There’s an old business adage that you can ask for one or two, but never three of the primary objectives: Speed, price, and quality. Almost inevitably, you’ll experience trade-offs, and if you see a situation where someone is promising or expecting the “impossible” the challenge is to step in and show why it can’t be done . . .
But, what if it can?
Google (now, corporately, Alphabet) provides a great answer. Its auction-based advertising model based on reliable and useful search data results turned a tiny online start-up into one of the world’s largest businesses. After gaining status as a moderator (Top Contributor) on one of the company’s help forums — the AdSense advertising serving platform — I started receiving invitations to expense-paid meet-ups and summits, and will be on the plane to San Francisco in a few days for the next event.
Details of these events must remain confidential under Non Disclosure Agreement rules, but I saw enough at the last meet-up to decide to allocate a meaningful portion of my retirement income portfolio to GOOGL shares. (There wasn’t any information that could in any ways be seen as violating proprietary insider-trading rules, but I could certainly soak up the company’s culture, values, systems and staff relationships.)
You, of course, may ask the next logical question: Google stories are rare — so how can we apply the concepts of achieving all of “better, cheaper and faster” to our own businesses? And the answer here isn’t perfect, but it may suggest some ideas for you.
Recently, my Ottawa Renovates partners asked me to provide detailed competitive analysis information of potentially competing publications.
In some respects, this isn’t a hard task to perform. It is to some extent grunt work and isn’t very much fun.
My initial and intuitive answer: “Let’s send the work offshore.”
Then I did a double take: These are printed publications we are reviewing — how are we going to scan and organize the copy to send it to someone in Romania?
Fortunately, I had another brain wave. These days, virtually every publisher posts their content online, in page-turning software. All we needed to do was to confirm the publications’ online links, and send the instructions overseas.
Done . . . and solved.
It took a day for our contractor to deliver the results of the first analysis, probably requiring five or six hours of work. An administrative employee in North America might need between $15 and $20 an hour plus benefits, so our costs would have been about $80 to $100. Add to the fact that, in our business, our administrator has many other higher-level responsibilities, and she would need to find and allocate the time for the work.
Our offshore contractor works for $2.50 an hour. This means the cash cost to the business is about $12.50.
I spent some time reviewing early samples of the work to ensure quality and instructions were followed, but it didn’t demand too much effort.
Goal achieved: We got the job done right, quickly and at a below-the-floor price.
Not everything we do can be this successful, and we certainly don’t want to get caught in a race to the bottom on our selling price. However, I think there are merits in analysing and testing out ideas to find ways to ensure your internal business processes are indeed better, faster and cheaper. And if you can deliver your end product with these three qualifications — and still make a good profit — well, you will likely to be on your way to becoming another Google/Alphabet.