits, the record company gets 62%. No wonder its them trying to protect the status quo through lobby.

It seems to me that these organisations missed what technology disruption would do to their industry. It seems to me that by fighting a defensive action like this that they can't think of another way to make the kind of money that they are used too. It seems to me that artists themselves should start being heard here. 

It also seems to me that artists should start disintermediating the leeches in their industry and use the disruptive technology to their advantage. Music as a service anyone ?

step back & think

I had the opportunity to go into a Borders book store over the weekend. Weird I know but remarkably insightful. As an indicator of social mood, the ‘self help’ section is unparalleled.

A year ago the titles were an about building wealth, being more successful or creating a property empire. Now…. well now its all about happiness & surviving the downturn, but mainly about happiness& how to get it.

If this is a leading indicator of social change it is clearly saying that  the fad of ‘money is good’ has certainly past. Perhaps for the betterment of the world at large. Maybe.

I can’t help but think of a cartoon my son likes to watch in which the 3 boys struggle to get current with the cul-de-sac fads. There is a line at the and where Edd says “Never mind Eddy, if we keep this stuff in 20 years we’ll be back in fashion”. There’s something in those words that we could all learn.

Depending on your point of view, either it’s “lets learn from history & not repeat these mistakes” or it is “get prepared for the next money is good phase”. Your call

Social media adding value to corporations

I know, there’s been a lot of detractors of social media. Questions like “how will this stuff help us?” being top of mind. Well today Salesforce.com announced its service cloud initiative.

I may not be doing it justice to describe it, but to me it looks like a great Mashup between Facebook.com (just facebook.com at the moment) and SFDC. Effectively your CRM instance is ‘listening’ in on Facebook.com for questions or comments about your products.

When the API ‘hears” a conversation, it populates the helpdesk module and the customers knowledge base. This effectively turns the user community and their VAST knowledge into a support desk for the company. Perhaps more importantly, because the user community is more responsive, has the same culture and language it is probably a better support function.

Think about how you the user get support for items, especially opensource. If you are like me you tend to Google it, or search forums and product wiki’s. Imagine if all that data and knowledge was replicated into the vendors website or straight into the contact centre applications. Extremely powerful.

There are myriads of uses for this, think about reoccurring issues, think about prototypes and how they can evolve, the language of FAQ’s, acquisition targets (frequently suggested widgets that go with) etc etc

Very cool, and potentially paradigm changing. 

The Genius of Seth

I've been struggling a bit lately. Main issue is coming to terms with what I want to do with my life, and especially what i'm going to do in that 10 hour period of the day most people call 'work'.

To be honest its been stressing me out. So it was with a huge grin a lot of relief I read this post from Seth Godin. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/12/predictions.html. 
Love that last bit, major lift for me. Thanks Seth

But just think about how impossible it is for you to predict what your life is going to be like in four or six years… being ready for anything is the only rational strategy.