How will you defend your patch against the online interloper?

The history of technological development is awash with wildly inaccurate predictions.

“We think there’s a global market for about five computers” said one IBM Chairman in the 1940s.

The same decade, the president of 20th Century Fox proclaimed: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

This millennium saw the then chief executive of Microsoft predict: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

And more recently, several thousand business operators swore that they couldn’t see the internet affecting their business in any measurable way.

Ignore it and it won’t go away

More recently, several thousand business operators swore that they couldn’t see the internet affecting their business in any measurable way.

I should know — I’ve been told the same thing by business owners for over two decades now in my attempts to warn them about the danger of apathy towards the internet.

And they are probably the words of most retailers, taxi companies, bookstores and newspaper publishers at some point in the past decade.

The truth is, no matter how little internet communications has to do with your industry directly, someone somewhere on the planet is devising new ways to use the internet to gain themselves a sizable chunk of it.

Who is planning your demise?

These people aren’t necessarily technology geniuses. What’s more likely is three key things:

  1. 1. They understand how the internet fundamentally works. By this I don’t mean how it physically works as in computers and modems and connections, but how it works as a business model by using e-commerce, social media, apps and so on;
  2. 2. They understand your industry well, and know that it is predicated on old and outdated business models and systems that are now simply unnecessary; and
  3. 3. They aren’t married to these redundant business practices by employment or income stream. They are unencumbered enough by ‘the old way’ that they are able to think clearly about the way things have been done and that there are much better ways of doing things.

If you examine the founders of Uber, Amazon, Apple, Google, Youtube and others, you’ll find that they all possess these characteristics.

That’s all well and good, but what has it to do with smaller business? As it turns out, plenty.

My point is that there’s unlikely to be a single industry that isn’t going to be, or already has, been greatly affected by the internet.

Too massive to ignore

With its amalgam of communications, channels to market, advertising and community facilitation, the internet is simply too ubiquitous and powerful not to affect every business there is — no matter how remote it appears from any particular industry.

As this blog has suggested for some years now, the only way to fully insulate your business from competitors you never dreamed of is to throw away the history books and the operations manuals and re-imagine your business as if it started today, instead of the time it did.

No not a decade back, not even five years back. Not even yesterday. Today.

How would you design your business with today’s technology, business models and global market?

Lessons learned from former market leaders

If the leadership teams of Borders, Yellow Pages, Kodak, Virgin Megastore and companies in the taxi industry had all done this on a regular basis, there is no way they would be where they are today.

Instead, they would most likely be the market leaders of the industries they play in, having reaped the rewards of extensive industry experience, coupled with a clear understanding of how consumers want to get their product, or more presciently, how they are going to want to get it.

Such an approach provides very clear cues about what you need to do in your business.

Is it the attitude you apply to your business?

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