Disruption is leveling the playing field between big and small enterprises across the globe and I saw it happening over a decade ago.
It’s likely you have a business which does one of the following; You sell a product, or you sell a service.
The tangible or intangible. Either way, whether you are big or small as an entity both types of business can be disrupted, are convertible to, and are almost always more profitable as an online business once you see technology as an enabler of better relationships.
Product businesses are great, especially if you love selling your product. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you do it via affiliates, whether you own a franchise of are an inventor and have something to sell. However, the physical product industry gets more competitive because all you have to do it come up with the same thing but better and you can steal market share by the tonne. Sometimes all you have to do is relabel another product, market to a specific target audience and make millions, like many have done with the ‘niche e-commerce’ drop-shipping model.
If you didn’t witness it, then you’re likely to have heard about the demise of Kodak and Blockbuster, along with the rise of companies like Netflix, Airbnb and Uber. I have seen first hand large businesses crumble because of their failure to innovate.
This is the story of my first encounter.
While I was still at school my mum got me a job at a factory where they manufactured and distributed household cleaning products. It wasn’t a bad gig but it did open up my eyes to some crazy goings on.
Like most factory lines you can move around the line doing different areas and mine always started with bottles. Spray bottles for window cleaner, bleach, washing up liquid. I would stand between these two huge cardboard boxes full of empty washing up liquid bottles with my hands up and my fingers spread ready for another hour of intense bottle-to-production-line action.
I would move onto each of the sections one by one until the day was over; from bottles to labels, boxing and pallet wrapping, every day I would watch todays liquid colour fill thousands of bottles until one day I came across something peculiar.
That day felt quieter than usual. I was putting bottles onto the belt but there didn’t seem to be a changeover, which for all intent and purposes was where they cleaned the tank between yellow liquid and blue liquid, but it didn’t happen. I got to ‘bottle top screw-on’ and watched as they changed the labels from private named brand to supermarket own brand. I didn’t think anything of it at first until I got to the box packing section when I realised.
I was stunned. Two bottles with different labels had the exact same liquid inside. I’m telling you this because the company had the best year they ever had financially, until they were shut down shortly after my departure from the company. There was no investigation and no press coverage that I know of but two things happened at that time which couldn’t have been predicted or prevented.
The software that the company used to fill the bottles also tracked volume fill inside the bottles and due to an oversight the bottles were being slightly overfilled. Compounded over time the company we’re actually losing money. At the same time there was another company who found a way to have 2 people manning a machine which had done the same job as my employer with 8-9 people running it. Thus, innovation took over. It was only a matter of time.
Companies who sell a tangible product can follow in the footsteps of giants like Ebay, Amazon, Alibaba or even use these services to create a low-cost, scalable business model to grow beyond what you thought of, like the drop-shipping model I mentioned. Imagine the same business on autopilot, the whole operation, 40,000sq.ft. of production house running with only one pair of hands. It’s possible and you don’t need to do more than ask the question to a search engine to find the answer.
Technology can level the playing field between small businesses and large corporations and most of the time it doesn’t take resources. It takes a decision.
I decided in my last business as a mortgage adviser that technology was going to play a big part in our future. An industry which hadn’t had any significant change outside of regulation since the internet itself. In a business which relies so heavily on the advice you give to a client and where fines are issued by the regulator daily for miss-selling.
I was seeing it happen again.
I've done my research and against all odds I've built a system to reduce the time to process a mortgage from up to 15 hours to under 60 minutes.
I’m not special though. There were two other companies, highly funded through venture capital and who spent £1.5million building their company. I built Mortgy, my company from a few thousand pounds and the blood, sweat and tears of someone who had something to prove.
Technology is our enabler – not just of better and more meaningful relationships, but to level the playing field. So I’ve committed to helping the small and mighty business community thrive in the new, digital economy.
Photo Credit: Freepik