You have all seen them. They are the industry press releases or digital sign news articles. They generally start out with something like the following:
Company XYZ, the industry leading digital signage provider, announced today…Blah, blah, blah.
My question is, just how many industry leading companies can one industry have? One? Five? Thirty? What makes a company an “industry leader” anyway?
An industry leader is much more than a software bundle and a subsequent support package. It involves an addendum. I know of several sign software providers whose product is sub-par at best, but whose management takes them above and beyond. While all the proverbial whistles and bells may not be present in a software or hardware company’s feature-set, the team may be qualified. The reverse is also true as well. A company with the very best software package on the market may not be a good fit for a firm who’ll need support to get their network off the ground. My point is this: choosing an industry leader is more than a choosing a software feature-set. It’s a much more encompassing decision.
What does it take to be an industry leading software provider?
I have written previously on features to look for in a digital signage software package. I can think of a couple of pieces of this list that are not included that should be. First, how innovative is the company you are dealing with? Is innovation a priority? If the answer to this question is no, then they may not be the best choice for your project. In a world where laggards get pushed aside and thrown in the dust, you don’t want to be on the same bandwagon. Let me put it another way: while the software fulfills the need, will it be upgradable and fill the need in five years? Will it still be the robust system and beyond as time moves on because development has made it so? Or, does the system have “FP” (“fat potential”–the potential to become lazy and worthless overtime)?
Another key component not included in my top 50 list is this: how well is the software supported? It’s wonderful that the sales team took you through this great process, showing you all the key-features of a what a signage installation would entail, but really are they going to closely hold your hand once the check arrives? A company I spoke with on the eastern seaboard worked with a local shop to install some digital billboards in their establishment. The software being used was a decent one by industry standards, but the support was non-existent. The sign firm, soon after payment was made, became almost completely distanced from the customer–ignoring support requests is not a good customer-retention tactic.
What does it take to have an industry leading company and team?
I think we can take this question and break it down. What does it take to be an industry leading support, marketing, sales, and development outfit? The original questions suddenly becomes much more complex. While I could spend time breaking each element down, I will not. I simply don’t have the time right now. Suffice it to say that having each element work together efficiently and in unison is a miracle to say the least. One of the greatest measurements in life and in business is the measurement of potential. I’ve a dear friend who spends his time selling SPIA annuities for both personal and business customers. He told me the following once and I think it really applies here:
When someone purchases or invests in real estate there are really only two ways to make money from it: you can sell it or you can rent it. That’s really it. But, when you analyze a business or an individual for that matter, you are banking on potential. What is the potential of that individual or entity over the next 30 years? Often it can be difficult to put a justifiable number to the equation. But, when you think about it the potential is limitless when you think of both businesses and individuals. This is why it is so difficult to put a price tag on human life. We can take the assets of a business or a human being and output the sum total and say, ‘here, this is what this entity is worth,’ but it will never do that person justice.
I really like this method of valuation, but at the same time, we must be very careful not to buy into potential–whether that’s management potential or product potential. It’s just not the safe route. But it is potential that leads venture and private equity firms to invest in literal no-names with a hope and a dream. They can see the potential of the individual and the entity. Long term promises leave us with feel good stories in five years, but they don’t necessarily fulfill our product/service needs right now–only established enterprises can fill that void. When it comes to digital media, there probably aren’t hundreds of “industry leaders,” but we’ll let egos continue to be stroked as companies tout themselves as industry-leaders. Some companies may just be the Frog Prince, with the real prince waiting to emerge. Others, on the other hand, are just a toad with no potential.