Friday, April 13, 2007

What Business are You In?

When someone asks you what line of work are you in do you tell them you are a consultant who helps a particular target audience, be it individuals, tech companies, small businesses or what have you? I read a fascinating article in the Statesman yesterday that got me thinking about the kind of business I am in as a consultant.

Vyomesh I. Joshi is the senior VP of Hewlett-Packard's profitable printing division. The challenge his division faces in the years ahead is less and less people will be printing. Young people especially are finding less of a need to print from the web, a place they spend A LOT of time. One reason why they don't print is they often find that what they see on the screen doesn't necessarily transfer over to the printed page in a similar fashion. It doesn't look the same. To overcome this obstacle, HP recently acquired a software company that will enable users to print pages that look almost identical to what they see on screen. They plan to make this application as common as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Here is where all of this is important. Joshi's tactic to develop a new business strategy for his division is to think in opposites. For example, if you are an investment broker are you really in the business of creating retirement plans for individuals or are you really in the retirement lifestyle maintenance business? Perhaps HP is not in the printing business at all. Perhaps they are in the content consumption business. He believes the focus of the HP's printing division is in the wrong area - the printers themselves. They are a means to an end. By thinking of the end first, you can radically change how you see your business and the industry you work in. Groundbreaking and innovative? Probably not, but powerful nonetheless.

As consultants, we tend to focus on our body of knowledge and specific skill sets. They are, after all, what got us where we are today. Instead, shouldn't we be focusing on the end result? What business are we really in? For me, and my company PinPoint Performance Solutions, I'm in the business of

...making work and life easier for people by making the software and technology we use in our daily lives user-friendly and easy to understand.

A little wordy, yes, but that is the end result of my business and the service I provide.

I haven't figured out what business TVCNet is in. I'm sure sometime this weekend while I'm reflecting on the past week or brushing my teeth I'll think of it. When I do I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, I'd be interested in hearing what business you are in. We're more than just consultants. Who are we?

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