“So what does your company do?”
Sounds easy enough to answer, right? Dig deeper, however, and it might be a lot tougher to answer. At least it was for me over the last 20 years I’ve been in business. Here’s a little timeline of how I answered that question as our company has grown and evolved:
“We make websites.”
“We’re a website developer.”
“We make websites, but also applications.”
“We build websites and web applications that integrate with databases.”
“We’re a web development company that builds mobile, desktop and custom applications.”
“We’re a web development company that builds websites, mobile and custom application utilizing technologies such as DNN, SharePoint…”
See where I’m going here? The longer I was in business, the longer my simple answer became. It also became more specific, which, conversely, made it much more difficult for people to understand… or care about. Not only was I putting people to sleep, but most importantly, the answer I was giving was no longer even accurate.
That realization came about this last year when we hired Mark Stiles as our Director of Business Development and began developing a comprehensive sales program. As sales had always been a bit of an informal affair, the task of developing an actual sales program was completely foreign. But it forced us to take a long, hard look at what we were actually doing, at our strengths, and at what benefits we were delivering to our clients.
We learned that although we were referring to ourselves as a “website development company,” just 35 percent of our actual work was website development. The lion’s share of our work — 65 percent — was in application development. And even with the 35 percent of website development, a large portion involved integrating the website with applications.
Were we no longer a website development company? Were we now an application development company? That would be the easy answer, but we saw that as a trap. If we went down that road, would we be saying in five years “We’re an application development company that specializes in building mobile applications for fill-in-the-blank?” We ran the risk of being right back where we started.
Instead, through a combination of inside and outside “eyes,” we took a broader look at our business. Websites. Mobile apps. Custom applications. As shiny and interesting as they might be, these are all just vehicles built for a higher purpose: capturing and delivering information. That information might be to drive new sales, to increase productivity, retain clients, train members, the list goes on. In the end, it’s all about the information.
Looking at it from that high a level was, for us, transformative. It made it suddenly very easy to see what we truly do: we make information matter for our clients.
The truth is, we’d actually been doing that very thing for years; we just didn’t see it. A classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
So what does your company do? Maybe it’s time to dust off the answer and see if it’s still relevant.