Convergence Channel: Tour de Convergence
Comparisons are often made between the competition and endurance aspects of athletic activities to pursuits in the business world. Eight tips for riding high illustrate parallels between the convergence wave and cycling.
You’ll need all 21 speeds+ for this hilly road course! The convergence market redefines competition with new rules, people, standards, expectations, channels of distribution, training requirements, technology, approaches to physical security, customers and expectations for performance. Earning the yellow jersey each leg of the journey will take strategy, commitment and energy.
There are many different growth opportunities to leverage a company’s strengths in the converged marketplace. It can be confusing for the entire industry food chain, including manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer reps, systems integrators, trade associations and end users to understand their roles. There are numerous “gear” selection choices, and whether facing a business or a high stakes bicycle race, I am not just talking about products.
The convergence growth opportunities are significant if you and your company are in condition to take advantage of the new opportunities and changing customer conditions. I was giving this matter some thought while on my morning bicycle ride (can you tell?). Funny how difficult it is to remain fit in my “greybeard” period. Just when you have it figured out, it gets tougher, just like running a company. My ride revealed an analogy to the convergence market.
As a result, I came up with eight rules to ponder as you look at your true converged business opportunities, your current condition and some guidelines (rules) to get into shape.
Rule #1: Get Conditioned
Before taking a 12-mile ride or providing network-based physical security solutions, you better get some basic conditioning. Otherwise people are likely to find you sprawled out next to the bike path or in your banker’s office asking for an extension on your operating credit line! Basic conditioning for riding may include walking for a week or two. The same may also be true as a systems integrator by taking a walk through your company.
Walking provides the right pace to objectively observe and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Slow it down a bit. Rushing into business decisions or exercise can have disastrous results. Taking it slow allows you to continually increase the complexity of your routine, as well as taking on larger and more complex network-centric projects.
This approach “conditions” you for growth and strength. In a recent debriefing of a lost project ($5 million range) for a client with their general contractor, they revealed that they looked for subcontractors that showed a history of “scaling” project size; so they learned from growth.
Rule #2: Plan Your Journey
Whether bicycling or charting a new business direction, knowing where you are headed can define the quality and profitability of your trip. When biking I like to plan the “uphill” or high resistance legs (hills) early when I have more energy. This also makes sense when taking on new challenges in the business world. I find that the uphill legs in business often involve the planning and analyzing of capabilities.
We get so busy “running” the business that we find little energy for “planning” the business because it is difficult. Where will you anticipate the toughest part of your journey? What will be uphill in your trip? What resources can you tap into to help provide depth in your growth phase? Outside partners can provide some objectivity and act as a sounding board.
Do your planning early and with discipline when you have the energy. The more energy you expend in the outbound part of your journey, the easier the ride home will be. Make sure you check the prevailing winds before your trip!
Rule #3: Know Your Competition
Biking with my son, Brian, who is a 20-year-old rugby player at Kent State University, is a great way to hang out until I try to keep up with his pace! My son pushes me. A good competitor will push you to be better. The ability to “step up” your game is much like competing against a smaller, younger and fast moving IT-focused company that wants to expand into the physical security integration market.
This is not to say you should try and match a competitor’s strength head-on. Instead, find and understand your unique strengths. For me, experience and cunning can give me a small edge with my son. If your strength is in a vertical market with strong referrals, then exploit that knowledge, your relationships and the opportunities. When a large, well-funded competitor is playing in your market space, work and pedal smarter.
Rule #4: Be Ready for All Weather
When you pursue new market segments or head out for a ride, the weather forecast can play a huge part in the success of your journey. If you are pedaling into a strong headwind, it is a very visceral experience between effort and forward progress. In business, the feedback of wind in your face may be more subtle and fool you, which can lead to poor decisions.
An example would be a drop in your margins to compete in hardware sales. Recognize that you may have to look for other value-added services to meet your profitability goals. Headwinds can be managed if you acknowledge them, note their direction and determine their velocity. Knowing the direction of competitive headwinds may help you understand the resistance you will encounter on your route, but more importantly to plan alternate routes that take less energy and money.
When I encounter strong headwinds, I hunker down on the handle bars and complain about my bad back to my son. Remember that cunning reference?
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