Machine-to-machine communications and technologies have pushed businesses to examine their processes, look for ways to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and to increase profits through innovation and collaboration. But, in an age of increasing entrepreneurship and diversity, many small businesses and start ups struggle with staying focused.
I recently spoke with a manager at a small security firm that primarily provides home alarm systems and wants to expand from small-time residential clients to commercial ones. We discussed their products and services, where the company is headed, and what roadblocks exist for them. I realized the root of the company’s problems was their lack of focus. The company also offers other security services such as providing security officers, personal bodyguards, and private investigators, but it currently doesn’t have enough manpower or systems in place to actually deliver on services offered. It’s trying to be a one-stop-shop for security needs, but has become a master of none.
Trying to do too much before your company has the ability to support and manage its services creates roadblocks in operations, impedes planning, and damages your brand’s reputation. Having a focused, proactive mentality, as a company, is crucial to providing quality products and services, thus guaranteeing customer satisfaction, and solidifying a reputation of excellence, independent of your company’s industry.
Many companies try to do too much too soon, resulting in confusion and poor customer service. There are four ways a small business can stay on track, becoming more deliberate in its decisions and maintaining an M2M mentality: find your roots, team up with reliable partners/vendors, look ahead, and listen to your customers.
Find Your Roots
Remember why you created your company in the first place. What problem(s) were you trying to solve? Who would benefit from your solution? What services did you find most important? After asking questions like these, examine your current products and services and the problems they are attempting to solve. How far have you deviated from your original intentions? Did you move at all? If not, why? Too much deviation can cause problems, but so can not moving at all – you don’t want to stagnate.
Team up with Reliable Partners and Vendors
Whether you are looking for your first job or you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you need reliable people around you to help you achieve your goals. Finding a reliable partner or vendor for your company is key to your success. If your partners continually miss deadlines or are unable to deliver the goods and services you need, it may be time to revaluate that partnership. If you don’t currently have a partner, start looking at companies that have goals similar to you and see if there are ways you can grow your businesses together. However, be careful about which companies you choose to partner with. Make sure that your partner is reliable and provides quality products and services; you don’t want to tie yourself to a sinking ship.
Using the security firm as an example, the technology works, but the devices that are used have limited capabilities. As the connected home technologies increase in popularity and quality, customers will want the option of connecting their home security systems with the rest of their lives. By not providing a gateway with at least the capability to “connect,” the firm risks losing customers to its competitors, or will have to face additional installations, the purchasing of new technologies later on, and potentially charge customers for upgrades. All of this can be avoided.
Though customer interest in the connected home only comprises 2 to 3 percent of the market, customer demand of new technologies and security features are rapidly progressing. The security firm does a disservice to its customers by limiting connected capabilities for their target market. By looking ahead and anticipating this change in the market, the firm could capture additional benefits for their customers, as well as their own business. Perceiving future demands of their customers and implementing a gateway capable of connecting allows the company to market itself to a broader audience. Ultimately this will help combat customer loss, reduce installation costs, and platform changes. By simply selecting a gateway that can connect, the firm can offer a one-stop alarm service, no matter where their customers’ interests lie.
You want to select devices that will work for your services and your company’s budgets, but don’t seal yourself off from technologies that could grow your business at a later date. Find scalable devices that will grow with you, so you don’t have to back track later. Communicating with your partners and vendors will help you avoid this, as well as staying on top of current market trends, and what your customers actually need.
Listen to Your Customers
Most importantly, you want to stay current on customer interests by conducting market surveys and feedback sheets after services are provided. Listening to what your customers want and what their perceptions of your company are will provide the best direction for your company. This will help you separate tech fads and the latest marketing “must-haves” from what you actually need.
Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide what is best for your company, but through collaboration and foresight, you can make informed decisions about what your next moves should be. That’s what the M2M mentality is all about – remaining focused, informed, and collaborating with partners and vendors to push innovation and services, ensuring your company stays proactive rather than reacting to customer needs after it’s too late.
Joyce Deuley is an M2M analyst and writer at James Brehm & Associates.
Edited by Maurice Nagle