keys to the back door
As this wild year wraps up and transitions to 2007 through the fog induced by fermented juices and too much sugar, it is a good time to be reminded of the important things in life, both on the personal as well as the business side. Success in life is truly about strong relationships built on fun and trust. Of course, there are lots of other factors to success but with all else being mostly equal in the end (there are lots of smart, creative people out there) relationships end up making the biggest difference. An yet this is often overlooked in most business books. I can't believe how many people are willing to help me just because I ask. I guess you have to know what yo need and not be afraid to ask for it.
I've written about a number of strategies I'm using to create differentiation and a defensible position. All useful stuff I think ... but sometimes it is over analytical. The reality is that we're putting together a fantastic team I am very proud of and will be creating products that will be really engaging. We've bounced the concept off enough people to know we are definitely on the right track but having a good concept and great technology to back it does not guarantee success. Failure is simply not an option so we have to put all the chips on our side. To get our product out there, we need elements that cannot be captured in a business plan. How do you measure the value of strong relationships?
A very successful guy provided us some excellent advice this week. He basically said (paraphrasing) "in an nascent market, everyone is bullshitting". Basically, when you are pushing the edge and treading new ground, no one is really sure what piece of the technology will be valuable and what customers will really go for. Customers will therefore work with people they know and trust. This is true of end consumers like you and I as well as well as larger customers. I decided on an iPOD several years ago because I trusted Apple. I knew their product was going to be great before I even got it. I didn't have to shop around and compare prices and features ... I just went with Apple to save myself the trouble and risk and I was not disappointed. Roughly 70 Million people seem to agree (that's how many iPODs have been sold!)
Corporate customers are the same. They want to work with people they know and trust. If you can gain that trust, it allows you to get connected with them earlier and work together to create something that is valuable for both sides. What really allowed us to create something valuable for major customers in previous companies was some good relationships that got us in the door before we actually had anything more than powerpoint slides. We then went off and designed products that not only fit them like a glove ... no wonder they continue to sell like hot cakes. Without the initial relationships, we would have floundered for a while and probably failed.
Interestingly enough, products that failed to secure some major contracts failed because we no longer had the right relationships in place at the highest levels. One of the products was the most capable and advanced product of its kind in the world and was backed by a world leading technical team. Our pricing was lower and the key features were available far sooner than our competition. The reason for the failure to secure the deals was mostly due to poorly timed personnel changes that prevented us from taking full advantage of the relationships we previously had. "Incumbency trumps technology"
In the end, you need good products based on good technology but people and relationships are the true differentiators. The reminder of this obvious critical factor will redirect our strategy to take advantage of relationships we already have as well as building the relationships we don't yet have before we really need them.
For the next couple of weeks, I'll be focusing on the relationships that truly matter.
I wish you all a fantastic holiday season and I'll see you back in 2007.
Master of the Impossible