With computer industry prices (and margins) plunging, I had a chance to speak last week in Ottawa to a select group of IT resellers from across Canada. I offered them 10 ideas for growing their businesses in tight times.
Here’s an excerpt (edited for length).
Lesson 1: If you're developing new markets and products, Look for Opportunities Where Trends Converge. This is where you gain maximum leverage for new ideas and solutions.
The automobile didn’t take over the world simply because of the internal combustion engine. Cars took off when paved roads enabled people to go somewhere and get back safely. Similarly, there are numerous points where different trends and technologies combine today to create opportunities.
Here’s an example from the very top of the 2006 PROFIT 100 list.
Rutter Inc. of St. John’s, Nfld. was founded by a group of Newfoundland technologists to chase a new opportunity in marine technology: creating a black-box data recorder that would help ships track every detail of their voyage, just like the black boxes found on airplanes. The founders used their combined knowledge of electronics, software and ocean transport to create the world’s best Voyage Data Recorder.
But it was only when international shipping regulators required ocean-going ships to adopt the technology that sales took off. Rutter CEO Donald Clarke has now built the firm into a $70-million giant. And with increasing interest in the oceans as a cheap transportation medium – combined with the game-changing potential of new communication technologies – he’s aiming to push sales to $500 million.
Vancouver-based Angiotech Pharmaceuticals has become a huge force in biotechnology by bringing together two solitudes of medical research: medical devices and drugs. Oakville-based Pethealth Inc. has gone from zero to $14 million in seven years by combining two very different trends: pet ownership and information technology (RFID tags linked to databases containing Snoopy’s and Garfield’s heath records).
Are there similar opportunities in your field? Of course. The ongoing evolution of Internet technologies, computer security, storage, and processing power, combined with new software applications and ever-changing business needs, is creating huge convergence opportunities. I can think of few industries where change is coming faster, or the immediate need for solutions is greater.
When you get back home, why not sit down with the best tech and business brains in your company and brainstorm ideas for where convergence is going to affect your customers most? Look for areas of great pain or potential, and you'll find new opportunities.
Better still, you’ll have new reasons to call your customers and remind them of the great things you can do for them.