You know the one. It sits in his shed, well-loved but still sharp. He’s had it for 50 years and it still cuts wood as good as ever. Sure, it’s had 4 new handles and 3 new blades, but it still chops wood like it did the day Grandad bought it.
He bought it because he was an arborist. People paid him to come and chop their trees down. He developed a reputation for showing up with his axe at the ready. Within a day the tree was gone.
He charged well for it.
Grandad loved being an arborist, all he wanted to do was chop down trees. And he was the only arborist in town.
Until another aborist, Sam, showed up and brought some fancy new technology with him– a chainsaw. Sam could clear the same tree in half the time. He could chop down two small trees in a day, while Grandad was only able to do one.
And he charged less.
But Grandad stuck with his axe. He never spent the money on this new technology because he had his axe. Although the money he spent to keep that axe sharp and strong was more than enough to cover the ongoing costs of a chainsaw.
Gradually the customers stopped calling.
They didn’t want a guy with an axe, they wanted their tree chopped down.
Sam could work twice as fast for less! He could also cut down big trees, something Grandad could never do.
One day a shop set up in town that leased chainsaws. Suddenly people could cut their own trees down. For less than the cost Sam charged.
But there was still a market for him, because the townsfolk only want to cut down small trees – they still need Sam to take care of the big trees.
The trees which were too big for Grandad’s axe.
Grandad’s axe went back in the shed 30 years ago, alongside all the other tools he needed as an arborist. He stopped working for himself and got a job at the shop who leased out chainsaws.
He still loves chopping down trees, but there is no business for a guy with an axe.
30 years ago, your business bought a tool. It was the right tool at the time. Did all the things a business like yours needed. It became the heart of your business. Over time you’ve spent a bit of money to keep it running – a patch here, a customisation there.
Like how Grandad used to repair his axe.
And you still manage your customer base in an old leather journal.
Like Grandad used to.
But like Grandad, you never saw the need to do completely replace it with a newer technology.
And like Grandad, you’re the only business who town who sells the product you do. Customers come to you because they don’t have a choice, even though your product is essential.
If you upgraded your technology you’d be able to provide a better customer experience. Maybe sell more products as you track the customer lifecycle. Or sell to a broader market through a digital platform.
But you don’t bother, because it’s an expense.
There’s a problem though. Sam’s granddaughter, Julia, is moving back to town to start up her business. She will sell the same products as you, but she has a more modern platform from which to do it.
She can track the customer lifecycle.
She can tell who bought what, so she knows when it’s time to market the new model to them.
Something you could never do with your leather journal.
And Julia can do it for less.
On top of Julia coming home, a national big-box retail chain is thinking of opening in town next year. Their product is inferior to both yours and Julia’s, but it means that the parts of town who could never buy from you can now afford to.
And they can do it at scale.
If you’re not careful, you might end up like Grandad – working for the big-box retailer. Selling the same product. But the technology platform they have sure will make things easy for you.
Disrupt yourself, before someone else does.
And it doesn’t have to be hard.
Not if you follow the three-step process to identify your strategy.
1. Work out what your business vision is
2. Identify what capabilities you need to achieve that
3. Find the tools which deliver those capabilities
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