What I Do.

By Joel Van Patten
Written on January 13, 2020

Let's imagine two similar scenarios where I am at a cocktail party and I happen to be talking to an ideal buyer of my services. He asks me what I do for a living, and I explain that I help small and medium sized businesses automate tasks in order to increase productivity.

Scenario #1:

The ideal buyer then responds "Oh, that's interesting." and then the conversation dies or changes topics. What happened? If we are a good match then why did the conversation not go anywhere?

Scenario #2:

The ideal buyer responds "Wow. I could really use someone like you. By any chance do you help people integrate their Point of Sale and Inventory systems with their Accounting and Marketing systems?"

The simple difference is that in the second scenario the business owner is able to quickly connect the dots between my services and their business.

As the service provider, I should be helping to connect those dots for my client. As a consultant, connecting the dots becomes a significant portion of what I do for clients.

When someone asks "What do you do for a living?" I could have answered "I help online retailers increase productivity by getting their various software systems to communicate with each other." With an answer like that the business owner can quickly determine the following:

  • Am I an online retailer?
  • Do I have various software systems that are siloed (they don't talk to each other)?

It is easier for the potential client to see if we might be a good fit for working together.

Risks and Rewards

I think most business owners understand, at least on some abstract level, that investing in technology could help them to grow their business. So why are some businesses reluctant to invest in technology?

The high cost of software development and IT experts is certainly a barrier to entry for some smaller companies, but this is not the whole story. If you knew for certain that you could spend $5,000 and get a return of $10,000 you would be foolish not to do it.

I believe the difference between companies that invest in technology and those who don't is their perception of the risks. Having spent nearly twenty years in the software business I have seen first-hand both awe inspiring successes and nightmare inducing failures. The risks are real but there are ways to mitigate them. I will talk about those risks in another post, but for now we can go a step farther and acknowledge that there are both actual risks and perceived risks.

For an individual who has not connected the dots between the software services and their business, spending money on software development feels like putting money into a black hole and hoping that magically more money will come out the other side. I don't know about you, but that feels pretty risky to me. Successful business owners don't make a habit of throwing money into black box projects they don't understand.

Imagine instead a scenario where the individual has a road map that explains how the project is supposed to earn a return on their investment. Now the business owner can work with a more accurate assessment of the potential risks and rewards. The picture becomes clearer and this improved clarity makes the decision making process easier.

Connecting The Dots

At this point you might be wondering how to identify the potential opportunities in your business. You might be asking "Where would I even start?". I have some good news for you. In my next post I will explain some of the methods and strategies I use for finding the best places to leverage technology in your business.