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If You Ain’t First, Yer Last!

These words of wisdom were imparted by Reese Bobby to his son Ricky Bobby in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (clip and clip).  Winners get more than their fair share, and a loser is just a loser.  No one cares about second place.  In our fast moving world, the winners often take all of the profit, and the losers are just losers.

Ten years ago last week, Blackberry was the world’s number one smartphone.  It had a keyboard that was awesome.  Apple introduced the iPhone with its innovative user interface, and ten years later Apple is the most valuable company in the world.  Apple takes over 100% of the profits in the smartphone market, and Blackberry does not even make smartphones any longer.  If you ain’t first, yer last!  The winner takes it all, and a loser is just a loser.

Ten years ago, Blockbuster was number one in the video rental market.  Today, Netflix is number one with a market value of over $57 billion.  They introduced an innovative user interface for renting movies over the Internet, and Blockbuster went out of business.  If you ain’t first, yer last!  The winner takes it all, and a loser is just a loser.

Ten years ago, taxi companies were protected, regulated operators in the local markets they served.  They proudly paid huge sums of money for their operating medallions.  Today, Uber is an enterprise worth over $80 billion – more than all of the taxi companies in the world combined.  They introduced an innovative user interface for hailing a car and paying for the ride, and the taxi companies have been decimated in their local, protected markets.  If you ain’t first, yer last!  The winner takes it all, and a loser is just a loser.

How good is your user interface to the customer?  Is it still phone calls and triplicate forms?  Is it ad-hoc emails with files attached?  No organization or intelligence, just a dump of PDF files?  What happens to your business if you are not the first in your market to introduce an innovative interface for customers to receive your services?  Are you going to be first or last when the change comes to your market?  Will you be the winner that takes a bigger share?  Or a loser who is just a loser?

Maybe it is time to start thinking about technology as a way to please your customers instead of simply a way to seek operating cost leverage.  The lesson of Apple, Netflix, and Uber is also the lesson of Blackberry, Blockbuster, and the taxi companies.  It does not matter how long you have been around or how good your internal operations may be.  An innovator in your market can turn your business into a loser.  So, are you going to be first in your market to innovate with a better customer interface?  Or will you just become one of the losers when someone else innovates first?

This blog post is part of our Business Lessons From Rednecks collection. Also see Don’t get gigged by software.

The Digital WrapRead ideas about how to be first in Billy’s book The Digital Wrap: Get out of the Truck and Go Online to Own Your Customers.

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