Don’t look for examples, be the example

I have a client who has (so far) the only SaaS payroll management solution for small businesses in Mexico. This is both great and bad. Let me explain…

In our initial meeting I was told they used Workday as an example to follow. Their reasoning was that Workday has a very simple to use and intuitive interface, plus they are the ‘leaders’ in the field. The studied them rigorously and brought the same principles over to their solution.

This hasn’t worked as planned.

Workday has and used a distinct set of capabilities that my client doesn’t have (development experience in new technologies for one). Plus the customer is also different. And Workday’s cluster of capabilities go beyond simple copy and paste design, look and feel.

These cluster of capabilities have to solve the customers problem, make his life easier. Ultimately that’s what matters.

This is what my client, and most organizations, forget when emulating number 1; they don’t have the same capabilities or the same culture for that matter. You’re already playing catch up. Even worse, you’re pursuing something that might already be perceived as a commodity.

Plus, markets are dynamic, not static. And so your capabilities have to be dynamic and adaptable, never static.

It’s also easy to assume that the you are solving the same problem, and that your clients have the same technology know-how. Small business technological know-how is very different between the US and Mexico. In Mexico, businesses have a hard time accepting that they’ve been managing their finances online for 5+ years, but can’t see how managing payroll online is the same.

Emulating what worked somewhere else is accepting that the same set of assumptions are going to be true for you, this is rarely the case. Different cultures, different mindsets all play a role in how your particular solution will be adopted and perceived.

Emulating number 1 is very common in Mexico and it’s extremely hard to get executives out of this mindset even with the evidence in front of their face. They say they want to be number one (who doesn’t?), what they should do is think bigger; instead of looking to the frontrunner on how to do the same thing.

All this goes back to my previous argument that emulating number one in your domain is stupid. Being number one doesn’t mean you’re number one at everything, it just means the market prefers you.

The way to begin setting the example, is to have a point of view. Your own one, not someone else’s point of view. Apple has always had their own point of view of how things should be designed. They’ve never adopted any competitors point of view.

It’s quite simple:

If you don’t have a firm point of view about what matters, your chances of doing something remarkable drop to zero.  Great things happen when we make choices, and we make good choices when we know what we want.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to continuing the adventure 🙂



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