CRM software runs my life

Tag: innovation

Life in Start-up Country

Life of a Start-up
Living in a corporate apartment in the SOMA district of San Francisco is pretty glamorous. Cheerios, bottled pasta sauce, a coffee percolator and a laptop on the couch. Still, it’s quite a good experience and I have enjoyed the feeling of being amongst it all. Luckily I actually still get a wage from a company that is doing better than break-even, so I guess I’m not really living the start-up lifestyle.

Meetings happen faster here, you don’t have to think about timezones and languages so much and you can talk to product face to face if you don’t agree with their direction. These are things that are easy to take for granted if you work in the US. On the flip side the diversity and distance challenges in APAC make it an incredibly exciting area to be working in.

It would be nice to have the best of both worlds, but not sure when or if that will happen. I’m starting to think that the best way to operate is to make APAC as self-sufficient as possible. Borrow the good things, and go it alone in areas you don’t agree. I think we can even get to the point where APAC is the innovative region and the US can learn from us. That sounds like an inspiring challenge to me. It’s not quite a start-up, but it’s the same skills right?

 

The Innovator’s Dilemma – Book Review

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen is one of the best business books I have ever read. It focuses on the practical aspects of innovation, with two key points (for me at least):

  1. You are most vulnerable when you are most profitable
  2. You need to create the start-up that undermines your most profitable products before someone else does
  3. New markets need simple, cheap products which hit a critical new requirement

This book is great inspiration for those seeking to become entrepreneurs, it shows practical examples of where start-ups have seized on opportunities and completely blind-sided the highly profitable incumbent. That’s the dream right? It also serves as a great warning to those in big business who feel chasing the margins instead of innovation is the path to success. It certainly puts forward a compelling argument, one that even NASA seems to think has merit.

Perhaps margins should be the guide for businesses, but they should work on a goal of an average margin across all their products instead. That way they can maintain a balance of high profitability mature businesses with low profitability emerging businesses. Of course this would need to be combined with some “profit margins must never decrease on a product” rule. Doing this without cannibalising your own offerings (by differentiating based on high end vs low end customers) however is a very fine line to tread.

The other practical reflection I had reading this book was on the Engineering vs Sales argument. Which side is better equipped to run a successful business? I am still yet to work anywhere that balances these two sides perfectly, it always seems to fall one way or the other. My thoughts after reading this book were that an emerging organisation needs to be run by the engineers (focus on product success, not profits or impossible projections) and mature businesses by sales people (focus on profits, finding upmarket customers).

What did you get out of this book?

Learning business by charts


I am someone who learns visually. I absorb charts, screenshots, videos etc. a lot faster than any other medium. Business knowledge is something that often doesn’t come in this format however (perhaps why the first business discipline I learned was marketing). However I have found a Twitter feed (yes, there is useful content on Twitter) that I have really grown to love. http://twitter.com/chartoftheday

This graph was used to illustrate how poorly Microsoft Office 2010 was performing sales-wise, but wow what a difference between Windows Vista (Jan 2007 launch) and Windows 7 ( Oct 2009 launch). It completely masks the decline in Office sales, even though Office sales are obviously an equally big cash cow for Microsoft. It also makes the Server and Tools slice of the pie look tiny, even though it actually represents $1b a year in operating profit.

I also liked this chart of how Apple cannibalised the entire mobile phone industries’ sales with the iPhone. I am reading the Innovators Dilemma at the moment, and the release of a well executed touch screen phone certainly represents a disruptive technology in my eyes. It still amazes me that such a massive market filled with well established players can just be turned on its head in a few short years. More specifically Nokia’s share price copped a beating ever since the release of the iPhone, the subject of yet another chart. What is interesting to me is that Apple’s rapid rise ironically precipitated a huge boom in the adoption of open source mobile software in Android. I guess that the previous market leaders had their hands full competing with Apple’s hardware and didn’t have the time or resources to produce new software from scratch.

There are plenty more charts out there that will make you stop and think, and each one can be read into (rightly or wrongly) 100 different ways.

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